Black marriage day ceremony set for Sunday

Lyndon Burch and his wife Sheba are both strong believers in marriage but the founders of Black Marriage Day in Columbus, which is Sunday, say it must be done right.

His first marriage lasted eight years. "I married at a young age," he said. "I was not really mature enough to handle what comes with marriage. It's like a job. You have to work at it."

He said he didn't.

Her first marriage lasted the same amount of time.

"I learned the hard way," she said. "Nobody told me what to look for in a mate. You need to find someone who cherishes you and not somebody who just wants to use you."

They have been married for nearly eight years.

"There are ups and downs but we're happy because we understand what marriage is all about now," he said.

A Black Marriage Day ceremony, open to the public, will be at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Liberty Theatre and Cultural Center on 8th Avenue. Speaking on the value of marriage will be Pastor Marlon Scott Sr. of Emanuel Christian Church.

Seven local couples will be inducted into a "Marriage Hall of Fame."

Those couples are Oscar and Rosa Stanback, Rev. Rudolph and Gloria Allen, James and Marguerite Bussey, Jesse and Corene Averett Jr., Edward and Thelma Robinson, Allen and Johnna Mason and Rick and Nikita Bell.

Different churches solicited names for the honor. Length of marriage was a consideration but also contributions in the community.

"Last year, we had a couple that had been married for more than 60 years and it was like the man and woman were still on their honeymoon," Burch said. "That is the way it should be."

Right From the Start, a marriage and family initiative in Columbus, is one of the community supporters of Black Marriage Day as are Sugga's restaurant, Colson Event Services, Take That Media1 and Enrichment Coaching Services.

Burch hopes to get several churches involved.

The local Black Marriage Day is part of a national initiative.

"It is called Black Marriage Day but it is not really about race," he said. "Everyone benefits from strong marriages."

Black Marriage Day was begun by Nisa Muhammad, a woman who runs the Wedded Bliss Foundation in Washington, D.C.

According its website, the foundation is a "community-based organization helping teens, singles and couples create healthy relationships and healthy marriages so more children grow up with the benefits of a two-parent family."

The first Black Marriage Day was held in 2003 with about 30 cities participating. That number now is about 300. It is held on the fourth Sunday in March. Burch, 47, said this is the second one in Columbus.

Burch said Muhammad "saw that the marriage rate was lower and the divorce rate higher in the black community and felt that needed to addressed."

Last year, a report on MSNBC stated that fewer Americans are getting married than ever before with just 51 percent of Americans currently married. It also stated that by the age of 30 nearly 81 percent of white women and 77 percent of Hispanics and Asians will marry, but only 52 percent of black women.

Burch believes that is a problem.

He said children coming from out of wedlock births and those in single-parent households tend to make lower test scores in school and usually have more discipline problems.

Burch sees a some of this as director of the Garrard Center for Girls Inc.

"For a lot of these girls I am the only be black man they see all day. The girls are there hugging me and wanting to talk to me. They are seeking that attention they can't get at home. They make drawings for me just like they would for a dad," he said.

Burch said it is too easy, too cheap to get a divorce these days so couples don't work on marriage.

"There is no incentive to stay married," he said.

His wife, 36, said, "Too many people consider marriage a contract instead of a covenant with God which is what it should be."

She works as an account specialist for Aflac and volunteers at Girls Inc.

"In the beginning, I was not sure I wanted to do this but the more I thought about it, I felt there was a need. Everybody does not have what I had growing up. I hope we reach young people. We need good, strong marriages."