Family Law Reform Blog
Monday, February 20, 2006
  Baltimore Building Strong Families Program -- rebuilding the African-American family
Sent in by Baltimore County divorce prevention activist Richard Kidd --

Changing a culture through marriage
Gregory Kane
Baltimore Sun, Feb 18, 2006

When Laneisha Drafts tells people about the father of her child, she'll
be able to call him "my husband."

When Duane Drafts talks about the mother of his child, he'll refer to
her as "my wife."

Now if you're thinking that's as it should be, you're right. If you're
thinking that's the way it is, then oh how wrong you are.

In today's America, the culture has accepted the terms "baby mama" and
"baby daddy." The former is used by guys who have a child by a woman
they didn't and probably won't marry. Women similarly situated use the
latter term.

How bad has it gotten? Two staffers at a West Baltimore community center
who work frequently with teens say both sexes refer not to boyfriends
and girlfriends, but to "baby mamas" and "baby daddies." That's not the
worst of it.

In many instances, there's no child anywhere around. The girl isn't
pregnant. It's just that the "baby mama/baby daddy" culture is so
pervasive that the terms have now replaced boyfriend and girlfriend.

American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino had a hit song called "Baby Mama."
Fantasia wants single moms to have their own holiday. If you dare
criticize Barrino for putting out such nonsense, her fans will react as
if you've just tried to drown the baby Jesus.

So the Drafts are clearly swimming against the tide of current youth
culture. Laneisha is 18. Duane is 19. They tied the knot about two
months ago. Their baby is due in August if you believe Duane and July if
you believe Laneisha.

Neither has a job but both are looking for employment. Laneisha's goal
is to be an obstetrician. Duane wants to work with computers. If you're
thinking they got married and are having a child under less than ideal
conditions, then you'd be right. But unlike their peers who bandy about
the terms "baby mama" and "baby daddy" as if they're acceptable, the
Drafts are hedging their bets.

They are enrolled in a "healthy relationships and marriage" curriculum
sponsored by the Baltimore Building Strong Families Program, also known
as BSF. Cassandra Codes-Johnson is the director of BSF. Codes-Johnson
also works on the staff of the Center for Fathers, Families and
Workforce Development.

CFWD has been around for seven years. The goal of the organization is to
help "individuals in regaining the personal power to benefit their
families and communities," according to a news release announcing a $1
million grant to promote marriage and build stronger relationships for
young black couples like Duane and Laneisha Draft.

The staff of CFWD will use that money to train workers from 16 community
organizations in a curriculum designed to help poor black couples from
18 to 35 years old build healthier relationships and marriages. The
reason for that should be obvious, but the folks at CFWD put it in their
news release anyway.

"Studies have shown that children reared in homes free from violence and
by both parents do better in school and are less likely to live in
poverty," reads the release.

That information has been known for some time, as has the skinny that a
preponderance of black homes without dads is a recent phenomenon. During
a lecture at Morgan State University
,0,5357177.story?coll=bal-local-columnists> in late 2003, author
Jawanza Kunjufu said that 90 percent of black families had a father in
the home in 1920 and 80 percent of black homes had a father in 1960.
What are the figures for 2006?

"Our community can't survive [with] 70 percent of our children being
born out of wedlock," Joseph T. Jones Jr., the president and chief
executive officer of CFWD, said Thursday at a news conference giving
more details about the initiative.

Jones is right about that. And he said he's right for insisting that
hip-hop culture be a part of the curriculum he and a team of consultants
developed to teach young couples about relationships and marriage.

"Unfortunately, most people associate hip-hop with one extreme end of
that genre," Jones said. "There's some crazy stuff that goes on in rock.
There's crazy stuff that goes on in opera, if you can understand it."

Jones pointed to Philadelphia rapper/actor Will Smith -- and his
marriage to Baltimore-born actress Jada Pinkett-Smith -- as an example
of hip-hop culture that will be used in the curriculum. (A guy from
Philly hitched to a Baltimore gal: Now there's a mixed marriage if ever
there was one.)

"It has some positive elements in it," Jones said of hip-hop culture.
But he has no illusions about the uphill battle he -- and the Drafts --
are facing.

"You're talking about changing a culture," Jones said. "That's extremely
difficult."

greg.kane@baltsun.com
 




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