Family Reunion Forum
African American Reunions: Washington Post
The Family Reunion Trip: It's All Relatives
By Gary Lee
Regina Belle raised her velvety voice and belted out a gospel tune that left the Atlanta Hilton ballroom in awed silence. For the Grammy-winning recording artist, the song may not have been as snazzy as "Baby Come to Me," "A Whole New World" or her other smash hits. But the audience -- a biennial gathering of 165 cousins, uncles, aunts and other relatives -- made the performance unforgettably poignant.
"In here, I am not a star. I am one member of an extraordinary family," she said. "And this is no regular meeting. It's an extraordinary reunion."
Was it ever. The three-day Fisher Family Reunion 2005, held Labor Day weekend, included three gospel performances, two moving speeches (including a resounding tribute to the institution of family), a sightseeing excursion, a gourmet candlelight dinner and a Saturday night R&B dance that jammed into Sunday morning.
Spectacular? For sure. Unique? Not really. During the same weekend, 21 other major African American family shindigs were taking place around the Peachtree City, according to the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.
For African Americans, reunions are the next big thing. The general population may be drawn to increasingly popular couples-only resorts and other venues designed to escape the din of relatives, but African Americans' travel tastes are shifting in the opposite direction. Destination reunions are in. Solo getaways are out.
"The tide of mega-gatherings among African American families is high and rising," said Stephen Criswell, a University of South Carolina professor who has researched the sociology of African American get-togethers. "The more threats that are posed to families by dislocation and other social issues, the stronger the effort to preserve certain rituals like reunions." The gatherings have also evolved from small folksy get-togethers to full scale, carefully orchestrated celebrations.
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