THE SITUATION :
Help! Our reunion planning is falling off the tracks because everyone wants to be the boss. How can we restore order so we can get back to organizing our upcoming reunion?
We believe reunions have the power to nourish and strengthen families of all races and ethnicities. Reunions can encourage healthy extended family relationships, provide a sense of belonging, restore family pride, nurture and respect all generations, and impart wisdom, knowledge and a shared purpose. Our goal is to strengthen, inspire and support family reunion planning; share useful information and resources; and advocate for the teaching of family and reunion history, values and experiences.
- Dr. Ione Vargus
Planning a family reunion? Click below for tips on:
NEED HELP with a Sticky Reunion Situation?
- Check the SRS Archives (CLICK HERE) -OR-
- Contact us (CLICK HERE).
WHAT IS LOVE?
Love is a call shortly after midnight,
just to ask, “You get home all right?
Love is support before, during and after
all of life’s crises and occasional disasters.
Love is secret jokes, and laughs from the belly.
Love is one of Auntie’s homemade rolls with jelly.
Love is poking fun with no offense taken,
and knowing no matter what, you’ll never be forsaken.
Love encourages you to do your best and pushes you along.
Love tells you you’re good and also warns you when you’re wrong.
Love let’s you know that you’re somebody; Love let’s you know you belong.
Love is a stream of memories that start in youth,
flow to the river of middle age, and become an ocean of truth.
Love embraces, enfolds, heals, defines.
Love is family. Thank you God, for mine.
Douglas A. Harris
February is the month where history, freedom, love and family come together to educate, cultivate, develop and grow.
In February our hearts are full of love, peace and family as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, National Weddings Month, Random Acts of Kindness Week, American Heart Month, Bake for the Family Month, National Parent Leadership Month, Relationship Wellness Month, and so much more. This month, alongside of progressing your family reunion planning, take time to check out our list of fun things for the family to observe, eat, enjoy and explore in FAMILY TIME; consider the suggestions in this month’s REUNION TIP OF THE MONTH; ponder the Black History Month quotes in WORTH REPEATING; and we be encouraged to tell your family’s story in PRACTICAL FAMILY REUNION PLANNING.
In February we proudly remember the shoulders of those named and unnamed abolitionists and civil rights activists whose bravery and fortitude progressed the movement of Black people forward. There is no question that without them there would be no National Freedom Day honoring the signing of the amendment that abolished slavery. No signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln. No Carter G. Woodson conceiving Negro History Week to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass (February 12th and 14th respectively). No expansion of Negro History Week to Black History Month. And no President Ford urging Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Although the shortest month of the year, February is one of the most significant in that it carries the responsibility and burden of enlightening the world about the life, experiences and achievements of African American’s. Responsibility based on the need to proclaim a designated time to raise awareness of African American accomplishments—even though those contributions are lived out every single day of the year. A burden because even as the contributions are laid bare, African Americans are still misunderstood, mistreated, disrespected, caused harm (and even death) purely based on the color of their skin.
This Black History Month it’s hard not to give thought to the unfinished business of Carter G. Woodson, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements, and the fact that our country continues to fall short on its promise that “all men” have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We’ve come a long way, yet there’s so much more to be done. It's time for all of us—every color, every creed, every religion, every race, every age, every generation—to be better, love more, hate less, and realize that we all deserve to live our lives without fear and condemnation.
This February we send much love to family reunion planners because we know the work you do is challenging and often comes with little to no reward. Keep your eyes on the prize—a fulfilled reunion event—and the smiles, hugs, laughter and love that come along with it. Stay safe, warm, and well. And never stop planning.
- Reunion Tip of The Month
- Family Time
- Practical Family Reunion Planning
- Worth Repeating
- What Is Love…a poem by Doug Harris
- Sticky Reunion Situation
This month, seize the opportunity to find creative ways to engage family members in African Heritage & Health Week and Random Acts of Kindness Week observances. And, plan something new for your reunion.
African Heritage & Health Week (Feb 1-7), celebrates the healthy foods, flavors and cooking techniques and heritage of a traditional African diet, exploring cuisines that are central to Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and the American South. The week inspires us to eat better by learning traditional culinary history and cooking techniques. Try out recipes this month that can also be replicated and shared during the reunion.
On Random Acts of Kindness Week (14-20), ask family members to identify acts of kindness they’d be willing to provide to family members: cook a meal, mow the lawn, provide a ride, help with house cleaning, babysitting, tutor, etc. Then, create gift cards that can be distributed as door prizes during the reunion.
February is full of history and history maker’s including Black History Month, National Women Inventors Month, National Freedom Day, Carter G. Woodson, Frederick Douglass, Abe Lincoln and George Washington. February is also the month of love, and it’s full of family and heart-filled celebrations and observances including Bake for Family Fun Month, American Heart Month, National Parent Leadership Month, National Wedding Month, Relationship Wellness Month, Random Acts of Kindness Week and Valentine’s Day.
TELL YOUR FAMILY'S STORY
There are many, many, many notable and esteemed African Americans who helped change the world, and are revered and spoken of again, and again, and again during Black History Month. For every notable person, there are countless hidden, unsung heroes. Folks who walked, marched, protested, supported, worked behind the scenes, and contributed to the success of luminaries. All of these folks—notable and not—had families. But not all of their stories are told, and that’s where practical reunion planning comes in.
Within each of our families are many unsung heroes. And if you’re looking for a good family project for your reunion, take on the task of sitting with elder family members, and digging deep into your family tree to see what noteworthy history you can uncover. Then document your findings and share them with your family members, local newspapers, libraries, schools, etc.
To make the point. Doug Harris, Family Reunion Institute Advisory Board Member wrote and published a book, "Raised by Giants" about his childhood hometown that is considered to be a “legitimate part of Black History”. He also wrote and published his mother's memoir and a book about his grandfather. All three books document Black History, as well as his love for family and the "village" that raised him. Additionally, Doug’s cousin and her BFF researched the cemetery where their grandparents are buried, and after 15+ years documented slavery in NJ, published a book, and were the subject of an article in NY Times Magazine.
Family Reunion Institute founder, Dr. Ione Vargus’ family contributions are well-documented in her hometown of Medford, Massachusetts and beyond. For starters, she was Temple University’s first African American dean as well as the first female dean of the School of Social Work. Her father, Edward Dugger, founded the 372nd Infantry, an all-African American National Guard Unit, where he served as lieutenant colonel and commanding officer, earning him a place in Black High Society. He was the first African American appointed to the Medford Massachusetts City Planning Board, and the first to have a public park named after him. Her mother, Madeline was named Massachusetts Mother of the Year in 1952, the first black woman to hold that honor. Her sister, Madeleine Dugger Andrews, was the first African American elected to Medford’s School Committee and had a school named in her honor in 2000, The Madeline Dugger Andrews Middle School. Her brother, Eddie Dugger, frequently referred to as a one-man track team during his college years, was said to have single handedly put Tufts University on the map. He was one of the first African American aeronautical engineers in the nation. The Dugger Memorial Auditorium at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, where he worked thirty-three years, was named in his honor.
There’s a lot we all can learn about our family’s past and our ancestors achievements throughout history. If you haven’t already started to uncover your family’s story, “what are you waiting for”? Use your family reunion to get the relatives talking, planning, researching and documenting your contributions.
“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
- Frederick Douglass
“People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable. And that’s something that needs to change.”
- Colin Kaepernick
“As long as people can be judged by the color of their skin,
the problem is not solved.”
- Oprah Winfrey
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
- Shirley Chisholm
“Black History Month must be more than just a month of remembrance;
it should be a tribute to our history and reminder of the work that lies in the months and years ahead.”
- Marty Meehan
"Black history isn't a separate history. This is all of our history, this is American history, and we need to understand that."
- Karyn Parsons
“Won’t it be wonderful when black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.”
- Maya Angelou
Tondra Talley, Vice-President of the Mitchell Family reunion, was worried. A whole lot of planning had gone into the reunion, but not many reservations were being made. “I’m thinking OMG, nobody’s going to show up,” Talley remembers.