Sunday, August 20, 2000

Black Family Reunion embraces heritage

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Avondale Lions march and dance up Burnet Avenue in Avondale as part of the Black Family Reunion.
(Tony Jones photos)
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        They came down for the sense of fellowship, to enjoy the food and entertainment, to check out the vendors, to catch a breeze off the river under a forgiving late summer sun.

        For Lafayette and Lynn Johnson, who live in Evanston, this weekend's 2000 Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion Celebration, a tradition for 12 years, was a reunion that wrapped around their own family reunion.

        About 150 members of the Francis/Shearer family came to Cincinnati this week to celebrate their own annual reunion, and about 50 of them chartered a bus and headed down to the riverfront Saturday afternoon.

Harper family watches parade come down Harvey Avenue.
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        For the family it is a three-day event, which included a dance in Bond Hill and a picnic today at Mount Airy Forest. They came in from California and Delaware, and from states in between: Texas, Michigan, Maryland. Saturday meant a day on the riverfront with other African-American families.

        “It's the camaraderie, visiting the vendors, seeing something new every year,” said Mr. Johnson, who wore a Francis/Shearer Family Reunion T-shirt.

        “You eat, see the kids, take in the atmosphere and have a good fish dinner,” Ms. Johnson said.

  • 1 p.m. and after: Jammin' on the Cove at Yeatman's Cove, Sawyer Point:. Blues acts will include Big Joe Duskin, Keith Little, H. Bomb Ferguson and Little Milton.
  • 5 p.m. Gospelfest, sponsored by Procter & Gamble, showcases acts such as the Arts Consortium of Cincinnati Youth Chorales, Vision Mime Ministry and vocalists Kim Watts, Kay Barksdale and Rae Swanson.
        Thousands milled along the riverfront Saturday afternoon. Vendors and information booths stretched from Yeatman's Cove all the way through Bicentennial Commons. Smoke from the huge blackened kettles of grilling meat wafted across the Commons. Young children sprinted among the visitors.

        At least 200,000 people are expected before the Black Family Reunion ends today on the riverfront, with more entertainment and a Gospelfest that begins at 5 p.m. at the Procter & Gamble stage.

        David Giger came down from Indian Springs with his daughters Shawnika, 12, and Dasha, 8, and his son, David, 3, to have fun and take in the atmosphere of the cultural event.

        “It's a chance to get together,” Mr. Giger said.

        Katie Hurd came down from Forest Park, children in tow. Her sister, Peggy Hurd, and Peggy's son, Michael, came in from San Diego for the reunion. Katie has made the Black Family Reunion every year for the past five.

        “I like the cultural things that have to do with the African-American heritage,” Ms. Hurd said. “It's a chance for the black community to put on an event like this that is a good, safe thing for the whole family.”

        Patricia Taite pushed a stroller as her two grandchildren, Darius, 4, and Mirey, 18 months, followed her. Ms. Taite shooed a pesky yellow jacket away from Mirey's face.

        “I come down every year,” said Ms. Taite, who lives in Springfield Township. “I like the people. Sometimes I see people down here I haven't seen in years. This is a time we can get together, enjoy life and enjoy each other.”

        Albertha Hall, Louella Hall and Eloise Marshall came by chartered bus from Indianapolis with about 30 others. By mid-afternoon they took seats in the shade at Yeatman's Cove.

        “I've enjoyed it,” Albertha Hall said. “There's the entertainment. I like to see all the people.”

        Leah Evans held her grandson, Easton Phillips, 18 months, as he trailed a hand in the falling water of the concourse fountain at Yeatman's Cove.

        “There's the fellowship, the gathering, the songs, the people,” Ms. Evans said. “Just being together as a family.”

        Shawn and Valeisa George, of Winton Terrace, were also part of the Francis/Shearer family reunion. Ms. George was struck by other nationalities, including white faces, that were now visiting the Black Family Reunion.

        “It's an event where we can all get together and enjoy ourselves,” Mr. George said.

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