Consider all the weddings in recent weeks: Alicia Keys tied the knot with her producer-beau Swizz Beatz, wearing a pretty Grecian gown that covered her baby bump. After a five-year engagement, basketball player Carmelo Anthony and television personality La La Vazquez finally sealed the deal during a star-studded New York City ceremony. Rapper T.I. and Tameka "Tiny" Cottle, who have two children, celebrated their much-anticipated wedding with three receptions. And then there's Martin Lawrence, who wed girlfriend Shamicka Gibbs last month; DJ Jazzy Jeff and his new bride Lynette Jackson; and Boston Celtic Paul Pierce, who recently married sweetheart Julie Landrum.
These celebrity weddings could have a positive effect on African Americans, who are less likely than any other group in the United States to get married. Dr. Shane Perrault, marriage counselor and African American relationships expert, told Black Voices that high-profile black marriages like Barack and Michelle Obama's are good for the community.
"This is a successful black couple," he said. "They've made being married a bit more in vogue."
Statistics show that in recent decades, marriage has been anything but trendy in the black community. African Americans are less likely than any other group in the United States to get married. According to the African American Healthy Marriage Initiative, while 76 percent of all American families are headed by a married couple, only 47 percent of African American families are. And a whopping 68 percent of African American babies are born to single mothers.
Marriage is an important institution to promote, said Perrault, because of the financial, emotional and cultural stability it provides, especially when there are children involved. Of the recent celebrities who got married, many have children or are expecting.
"The couples' ability to invest and commit is at a different level [after marriage]," he said. "There are a lot of advantages all across the board."
So why is the black marriage rate so much lower than other groups? Perrault doesn't pretend to know the full answer to that question. But there's hope in the marriages that are making the news lately.
"The Obamas have put in the forefront a different model," he said. "I think that it's resonating. I think when you see T.I. and other artists starting to get married, that validates marriage. It's extremely important."
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