The African American Contribution To Family Reunion Celebrations

August 26, 2007

It seems of late that many families who seldom considered coming together as one big fat family are giving it serious thought these days.  One of the reasons is simply that family reunion planning has gained popularity across many American cultures.  So who’s behind the growing sensation to celebrate family ties and igniting the family reunion fire? 

On a popular discussion board centered around family reunion planning a young reader ask if family reunions are primarily an activity celebrated by black people. The fact is family reunion events is an African American sensation that's gaining momentum. But can we say that it is gaining such momentum  that other cultures are falling in line or are other factors causing the great family reunion movement of the millennium?  Lets examine the the facts.

One factor leading to the opinion that the family reunion movement originates with African American families is a considerable amount of media blitz centered around African American family reunion celebrations.

Who can ignore the recent blockbuster movie called Madea's Family Reunion centered on social and marital issues impacting an African American family in need of strength and support made possible only from a reunion of four generations of family members. If anything the movie ignited controversy regarding the African American family and how to deal with strained marital relationships and juvenile discipline issues. Still Tyler Perry’s movie, featuring world renowned award winning actress Cicely Tyson and Philanthropist/ Poet and writer Maya Angelou and the ever popular Blair Underwood, made it into the main stream of American entertainment and with that the issues associated with family life and family reunion events.

The media seems to crank out more top 10 hits based on family reunions by Black artists than others. Among the more popular songs about family reunion celebrations are the following:

The Ojays "Family Reunion". Al Greens "Love and Happiness", Sly & The Family Stones "It's a family affair", "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge reached #2 in 1979, Lionel Richies recent award winning album "Coming Home" with 75,000 copies sold in its first week out. And then there are the scores of line dance remixes by black artists.

Aside from the hype factor surrounding family reunions celebrated by African Americans in the entertainment world over the past 30 years there are other significant underlying reasons as to what is igniting the fire to celebrate ones family ties.

There are long-time family traditions dating back to the early 1700's and beyond including family quilt making, family song and dance themes that have migrated into American culture along with the people who brought it. These include Russians, Jews, Africans, Indians and others of Scottish and Irish decent.

Not only is family reunion a popular theme among blacks artists, family unity has been an ongoing subject in popular country western music since it’s inception into the music market. Family celebration themes can be found in the music of most American cultures.

There is a growing sensation sparking family reunion celebrations with various themes, from the traditional homestead celebration to genealogy tours. One of the factors contributing to this is the ability to research ones roots using genealogy tools featured on many sites online. The Internet is fairly teaming with surname lookup search engines, archives and libraries helping the novice/amateur and professional genealogist dig deeper than ever before finding buried historic treasures previously untapped.

Many foreign and civil governments programs have become more cooperative regarding Assisting groups and individuals to locate long missing family members. Council directives on the right to family reunification are designed to give support to families separated by government and social boundaries. Family reunion immigration programs have made a significant contribution to sparking family reunion celebrations of late.

Adoption agencies have begun working closely with Adoption search agencies to reunite long missing siblings and parents with children. Such unions often trigger a desire to go the whole gamut and bring grands, aunts, uncles and cousins together. The strong sentiments behind uniting missing family members often ignite a powerful desire to celebrate family unity that can last for generations.

Do these factors indicate that genealogy research, government and foreign policy more strongly influence the family reunion sensation of the day? Not necessarily. Education along with large social events must also be considered. Of note is the Family Reunion Institute at Temple University in Philadelphia, the only institute of its kind in the country that is dedicated to serving as a resource to families planning reunions and helps keep the reunion tradition alive.

On a social level the Annual Tom Joyner Family Reunion sponsored by none other than Uncle Ben's is dedicated to awareness of the family unit. A recent city-wide family reunion celebration led Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode to proclaim it "Black Family Reunion Day" among the estimated 200,000 persons who attended.

There is the Annual Ebony Black Family Reunion Tour to inspire black families to come together," says Nichole Taylor it's president. Other major events include The Annual African American Family Reunion and Cultural Festival and the 19th Annual Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion Celebration in Cincinnati, OH.

There are also the growing offerings of special family reunion tours, genealogy related travel and cruise packages featured by top travel and hospitality agencies that are keeping the embers burning.

That said, it must be acknowledged that African American institutions along with other social, government and foreign policy programs have made significant contributions to the popularity of traditional and not so traditional family reunion celebrations of today. These combined contributions have impacted social events and caused a stir seemingly for the better as the interests in family reunions appear to be charged and growing.

"The tradition of uniting the family in order to publicly celebrate births, memorialize deaths, speak of legends, make social and family contributions is a thing imprinted on the mind, heart and soul of many communities both predominantly black and otherwise the world over." says Mark Askew, founder of the Family Reunion Planner resource at

For families of various ethnic persuasions the uniting of generations of family members is a universal family tradition that's been alive and well since the chronicling of oral and written family history began. Still what we learn from the African American family reunion tradition is the need to keep the fires burning, drawing strength, support and building strong family sentiments that hone the skills of family unity for generations to come.

If you're thinking of having a family reunion there are many software and book titles that can guide you through the process of planning, organizing and throwing a memorable family reunion.

Popular Family Reunion Planning Software Titles
Fimark's Award Winning Family Reunion Planner
Family Reunion Organizer

Genealogy and Family Software – FAMware

Popular Family Reunion Planning Books Titles
The Family Reunion Planner: Books: Donna Beasley

Your Family Reunion - by George G. Morgan

Tom Ninkovich, author of Family Reunion Handbook The Family Reunion Survival Guide

The Family Reunion Handbook Thomas Ninkovich, Barbara E. Brown

The Black Family Reunion Cookbook National Council of Negro Women

About the Author
Mark A. Askew, pin name Marcus Angelo, is founder of, an event planning resource featuring the award winning Fimark Family Reunion Planner, a family reunion planning organizer for reunion planners who wish to implement a time and money saving organized approach to planning and executing a successful family reunion. The site at offers award winning reunion planning software, tips, tools and free reunion stuff giveaways.

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