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Africa and Marriage

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"One who is patient glows with inner radiance"-Allan Lokos


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Marriage in African culture, from North to South, East to West is hands-down one of the most significant rites of passage. It is the most celebrated ceremony in all African cultures. African weddings are a spiritual and social family affair and involve the combining of two lives, two families, and even two communities! There is no great civilization that has ever existed that abstained from marriage as one of its core fundamentals of nation-building.

Marriage is the only known incubator for the raising of balanced socially functional children. It is a civilized union of man and woman. The ideal setup for a child to be raised into full functionality in the African context as a contributor to civilization. It is the institutionalization of a complementary relationship between male and female energies, enshrining in the child sentiments and values from both sexes. This is the formula that is secured with marriage. Extended family systems sit in this equation by sharing responsibilities and enshrining balance. Even if a woman is unable to contribute by having her own biological children her role as a mother is expressed in a communal setup. And hence why the Pan-African proverb of it takes a village to raise a child. Parenting is communal, and the harmony of male and female energies is critical in enshrining balanced humans.

In all the communities the bride plays a very special role and is treated with respect because she is a link between the unborn and the ancestors. A bride might eventually bear a very powerful child. Women are mothers of civilization which earns them a high status in society, thus protecting women and children is a biological human instinct. And if people cannot get the man and the woman into equitable agreement and commitment– then what about the nation, and the continent? In a good marriage means partners compliments each other, and makes both parties better. Marriage is a journey through life that enhances and enriching entire communities. Marriage promotes sharing, tolerance, consideration, empathy, selflessness, and other virtues. Lack of marriage is the death of a nation and a people. Communities that fail to recognize marriage become decadent and self-destructive with a range of social-economic and health issues (HIV, etc).

When you look around the history of human civilization and see the tradition of marriage that stands independent of time, race, geography, and culture. It means it is an aspect of civilization, humanity, and human culture. Marriage historically has been used in political unions between nations, between different ethnic groups to secure peace, trade, and development. And marriage is one thing that unites African culture, although two marriages will never be similar. You can marry in a church, a mosque, in the bush, by a priest, an Imam, minister of justice, underwater, in a tree, the core thing is marriage is a contract of commitment with rules and regulations that represent the person’s culture. It is a communal relationship, a rite of passage that bonds two people and enshrines obligations and values. And even while people may get divorced they are guidelines and ethics in every culture for governing all aspects of married life. Marriage is dignity and a true sign of commitment. It defines our humanity and contributes to making us more human. 

There are many steps that take place before marriage starting at a very young age where training takes place in how to be a suitable partner. Girls will many times go to schools where women teach them what is involved in marriage, and in some ethnic groups even learn secret codes and languages so that they can communicate with other married women. In the Wolof people, there is even a time where the elders of the village gather with the bride and give advice and gifts. Weddings can be very elaborate, involving feasting and dancing for days within a community, they can be very simple, or they can even be performed in huge marriage ceremonies involving many different couples.

In the Diaspora, especially the US, marriage is compounded by the social culture of the "baby- mama" syndrome. Which according to some experts are a manifestation of immaturity and lack of moral responsibility? Marriage squeeze refers to the demographic imbalance in which the number of potential brides does not approximately equal the number of potential grooms. With African men being "deleted" from the marriage pool via inter-racial choice, prisons, sexual-orientation, etc it is having profound consequences on African-Diaspora finding suitable partners, especially if they are educated and looking for men from that social class.

A good relationship is not only defined by the high points, it is also defined by how people handle the low points. It is how they survive conflict and struggle in an equitable progressive way. Two people are married and they boast "We never had a disagreement, we never had an argument"— Then that marriage is untested. It is the marriage or relationship that had the weight of challenges bearing down upon them and resolved them through mutual growth —that is a real marriage. It is like a body that has an immune system for future challenges. In the Western world because of feminism, a good marriage is constructed differently from the African paradigm. Asking your wife to bring you a cup of tea while you relax and watch the game is a "no-no." But why would this be a problem in an equitable relationship, where at another stage when the wife wants to stay in bed the husband reciprocates. So a relationship is a single unit made up of two parts that complement, support, reinforce, and give pleasure to one another. All of this is wrapped in the concept of justice— what is fair to all, and what is righteous to all. Modern marriages struggle, especially among oppressed groups. And it is because people get married because of some mysterious feeling called love without giving two seconds to think about the practicality and purpose of marriage. And in its coldest definition, it is to continue the species successfully! To give those children born from the marriage a successful future. Now to do this both parties need to share certain values and be prepared to sacrifice to accomplish these things. But if one partner wants to work hard and save for a house and the other person wants to be in the beauty salon every week or at the bar drinking then Nairobi, we clearly have a problem. Relationships (personal or Pan-African, informal, or formal) are the same. You are in some sort of relationship and you struggle to make it work. You are confused as to what you can do to make it work. Sometimes the obvious answer is the simplest— nothing! You need a relationship that takes you to the moon,  offering you the universe. You are on level 100, your partner at level 0 with no signs of moving. You are African conscious they are a colonial mental slave–how do you expect it to work? You not compatible. It is not a case of a good person v bad person– you speaking two different languages, at different development stages, different goals, and intention. Failure of the home speaks to the health of the broader people block. It is impossible to discuss the social development and reconstruction of African people and not include the issue of marriage. The Diaspora community has the lowest marriage rates of any ethnic group, a direct legacy of the African Holocaust. Because during the Maafa the first African institution that was destroyed was marriage. During Apartheid again the male-female relationship was placed under duress due to forced settlement and seasonal mine work which took the men far from their homestead. These isolated men then sought refuge in casual relationships with prostitutes ultimately leading to a health crisis. What nation in history has achieved greatness that did not practice marriage? Marriage was central in Aksum, Kemet, Songhai, Zulu Kingdom, every known African civilization. India, China, Europe, Central America, Japan, all have strong traditions of marriage as backbones of nation-building and peoplehood. Marriage has been a political stabilizer in the growth of every major empire, it was even used to broker unity between belligerents in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Marriage between clans and nations has been a way of securing peace and trade. The entire history of political power in every nation was linked to marriage. Pan-Africanism and Marriage are interlinked because it is the most central and common African tradition, sacred to all African people on the continent. It is therefore the building block of nationhood and our first form of unity. During the African Holocaust of enslavement, marriage was pointless if you were owned by the slave master. A person could be sold off at any instant. Everything is temporary — commitment is void when someone owns you. And we must, regardless of our marital status, be bold enough to see the errors that are outgrowths of enslavement. The destruction of people systems, the death of things that define our humanity. The temporariness of the enslaved reality meant also commitment was also fleeting. Long term arrangements in areas of marriage and parenting were nonexistent. And today the habits of enslaved people still run our relationships with each other. So a man can get a woman pregnant and simply abandon his responsibilities, this is slave culture. A woman feels no dishonor in having multiply children and no wedding ring. This is again only because we are a people void of culture and to an extent direction and community.


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