Promoting stronger families

'Love is a decision, not a feeling,' a motivational speaker says.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Strengthening the black American family would go a long way toward advancing the black community's well-being, a speaker told a Youngstown State University audience.
"If our divorce rate is 66 percent, then that explains why our neighborhoods look the way they do," said Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, referring to what he said was a link between the black American divorce rate and urban blight. He added that white Americans have a 50-percent divorce rate.
The decline in intact families is largely a post-1960 phenomenon, he said, noting that 90 percent of black youths had fathers in the home in 1920 and 80 percent had them there in 1960. This year, that figure stands at a disappointing 32 percent, he said.
In his talk called "Black Men and Women: We Both Need Each Other," Kunjufu addressed an audience of more than 100 on Tuesday in the first of a series of university-sponsored Black History Month events.
Speaker's background
Kunjufu is an educator and educational consultant, who is internationally known for his efforts to develop self-esteem in black children. He is president of African American Images, a Chicago-based communications company.
Although the ratio of black girls to black boys is about even at birth, it drops to 3-to-2 in a typical high school graduating class and 3-to-1 by college graduation, he lamented.
Many young black men become victims of the drug trade and HIV, he said. Calling crack cocaine "Satan's greatest trick," he noted the long prison sentences given to those who possess crack.
The number of blacks in prisons rose from 100,000 in 1980 to 1.5 million today, he said, adding that one in three black men today is in, or has been in, a penal institution.
"Can you really talk about male-female relationships? Can you really talk about quality if the numbers are not there?" he asked.
AIDS has surpassed homicide as the chief cause of death in black America, he said, noting that black men constitute 43 percent of male AIDS victims and black women 64 percent of female AIDS patients in this country. Black Americans constitute just 12 percent of the U.S. population, he continued.
On relationships
Enduring, high-quality relationships between men and women begin with the selection stage and go on to a romantic phase and a problem phase, followed by commitment, he said. Too often, people are choosier about colleges, cars and homes than about their mates, he observed.
"Opposites do not attract. It's like attracting like. You bring to you what you're about," he stated. "Feelings change every moment. Love never changes. Lust is a feeling. Love is a decision, not a feeling," he said.
Too often, people won't endure the problem stage, and repeatedly return to the selection stage, he said. "There are no problem-free relationships," he added.
Kunjufu also emphasized the need to spend quality time with one's family. Sometimes black people should miss NAACP and other advocacy meetings to spend more time at home, perhaps helping a child with homework, he explained.
"In building a nation, it's not just with the NAACP. Sometimes you build a nation by investing time in your children or your spouse," he said.
Kunjufu, who regularly travels the lecture circuit, said when he recently returned from several days away from home, he made it his priority to spend time with his wife, rather than watch a videotape of the Super Bowl by himself.
Kunjufu is the co-author of the Afrocentric multicultural curriculum called SETCLAE (Self Esteem Through Culture Leads to Academic Excellence). He also is the author of several books, including "Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys" and "To Be Popular or Smart: The Black Peer Group."

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