Bishop Nkenge Abi, Manager
Cultural Center #1
Here in North America, the month of June is the beginning of the Wedding season. Thousands of couples of all ages and various ethnic backgrounds will tie the knot over the next three months. Many African American couples seeking to bring some special cultural meaning to their ceremony will include a Broom-Jumping ritual in their wedding ceremony. The inclusion of Broom Jumping as well as various traditional African cultural expressions has increased in popularity over the last two decades and has become a way for African people in the Diaspora to connect to our roots in a very meaningful way.
Historically the Broom Jumping ritual developed out of the desires of our enslaved ancestors to acknowledge their union as husband and wife in conditions that forbade such unions. Africans as an enslaved people could not have any legal and binding contracts, which of course included marriage. Additionally most slave owners sought to discourage any kind of permanent bonds between slaves, as that would only complicate the selling process and cause the married couple to do whatever was in their power to stay together.
Our ancestors however, refused to reduce themselves to the status of breeding stock and found a way to declare their union to each other and to their community by Jumping the Broom. Among Africans the broom is a symbol of house holding, used to clean and maintain home and hearth, it was also non-threatening in the eyes of many slave owners who might permit the young man and woman to do this “simple” African thing. Though simple in appearance this ritual was important to communities of people seeking stability and permanence while living in frightfully unstable conditions. Couples often lived on different plantations and may have never had an opportunity to cohabitate as husband and wife yet they were willing to marry, often at great risk to their lives.
Among African people the institution of marriage is a joining of families as much as the joining of a couple. Many Black families were fractured during slavery and the larger community became the extended family, so it was vitally important that the community acknowledged the union of the couple. Enslaved Africans had no gifts to give like their White counterparts, but they could offer an abundance of blessings and wisdom to the couple. The ceremony was most often presided over by the eldest male of the community in the absence of the traditional village Chiefs, elders, or Priests. People would bring small pieces of brightly colored cloth, ribbon, or string, all of which was precious and in short supply. The members of the community would tie these items onto the handle of the broom while giving the couple their heartfelt blessing. When everyone was finished, the elder would take up the broom and place it on the ground before the couple and make a pronouncement of their union. It would sound something like this “We all done come here and the deed has been done. Where there used to be two there now is one, y’all is married “ The couple would then jump over the broom symbolizing stepping over the threshold into a new life together.
The Broom Jumping ritual may have varied from place to place yet the essential meaning was the same, that this man and woman are joined as husband and wife in the eyes of God and their community.
Contemporary African American couples can “Jump the Broom” following their vows and the pronouncement. Some couples jump the broom at their reception in a less formal setting. By choosing to “Jump the Broom” our ancestors showed remarkable determination and courage. When we choose to add the Broom Jumping ritual to our wedding ceremonies, we honor them and their courage to love in the face of adversity.
Bishop Nkenge Abi ...
is an ordained minister and has helped hundreds of
couples "Jump the Broom". She is also a trained wedding
consultant and would love to help you add "cultural kisses" to
your special event. She can be reached at our Detroit Store location or