Family reunions are important occurrencesPublished 9:08pm Friday, August 30, 2013
The traditional family reunion, regardless of ethnicity, is a fun-filled social event. It is generally held annually or bi-annually to afford distant relatives and members of the extended family a chance to meet, socialize with each other and eat good food. In many cases, a family reunion planning committee is formed to select a designated location and plan the activities. An important part of the scheduled activities can include a genealogy workshop to identify family ancestors to facilitate compiling an accurate family tree. African-Americans sometimes find this task especially difficult because of the poor records that were maintained if their ancestors where slaves. In addition, birth certificates of slaves were inaccurate or not maintained; children were given the last name of the slave owner or families were separated, making link analysis difficult. Despite these obstacles, some family members have done an excellent job of genealogical research to piece the “family tree” together.
The current economic climate is placing a severe strain on a family member’s financial ability to travel long distances and pay for lodging and other expenses incidental to attending a family reunion. Family members who are experiencing financial difficulties due to unemployment or salary cutbacks now have to choose between paying an important bill or attending a family reunion. These considerations have, for many family reunions, resulted in a decline in attendance.
Family reunions need to evolve to address the socio-economic issues of the 21st century to help family members achieve a better quality of life. Family reunions consist of family members who have acquired diverse academic credentials, professional accomplishments and skill sets. Family elders have acquired years of collective life experiences and “lessons learned” that cannot be measured in academic terms. This collective expertise and wisdom needs to be utilized. It is reasonable to assume that family members who attend a family reunion would appreciate having the option to attend workshops or presentations that address quality of life issues, financial management, youth life skills and/or planning for careers that would provide them with valuable insight to address their respective situations. Hopefully, the family reunion can incorporate the traditional activities while finding a way to identify and utilize the tremendous talent and wisdom each family has within its ranks to help family members.
Alvin Powell, a former FBI agent, is director of the Beaufort County Police Activities League.