Family Reunion shines through rain

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While the 9th Annual Pittsburgh Black Family Reunion ended on a stormy Sunday, not even the rain could put a damper on the three-day event featuring live performances, a basketball tournament and local vendors.

“I have been to the reunion in previous years, and I think once again Community Empowerment has thrown an amazing event successfully showcasing the talent of our community,” said Ricky Burgess Jr., a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and the former president of the Black Graduate Students’ Organization.

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BLACK FAMILY REUNION—Amargie Davis and T. Rashad Byrdsong from the Community Empowerment Association family. (Photo by Ashley G. Woodson)

“I think it is important to have a forum where people of different ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and from different neighborhoods can all come together peacefully to do something positive.”

Started by Community Empowerment Association in 2003, the reunion brings together a diverse group of individuals and organizations from across Allegheny County. This year’s event in Schenley Park included health screenings, arts and crafts for children, African art and jewelry vendors, informational booths, and the “Peace in the Hood” basketball tournament held in Mellon Park on Aug. 3.

“I think the annual Black Family Reunion event is important to attend because it is proof that we have the potential to show support and concerns for our communities,” said Denise Sinkler, assistant director of My Father Knows Best, a non-profit organization that helps feed the homeless. “I think it’s very important for African-American’s to know their history because there was a time when many Black families were broken up or simply destroyed. We must pass on the torch of love by giving back within communities and embracing one another more on a positive accord.”

Headlining the event was Maryland-based R&B vocalist Raheem DeVaughn and 70s soul group The Chi Lites. But the reunion was also a place for up-and-coming local artists to shine. Other performers included Tek Bennet, Shad Ali, Dot Da Joker, Ira Soul, Simone Davis, The Soul Kids, Southside Family, Statement Records, GMFL Records, Y Money, Cash Ave, D Yerk, Landon Johnson, B.O.L.O, Hakim Rasheed and The Agency.

“It’s important because it brings people together from far and near to have a good time and enjoy good music and food. It gives those who are serious about networking and growing an opportunity to meet with people they may have never crossed paths before,” said Mista Scrap, one of the events performers. “So much positive and happy energy; it’s good for our people.”

Before the festivities began on the morning of Saturday Aug. 4, CEA President and CEO T. Rashad Byrdsong hosted a tent discussion centered on the reunion’s theme of “moving towards an Urban Marshall Plan that will build, invest in infrastructures, economic and social institutions in the Black community.”

“This is an important election year. We have to hold government, corporate and public officials accountable for the reinvestment in our urban centers in terms of economic community development, workforce development and training, employment opportunities, housing, education, mental and physical health and public safety,” Byrdsong said, announcing the morning discussion. “There has to be an equitable, fair, just and transparent process in the distribution of resources of reinvestment dollars.”

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