Today marks the 2nd annual “No Wedding, No Womb” campaign. For last year’s campaign I wrote a piece called Whose Body Is This: A Statement on “Out of Wedlock Births” in the Black Community. Like so many others, my intention in writing that piece and reason for participating in the campaign was to call attention to the “out of wedlock” birth epidemic in our community. The central thesis of my argument was and still is that the social costs of “out of wedlock” births is too high a price for us to pay. As a black-feminist-scholar-in-the-making, I felt my charge was to speak to the negative impact that “out of wedlock” births have on the life chances, social trajectories, self-esteem, and identity development of young African-American women. I wanted to invoke a sense of urgency in us to do something about the plight that far too many Black girls find themselves in and to seriously consider the pernicious effects that “out-of-wedlock” births have on the possibility of who our young women imagine they can be and become. I thought for sure that “No Wedding, No Womb” was a cause behind which the Black community could and would unite. I was wrong. The backlash and resistance to the campaign was palpable. I think folks on every side wrongly perceived the “NWNW” contributors to be placing the blame for “out of wedlock” births on the backs of teenage African-American girls–those who often shoulder the responsibility of single parenting. Let me be clear in saying: we weren’t. Yet and still, the question of whose to blame for “out of wedlock” births in the Black community is an important and significant one.
And so to answer the critics and the naysayers, I am going to put the cards on the table. There are many culprits, but chief among them is racism. Racism has and continues to structure the lives of African-Americans (and other folks of color) in harmful and destructive ways. It is a cancer, a canker sore that is deeply woven into the fabric of society and that pervades the essence of every institution, relationship, practice, and discourse we engage in as human beings. And then poverty. Poverty is what deprives our children of a relationship with and exposure to opportunities that are not yet available in their current environment. It is a dream thief and a close relative of “out of wedlock” births. Next up is unemployment. As history demonstrates, African-Americans, and in particular Black men have always had high rates of unemployment, been unemployed, and/or otherwise unemployable–a situation which has been made inordinately worse by the current economic climate and recession our nation has been plunged into. Lastly, is the issue of incarceration. The mass internment of Black men in correctional facilities (a.k.a. the prison industrial complex) is the single most detrimental and corrosive factor to seize hold of the African-American community in our lifetime. Adam Jones notes that to destroy a people in war, you must first, kill or capture the battle-age males in the group (2001). Now one year later, I have come to understand the “No Wedding, No Womb” campaign is just as much about recovering our boys and men as it is about saving our girls and women. The truth is we need, and when I say we I mean the entire community, NEEDS Black men as elders, fathers, role models, leaders, husbands, lovers, same-sex partners, etc.. How can the healing begin if the men aren’t there? Who will protect our children, if they have no mothers and no fathers? How can we re-imagine the relationships between men and other men, women and other women, and across genders, if we don’t widen the spectrum of masculinities, femininities, and sexualities that our children see?
So the question is: where do we go from here? I strongly believe the potentiality for our agency and collective empowerment lies in the political mobilization of the Black community. First, we have to FIGHT. Agitate! Agitate! Agitate! As Frederick Douglas said “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” We must learn to leverage power in ways that force the powers that be to their knees, literally. To use a turn of phrase that is popular in Evangelical Christian circles “with one hand we must build the wall and with the other be fighting back the enemy”. We cannot sit quietly and we cannot go silently. There is much work to be done. We have to keep pushing until something gives. Concomitantly, we must refuse to collude in our own oppression or be lulled into participating in our own demise. We got to hold back every force or element that seeks to win our consent in the destruction of our community. We gotta FIGHT BACK right now! The “No Wedding, No Womb” campaign is about raising a village–to do so means we need all hands on deck, every man, woman, and child. Our history proves its possible. Our legacy proves its inevitable. The only thing that remains yet to be seen is whether we have the will power to do what is necessary. “No Wedding, No Womb” is about charting a better path and future for all African-American children in light of yesterday, in service of today, and in hope for tomorrow.
1. Jones, A. (2001). Effacing the Male: Gender, Misrepresentation, and Exclusion in the Kosovo War. Transitions: The Journal of Men’s Perspectives, 21: 1-3: Retrieved 9/20/11 at http: adamjones.freeservers.com/effacing.htm.
For more information on “No Wedding, No Womb” please visit: http://ww.noweddingnowomb.com