This year’s 7th Annual Black Family Reunion & Cultural Arts Weekend went off without a hitch. Based in Schenley Park, the Community Empowerment Association celebration began Aug. 6 and drew close to 1,000 people.
“Understanding that the community is in crisis and recognizing the struggles disadvantaged and minority families endure to survive, the Black Family Reunion is a way to entertain, educate and empower people in ways traditional to our culture,” said Rashad Byrdsong, founder and CEO of CEA. “There is something for everyone to enjoy. This event is for everyone.”
|FOR THE KIDS—Karena Dorsey leads the arts and crafts table.
Events during the three-day celebration included the Peace in the Hood basketball tournament at Kennard Field, Hip Hop Symposium and African-American Film Showcase at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and a Prayer for Peace at Schenley Park Meadows.
“It’s one of the biggest events of the year that brings African-Americans together to celebrate a message of fun,” said Karena Dorsey, an administrative assistant with CEA. “It brings everything together with the food and the music and the activities for the kids.”
The festival also featured live performances, vendors, food and numerous activities for children including different arts and crafts and a climbing wall. Major event sponsor Macy’s also contributed giveaways, makeovers, raffles, face painting and a fashion show.
“This event is reflective upon how these youth are the future,” Dorsey said. “We need to show them this way of life and the culture they have. I think we definitely need to get our culture back because particularly in Pittsburgh we don’t have our culture.”
The theme of this year’s celebration was “Youth in the Age of Obama.” The event’s organizers hoped this theme would inspire community leaders to focus more on leadership development for Pittsburgh’s youths.
“A lot of youth got behind the Obama campaign. That was the first time youth got behind the political process,” said Martell Covington, event organizer. “We want to keep that awareness and support and keep it going.”
For Covington, activities like the Ask the Doctor Health Screening and Information Series were the most important. Representatives from UPMC Health Plan and Community Care provided information about health issues affecting Black people—nutrition, physical health, mental health and health coverage.
“Our people don’t have a lot of events. I think this is something to look forward to. This is an event for everyone,” said Covington. “You rarely get 1,000-plus people in one setting at one time so you have to have this information here.”
Many said the weekend highlighted the best of Pittsburgh’s Black community with residents from different neighborhoods coming together in celebration.
“It’s been a very good turnout and a positive turnout, especially in light of all the violence in Pittsburgh, to see all the kids come together in a way that is constructive,” said Keith Murphy. “It brings a cultural orientation that is probably different from any other festival. When you think of the concept of a family reunion it’s important because it opens it up to the extended family. You need to get rid of those community barriers and form a more global one.”