8.24.2010

22nd Annual Black Family Reunion

Pristine porta-potties.....that's what I found this past Sunday when I went to the 22nd Annual Black Family Reunion. The port-o-lets were clean...smelled good....and each had two rolls of toilet paper...

Which, despite sounding so wonderful....was a bad sign because it meant that nobody was using them...One of the best ways to gauge the success of an outdoor event is to check out the condition of the port-o-lets...if they stay in good shape all day long....chances are the expected number of people did not show up....Sawyer Point as a number of permanent public restrooms that were near the portable restroom row....but they weren't overworked either..

The party was laid out....the booths were in place...the food was cooking and smelling good....there was plenty of room to throw out a blanket for a picnic....the Universoul Circus Stilt Walkers had room to jump rope and didn't have to clear a space to do it...... nobody turned out for the 22nd Annual Black Family Reunion.... Local media trumpeted the event beginning on Friday starting off the newscast, by predicting a crowd of 100,000 expected for the two day event.....Prior to those Friday newscasts however, I didn't hear or see anything about the yearly event..

The information on the event given out by two of the television stations that I checked out were wrong....this could have been incompetent news producers....or it could have been an incompetent publicity machine for the event...Don't know....Probably a combination of both....but no pub means no nobody showing up, which is what happened.

I don't know who was keeping count, but the Family Reunion could have continued on all week and never hit the 100,000 mark in five days based on what showed up this past weekend...Nobody seemed to be counting...there were absolutely too many ways to get into the park and none of them secure, except for the main entrance.....There were men scanning with metal detectors at the main entrance...but no where else...and they weren't counting...they were scanning for weapons....which is something else that bothered me....

In the past, there were events within the community which were considered neutral ground...you checked your ego at the door and left your weapons...if you had them....at home....The Black Family Reunion was one of these events.....You went with family and you left with family and friends...safe...

Men wielding metal detectors and tons and tons of police officers testify that it's not safe to go anymore....Considering how many people were expected....the police should be there to handle the crowd......However...going into a park and having to be checked before you go....is a bit disconcerting....

Saturday the low attendance could be blamed on the rain....the day was overcast and threatening....no way to get comfortable on wet grass when you want to hold a picnic...But it didn't rain all day..nor in fact, most of the day......Sunday was a perfect day. The sun was out. The wind blew. Mother Nature turned on the AC and weather-wise it was a wonderful day for a party in the park.

But there were no crowds....there were people.....just no crowds of people. The general thought was, well Cincinnati is a church town, they will turn out when church lets out. They will be here in time to hear Regina Belle his that first note from the stage. But by 3 in the afternoon, the expected hoards of people had not shown up. The people were a late arriving bunch on both days. Many dressed as if they intended to start their evening at the Reunion and then roll into other late night activities. A number of people were seen to be very ticked off at finding out that the Reunion ended at 6pm leaving them with nothing to do for hours. Maybe it was a lack of publicity about the hour change. But people weren't happy.

My volunteer day started at 11am, I thought to give us time to set up, because in the past the Family Reunion kicked things off at noon and went until late into the evening. However upon arrival I found out that the hours had been cut. The event began at 11 and ended at 6pm, while it was still daylight. When I inquired about this, the shortening of the hours was blamed on the economy.....that the city no longer donates anything....major sponsors.....Duke Energy and Proctor and Gamble....no longer participate....although Kroger....Children's Hospital.....Fifth Third Bank....US Bank......Meijers.... and McDonalds.....seemed to find a way...I was there with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Museum....the only museum to show up, of the many museums that call Cincinnati home.

The Black Family Reunion felt like a shadow of its old self.....…..hollow....empty...perfunctory...not the family gathering envisioned by Dr. Height when she created it so long ago....

There were booths and booths filled with volunteers passing out information for the family, even the gay and lesbian community was represented by at least two booths which is a major accomplishment considering how usually homophobic the Black Community is Local radio station The Buzz even had a conversation going about the need for young people to get tested for HIV/AIDS, another welcome change from the normal orchestrated homophobia that dominates black talk radio as well.

I walked the whole concourse twice, from the Serpentine Wall, where the youth concert was taking place all the way over to the tennis courts at the other end, under the bridge....It was an easy walk past vendors selling stuff.....the health organizations basking in the shade of the tunnel as they checked blood pressure...gave out information about diabetes and checked people's feet for circulation problems....Stop AIDS was also in this area.....another good sign....

The Fine Arts Fund with music was also in this area.....heard some blues and reggae as I strolled here...

However with all the talk about getting healthy and the information about how to feel better in life...there is a disconnect in the Black Community that no one seems to be addressing....the food available....was mainly fried.....

Fried fish and fries.....or shrimp and fries.....or a combination of both and fries....and fried chicken wings....big wings and fries......jumbo hotdogs....corndogs.....polish sausages......fried funnel cakes.....

Found ribs and a taco truck....found two booths doling out giant smoothies....they looked healthy but portion control was obviously a problem...what I thought was a large was actually a small...big, big drinks..

I had a piece of a friend's funnel cake, because it was the biggest funnel cake that I had ever seen...the vendor could afford to be generous since the crowds and anticipated buyers were light...but that one funnel cake was shared among four people easily...

All the fried stuff was dished out in humongous portions....enough to feed two to three people off of one meal....

The smoothie booth was the busiest however...there were lines of people lining up for the drinks...which is a good sign....even if they did pair them with the big fried food entrees....way too many calories...

Overall, The Black Family Reunion was okay....that's right....just okay....an easy day for us volunteers....not a whole lot to do except sit and talk amongst ourselves...and wonder about how much longer the event will go on....
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