We’re Black, We Didn’t Jump the Broom, and It Kinda Sucks

jenn-m-jackson-wedding-dayI never expected to get married at 22-years-old. I envisioned myself as a briefcase wielding, pseudo-Oprah taking over the world. Then, my husband happened in my freshman year of college. And that was that. While we have a pretty fairytale style romance, we neglected to do what most black couples do on their wedding days: jump the broom. I feel pretty sour about it.

We were college sweethearts. We knew we wanted to get married and have children within months of dating. After being best friends for almost a year, it was like the stars had aligned. And, the wedding was the best day of our lives. It was a beautiful sunny May day in Orange County. We had everything and everyone we needed. Everything except the broom.

We are both black folks from California. He is a Socal native and I hail from the Bay Area (Oakland to be exact). We were both raised by single mothers. And, we both understand our black history. So, everyone expected we would be ‘jumping the broom’ at our wedding. But, neither of us was interested.

Several times during our two year engagement I asked him, “You sure you don’t want to jump the broom?” To which he’d answer, “For what?” “I don’t know…tradition,” I’d say reluctantly. Then we’d both do a Kanye shrug and go back to playing video games.

What was most interesting was everyone else’s reaction to it. “So, who’s going to carry the broom?” my wedding planner asked me a few months before our wedding day. “No one. We aren’t jumping the broom,” I said ready to rattle off all of my reasons for that choice. She looked at me. Her eyes were gasping. You know that look when, if eyes could talk, they’d be saying “Gurl! Are you outta your mind!?!” It was actually pretty funny. “Well, I am sure you have a good reason for that. So, do you honey,” she chuckled after her eyes caught their breath. But, I knew her judgey eyes linked to judgey thoughts.

My family – just excited that I was getting married and not pregnant – couldn’t have cared less. But, Daren’s family seemed almost offended we wouldn’t be “honoring our ancestors” with the broom. “But you’re black,” said one of his more outspoken aunts. “Yes. Yes, I know that,” I said curtly. “In the black culture, we jump the broom. Jewish folks step on the glass and we jump the broom. That’s just the way it is,” she tried to convince me. She too received the Kanye shrug.

Daren and I were set on this one. There was to be no broom.

Why? Well, our understanding was that, back in slavery times, blacks were not allowed to marry. And, jumping the broom, for slaves, meant that they were legally bonded. They were not allowed to have formal ceremonies in churches or have legal documents justifying their bonds. I even did some research on it while we were wedding planning to see if we would be casting an omen on our nuptials by avoiding it all together. And, while the tradition links back to the Motherland, it seemed to be mainly about folklore and good tidings. I had my old, new, borrowed, and blue that day so I figured I was covered.

We figured we were getting married in a church so there was no reason to jump a broom.

Sometimes now though, I look back and wish we had jumped. We had a very diverse audience in attendance. Our wedding party included every race and creed under the rainbow. I often think it would have been beautiful to share a smidgen of our rich cultural history with some folks outside our racial community. But, we can’t go back.

Daren and I are planning on getting married again. I’d do it every five years if I could but he refuses to subsidize my wedding addiction. When we do marry again, there will definitely be a broom. We have grown up a bit. We have three beautiful children we are responsible for and accountable to. It is our job to keep these traditions going. We understand that now.

And, since I’d marry that man a thousand times if I could, jumping a broom – also signifying sweeping out the old and welcoming the new – can only add to the experiences we’ve got a lifetime to acquire.

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Jenn M. Jackson

Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.

6 Responses

  1. GreenInOC says:

    That was sweet!

    I think it would be lovely that every year on your anniversary you Jump the Broom in front of your children (as well as any recommitment / marriage ceremony you and Darren have over the years) . I think that it would be an incredibly cherished family tradition.

  2. Aww…I definitely understand the minor regrets of not doing the broom jump thing, I chalk it up to being young and bucking tradition. But at least you and the Mr. stayed together long enough to broom jump at the re-marriage! So there’s that! 😀

    I don’t recall anyone doing the broom jump thing in my family (the one common denominator is that they had apartment weddings lol), I definitely plan on doing it when I marry. The symbolism behind the gesture is beautiful and sad, and I want to honor my ancestors for having the freedom to marry when they did not.

    Can’t wait to see the re-marriage pix! 😀

  3. Shawna says:

    Don’t beat yourself up too bad for not jumping the broom at your wedding. I think it became more of a trend in our generation who were re-educated of our blackness through KRS1, Public Enemy, etc. I don’t recall my parents or aunts and uncles jumping the broom (no picture or verbal documentation) and they were brought up during the civil rights era.

    As you stated, you can jump the broom at the re-commitment ceremony! I’m just proud to see a healthy, successful, black married couple with children, who love and support each other in a REAL way. That’s what counts for me. I jumped the broom to a marriage that didn’t include all of that back in the day, but I’ll gladly jump it again to one that does in the future if the Lord says the same (as the old folks say!). So, praise God that y’all got the sticking power and that your love endures.

  4. Thanks so much Shawna!

  5. I have to convince the hubster to foot the bill so it might be awhile before you see pics lol.

  6. We are definitely going to jump the broom in the future. We want our kids to know and witness that tradition.