On June 27th, 2014, it had been eight years since my father’s side of the family’s last family reunion; my son was four years old, he is now twelve. The reunion was great and the time spent outside of reunion activities was just as fun. This was the first time the reunion was held in my hometown, sort of the beginning of a generational shift in both location and leadership. My father’s family was a part of the big southern migration in the 1950’s (family of twelve), moving from the south to the Midwest, and in my childhood all of my father’s reunions were held in the deep south. For the first time the reunion was now being held where my generation began.
So many Black families are connected to this migration that I can remember as a child when Black kids went on vacation they always said, “I’m going down south.” White kids in my town would say the opposite, “we’re going up north.” It’s not hard for me to see the depravity in the American education system when so many Black children from the 1970’s passed through a school system without ever having a social studies, geography or history class explaining the simple reason Black children of the Midwest were often traveling down south to visit family. So many of us would have been immersed in school far beyond the three “Rs” if school curricula cared to be applicable to Black children.
But it is that type of negligence and racial omission of Black life that made my family reunion a necessary event this summer. Although the reunion was in my hometown, I am 15 years removed because like many post civil rights children I am a part of the education migration, which led so many Black men and women (of my generation) to locate home as a byproduct of where college and jobs relocated them. Many of us now live in cities without extended families, living as community minorities, far different from the Black neighborhoods we grew up in, and my reunion helped to reflect what is missing in this new model for Black families.
The reunion brought back a past almost forgotten and situated my son among a bunch of Black people who, just like his parents, are overly concerned if he had enough to eat; cousins wanting to play a game with him without any knowledge of “inclusive practice”; elders just simply wanting to know how he’s doing; an entire city hugging and kissing him, all the while treating him as if he is the most important person in the world–this is the community I grew up in and this trip reaffirmed that I have always known love as a behavior and not a performance. I was said hello to, in one weekend, more than I have been said hello to in my entire six years of living in my current city.
For me, this time well spent among family reinforced the thought that communities must have a genuine love for Black children and Black families. When we hold preconceived ideas about who is worth valuing we lose out on authentic relationships where intimacy evolves into truly caring for ones well-being, and that is what 40 years of life allowed me to see when I returned home. In one weekend I saw honesty, love, concern, play and trust, all displayed with a freedom that my generation longs for.
Love & Harmony!