Strong communities require healthy relationships


What is a healthy relationship? What do healthy relationships look like? Have you ever been in a healthy relationship? Is your current relationship healthy?

We know what a dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship looks like. Just turn on the television and check out Divorce Court and The Maury Show. How many of those television relationships mirror situations of the people you know personally?

Healthy relationships are needed in the Black community.

Currently, we have buzzing forms of media such as the movie Think like a Man and television shows like Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop of Atlanta, which all highlight the ongoing battle of dating and relationships in the Black community. Relationships have been a trend and topic in the Black community as of late. However, relationships have been an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed.

Issues of domestic violence, single-parent households, high rates of foster care enrollment of Black children, and partner abuse have been studied and deemed as public health concerns. These issues have not always been addressed in a serious manner throughout the Black community.

Also, to take it a step further, they are also not always addressed with men involved. BeMore is a project of The Family Partnership, which is here to address these issues and develop solutions to make a difference in the Black community.


Painful truths

African Americans experience disproportionate rates of domestic violence in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region of Minnesota. While most family violence goes unreported to authorities, a look at the reported data reveals disparities.

The rate of hospital-treated injuries from battering is disproportionately higher for people in Minneapolis and St. Paul: 22 percent of all hospital-treated injuries from battering in the state are in Minneapolis, while just seven percent of the state’s population lives in Minneapolis; and 15 percent of hospital-treated injuries from battering are in St. Paul, although just five percent of the state’s population lives there, as shown in the Minnesota Department of Health’s Injury Data Access System for 2008.

Furthermore, a large proportion (43 percent) of the state’s Black population lives in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul according to the 2008 American Community Survey.

North Minneapolis, which has a large African American population, accounts for close to half of the city’s hospital-treated interpersonal violence injuries, even though just 25 percent of the city’s population lives in North Minneapolis. In fact, North Minneapolis residents have rates of hospitalization for interpersonal violence injuries that are six to seven times higher than the statewide average (Source: Minnesota Department of Health, “Age adjusted rate of hospital-treated intimate partner violence cases, Minnesota residents, 1999-2004”)


Offering solutions,

 opening the discussion

The overall mission of the BeMore project is to use a culturally competent model for increasing the knowledge of African American men of all ages about alternatives to violence in interpersonal relationships. We will train concerned men in schools, workplaces, youth programs, and the broader community with skills to engage young men in discussions around building healthy relationships.

Men will be challenged to “walk the talk” of healthy relationships. They will be prompted by a series of monthly messages that reinforce skills developed during the training.

They will also receive the ongoing support of our staff through in-person or phone contact. We believe it is crucial to begin now to develop skills among African American men and to influence today’s boys and young men who will become the influencers in their extended families and cultural community over the next two decades.

The BeMore Campaign utilizes three strategies to develop healthy relationships in the Black community. First, we want to increase men’s knowledge and skills to provide guidance to young men that supports and sustains violence-free relationships.

Secondly, we want to increase the number of men taking an active role in the promotion of healthy and safe relationships. And thirdly, we want to create awareness in the African American community that effective solutions can come from an organized group of individuals with a vision, skills and intention.

It’s time to BeMore when it comes to healthy relationships in the Black community. Domestic violence is a serious issue in our community. Domestic violence is also a health concern.

In order to build strong communities, we must have strong, safe and healthy relationships. In order to build these healthy relationships, both men and women must be involved. Let’s move beyond the barbershop talk and NBA playoff living room conversations and open the conversations out to the public. Let’s all plan to BeMore in our relationships with one another.

If we are going to successfully parent, date or marry, we need be in and model healthy relationships. It is important to engage men in these efforts. It is even more important to teach our children the necessity of healthy relationships. Together we can break the cycle of domestic violence.


This project is supported by grant number 2011-WM-AX-K017 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Brandon Jones, M.A., a BeMore coordinator, welcomes reader responses to bjones@thefamilypart