Niagara Gazette


June 12, 2013

BRADBERRY: Family reunion time -- let's party!


Niagara Gazette — Rumors, along with real-life accounts by many who made the journey “up north”, spread like wildfire all over the South; that things were different up there was indisputable.

The greatest human migration in this nation’s young history was under way as hundreds of thousands separated from their families and abandoned Dixie to resettle in Yankeevile in search of the American Dream.

Of course, not everybody wanted to leave their “roots” in the Southern soil.

Some had accumulated considerable valuable property, many owned productive farms and businesses — but their trade was often not welcome outside their own all-black communities.

Travel was not easy, separation was difficult for many. Black folks could not safely navigate the highways and were usually banned from public accommodations.

That meant they had to form their own networks of hotels, restaurants and other facilities. It meant they did not get to see their families for years because for most, more frequent travel was almost impossible.

Over time, as the political and legal battles raged, barriers fell, things got better; travel became safer and easier, and the tradition of the annual family reunion was born.

Now, it is one of the strongest traditions, one of the most enduring, having survived against the odds, nearly intact after all these years.

Sometimes initiated by chance encounters at elder’s funerals, distant cousins, aunts and uncles, otherwise rarely seen, or heard from, often agree to meet again at another place, under less stressful circumstances, and the family reunion seed is planted.

The planning begins.

Someone agrees to host, and, ready or not, before you know it, its time …

Hosting the reunion is considered an honor in some families, in others, a curse; in either case, it is a huge responsibility.

What may have started as an informal gathering among a few family members has blossomed into a gigantic industry, spawning all kinds of how-to books filling entire sections in public libraries, bookstores and internet sites.

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