All About Trey

Life, Travel, Adventure

Jumping the Broom

“Jumping the Broom” is an expression that dates back to when black slaves couldn’t marry. Instead, they would have a small ceremony with family and friends and then the couple would jump over a broom to symbolize their marriage.

Now why do I know this? Because a couple of months ago we had “Bad Gay Movie” night and we watched “Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom.” Based on a TV series on Logo, the movie was about a wedding by two of the characters (it’s an all black, all gay movie). The movie was bad. On a “Bad Gay Movie” scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being semi-decent and 10 being the gay equivalent of Ishtar, I’d give it a solid 4. Anyways, the movie went back to Nextflix and I filed this piece of information in my brain under “Useless Trivia.”

Until Tuesday.

Since the Supreme Court is lame, they’ve decided that the Prop 8 trial in California can’t be televised. It’s a non-jury trial. Considering the impact this case will have on MILLIONS of Americans, I really think this case needs to be televised. Even if it’s a delayed broadcast via YouTube. But they are scared/lame/useless and don’t agree.

So I’m stuck reading the live blogging that the Courage Campaign is doing. It’s riveting even if I don’t understand it all. But I’m trying.

On Tuesday as I was reading the blog and the issue of marriage and slavery came up. Proffessor Nancy Cott, who has studied the institution of marriage, testified:

“The ability to marry, to say I do, is a civil right. It demonstrates liberty. This can be seen in American history when slaves could not legally marry. As unfreed persons, they could not consent. They lacked that very basic liberty of person to say I do which meant they were taking on the state’s obligates and vice versa. A slave could not take on that set of obligations because they were not free.

When slaves were emancipated, they flocked to get married. Marriage was not trivial to them by any means. They saw the ability to replace the informal unions with legalized vows that the state would protect. One quotation, the title of an article, “The marriage covenant is the foundation of all our rights,” said a former slave who became a northern soldier. The point here is that this slave built his life on that civil right.

Informal relationships of black slaves were totally treated with abandon by white society. They were broken up all the time. The rush to marry by so many slaves after emancipation was a common sense approach to obtaining civil rights. White employers would often demand that black families and children work in certain ways. The former slaves assumed that once married, they’d have a claim of certain basic rights.

People remain unaware that in marrying, one is exercising the right of personal freedom. They don’t tend to equate the civil rights aspects to it. It’s only those who cannot marry at all who are aware of the extent to which marriage is an expression of basic civil rights.

Slaves had to “jump the broom” since they couldn’t get married. And then once they were freed, they rushed to get married. They welcomed marriage not only as a symbol of their love, but as a way to claim their basic civil rights.

There’s a lot riding on the Prop 8 trial. It could be a miraculous win with an impact as far reaching as potentially overturning DOMA, or it could set back gay rights for 15 years. It’s a very risky case. But if the trial were televised, if the trial were on YouTube, then people could see and hear the testimony of both sides.

People would hear the truth: Marriage is an expression of basic civil rights.