Black people are fiercely individualistic when it comes to sports, especially in how they compete in so-called team sports such as basketball, soccer and football. The differences in the racial styles of athletic performance were apparent during the 2010 NCAA Basketball Tournament and most recently, the 2010 World Cup where African teams have performed abysmally.
In football, so-called “showboating” or “taunting” after a long-run, big hit by a defensive player or stupendous catch by a receiver is a recurrent theme practiced with increasing passion by Black people.
Yet, this individualism wears off quickly when a member of the Black community comes under scrutiny from the outside world at large. An attack on one Black person is translated as an attack on all, as Black people will rally to the defense of any derelict, regardless of the severity of his or her crime.
Michael Jackson, a wayward soul until his untimely demise nearly a year ago, was welcomed with open arms into the big tent of Blackness once his ethereal form regained dark features.
Juxtaposed, this extreme form of individualism in sports coupled with an emphatic belief in the importance of defending Blackness whenever it comes under attack – regardless of the individual’s crime – is to be applauded.
Nowhere can these two clashing ideas be seen with greater impact than a Black family reunion, a veritable institution that Black people consider a holier occasion than any religious date on the calendar.
You see, the Black family is in shambles across the nation, so the family reunion stands as a heroic defense against the alarming disintegration of a once nominally intact familial unit, and a proud reminder that some Black families have the ability to stand together while ruination consumes their community:
But it's also true that African-American families were much more intact in the decades before the Civil Rights Act than they were in the decades after it. In 1963, according to the famous Department of Labor report issued by Daniel Patrick Moynihan two years later, the out-of-wedlock birth rate among blacks was 23.6 percent while the rate among whites was only 3.07 percent. By 2005, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the out-of-wedlock birth rate among non-Hispanic whites had jumped to 25.3 percent and the rate among non-Hispanic blacks stood at nearly 70 percent.
In other words, the black out-of-wedlock birth rate was lower in 1963--on the eve of the Civil Rights Act, when Jim Crow policies were still an ugly reality in the American South and white racism was far more widespread than it is today--than the non-Hispanic white rate was in 2005.
There is no reason to harangue people about the monumentally depressive state of the Black family (in finances as well), for the recalcitrant nature of Black pupils that Crusading White Pedagogues attempt to impart knowledge upon is but one example of the lethargy infecting this community.
However, the family reunion offers refuge from the complacent nature of Black people as they gather together to celebrate accomplishments in the warm embrace of multiple generations. A family reunion is nothing to scoff at, for an opportunity to see the various branches of a family tree spread out in person is a marvelous occurrence that white people are granted only at weddings and graduations.
With the infrastructure of the Black family crumbling daily, the family reunion is reminder of what helps maintain a strong foundation for success: strong bonds that tie generations together, making young people aware of their mortality by seeing older faces and older people aware of their responsibilities by the young faces present.
The often-maligned Tyler Perry came out with a film entitled Madea’s Family Reunion, which showcased the troubles that plague the Black family (grandmothers are prone to caring for Black babies born out-of-wedlock in the Black community).
And yet, through all the familial revelry and enjoyment, only one thing truly matters in the whole experience and that is getting the T-Shirt which signifies that the Black individual did indeed attend a Black family reunion:
It doesn’t matter if your vision of a family reunion is a 50-person potluck, 500 family members packed in the local park, or a weekend cruise to nowhere -- if you don’t plan it right, your folk may disown you.
So says Sandra Jamison, author of “Finding Your People: An African American Guide to Discovering Your Roots,” who has planned and attended more than a few family reunions -- and has the T-shirts to prove it.
She says Africans Americans have a history of being disbursed across the country and an even stronger history of reuniting to celebrate their heritage and family pride.
With July and August prime family reunion season, Jamison offers tips to make your family reunion a success. “Getting together with the folks from up north or down south has been a part of our culture," she says. It’s not unlike planning a wedding, so don’t forget the reason you are doing this.
You may think you're an experienced event or wedding planner, but it’s best not to turn into the bridezilla of the reunion and micromanage every last detail, Jamison says. “Identify responsible people in your family. Make sure they have e-mail and know exactly what they are supposed to do,” she says.
Create a planning committee of three or four people, put them in charge of logistics, invitations, food and activities. Keep communication open and continuous leading up to the big day. Have a list of action items. For more details, go to check this article, Celebrating Your Roots! Tips for Planning Your Reunion for great family reunion planning tips.
All I Got Is a T-Shirt?
A black family reunion is not complete without the T-shirt, says Jamison. “Don’t think for a second you can get away with not having a T-shirt made for everybody,” she says. But a silk-screen souvenir is not the only way to make your reunion memorable. Try to think outside the box for different family reunion give-aways. Remember, it’s about family and your roots. Jamison suggests having a family tree posted somewhere and let people add to it. Or consider framing your family tree in an inexpensive picture frame for each family attending. Or have a talented family write the story about the founding family members.
Family reunions are not permanent gatherings, but finite events. Like a vacation, some sort of paraphernalia must be procured to prove you once attended such an increasingly mythically - in its conception – event.
At airports across the country, large contingents of Black people can be seen sporting T-shirts that quickly identify them as being part of a family. This item is a Black person’s most invaluable accoutrement, reminiscent of marathon runners acquiring a Boston Marathon T-shirt for the successful completion of the 26-mile race.
Once the reunion ends however, Black people who gathered in mass to pay homage to their family will become lowly individuals again and wearing a family reunion T-shirt will help them stand out in a sea of humanoids (see US senatorial candidate Alvin Greene wearing his family reunion T-shirt in this interview).
Thus, Stuff Black People Don’t Like includes bad family reunion T-shirts for the meeting of multiple generations of Black people to celebrate blood relations is an event that must be properly recorded for the annals of time with a handsome T-shirt.
The family reunion T-shirt is a way for Black people to "showboat" and "taunt" those deprived souls denied such clothing.
A bad T-shirt design means no one attending the reunion will wear it, bringing to mind the eternal question: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?