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Staying Connected through Family Reunion



Summer is that time of year where Black families come together for annual reunions at picnics in cities around the U.S.

The sounds of Big Mama telling stories at the cookout, dominoes slapping the wobbly card table, the wannabe family DJ playing too sexy R&B music, the debate of whether we can still listen to Michael Jackson and R. Kelly and the down-home Southern cooking falling off the paper plates – ahh yes the typical Black Family Reunion. And let’s not forget the matching t-shirts emblazoned with the family name – a name that was likely forcibly given due to the legacy of slavery.

Why are family reunions so critical in the Black community? Because it’s estimated that “more than half of all enslaved people in the Upper South were separated from a parent or child, and a third of their marriages were destroyed by forced migration,” according to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).

In 2017, EJI launched The Last Seen project, which has transcribed and digitized 3,500 ads of people looking for lost loved ones due to slavery that spanned eight decades and appeared in 275 newspapers. The goal is to publish 5,000 ads and help genealogists and researchers help families put together their family trees. The project also includes lesson plans and resources for teachers to use in classrooms to help teach the history of legacy.

For example, Eliza Holmes placed an ad in “The Christian Recorder” in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1895 looking for her husband Frank Holmes and son Jas. Monroe Holmes. She said, “My son was sold in Richmond, Va. I don’t know where they carried him to. My husband was not sold; I left him in Richmond, Va. and I have five children, Henry, Gabriel, Charles, Dortha and Jacob were sold to a trader who lived in Texas. I am now old and don’t think that I shall be here long and would like to see them before I die.”

Just imagine what a joyous occasion Eliza Holmes’ family reunion could have been like if she were able to bring all her lost family members together. Like Ms. Holmes’ family, many Black families have holes in their family trees, and family reunions help to mend and rebuild what was taken and beaten out of them so many years ago.

Sheila Mason and her family were recently featured on a Fox5 TV station in Atlanta for their family’s 100th annual Summerour Family Reunion. She told the TV station that while the logos on their shirts are the same, the different colors represent the different family branches of the Summerour family.
“After slavery ended, we were scattered. Family members were sold, and it became really important for people to gather and go find their family,” she said to the TV station.

While the Midwest is a popular area for Black family reunions, two cities have received national attention for hosting massive family reunion events. Atlanta hosts an annual family reunion celebration and Cincinnati has held one for over 35 years. Each city brings national entertainers, workshops, college, job, and health fairs to give the different family groups built-in activities. These cities realize that family reunions contribute to the billion-dollar Black travel industry.

Black U.S. leisure travelers spent $109.4 billion on domestic travel in 2019, according to “The Black Traveler: Insights, Opportunities, and Priorities Report.” The study said that Black travelers pay attention and are influenced by diversity in advertising. They also visit destinations where their family members are holding events or if the destination has cultural attractions.

Many visitor bureaus across the nation realize the significance of these reunions and encourage family coordinators to reach out to them to help plan and find activities. For instance, the San Antonio Visitors & Convention Bureau (SACVB) not only assists large meetings but can be a great resource for family groups who want to make the Alamo City their destination for a reunion.

“San Antonio is one of the country’s most-visited family destinations, with fun adventures and a diverse cultural heritage,” said a representative from the SACVB. “Family groups enjoy our iconic attractions and venues for family reunion gatherings, such as the Brackenridge Conservancy Park pavilions, but most importantly, they build memorable family moments through unique experiences. Visit San Antonio strives to deliver excellent service by streamlining the planning process and connecting groups with hotels and vendors, resulting in an unforgettable reunion.”

Visiting groups should check out ( because it features events around San Antonio, including Black cultural events at The Carver and events hosted by the San Antonio African American Archive & Museum, also known as SAAACAM.

Black Life Texas July 14th

But to have a continuous annual reunion like the Summerour family, one or a few people must be dedicated to planning the event and passing the baton. It’s better to have a committee of people to prevent burnout and try to plan a year ahead to give families time to save for it and work it into their schedules. It also helps to send a questionnaire to family members to get ideas for dates and destinations; and use the power of technology to help with organization and communication – Zoom/conference calls, Google Docs, Dropbox, Calendar apps, etc.

If you are not savvy with technology, enlist a younger family member who can work in the background with other coordinators to help communicate details to the family contact list.

But most importantly, make sure to have an activity that involves sharing family memories from the elders or Big Mama to help younger generations understand the significance of staying connected to family and what previous generations had to endure to provide a better future.

Black Life Texas

The Real History of Thanksgiving




The history of Thanksgiving cannot be discussed without recognizing the reality of genocide committed against Native Indigenous people. Free land was the enticement for European settlers to come to the Americas. The Native populations on these lands would have to be removed or conquered to accomplish their goals.

Many foreigners were already slave owners who wanted to plant cash crops using Black slave labor. The history of the United States cannot be fully understood unless one examines “settler colonialism.” Settler colonialism was founded on the ideology of land theft, genocide, and slavery. Those who have written American history with an eraser of bias have found it easy to perpetuate the Thanksgiving myth of Europeans sitting down with Native Americans and enjoying a food feast together—nothing could be further from the truth.

What came before this so-called “Thanksgiving” was murder, genocide, and slavery of Native people before and after the mythical thank you dinner. Puritan settlers came up with the idea of the “Doctrine of Discovery,” a racist law enacted by the Pope of that time and brought to America by the less-than-honorable Christopher Columbus. This is the part of the American origin myth that professors and teachers still ignore to be accepted in the world of historical falsehoods. Settler colonialism is a genocidal policy of murder and land theft to satisfy a false religious belief in racial destiny (also called Manifest Destiny). Settlers required violence to realize their dreams of wealth. No community will willingly give up their land, children, resources, and dignity without a fight, and Indigenous people did not go down without a fight against these ideals that were rooted in a colonial agenda that had a religious spin on it. When European settlers were crossing the ocean and illegally crossing borders, it was something supposedly legal and sanctioned by God.

America was not a virgin land or wilderness filled with wild animals but a land tame to Native people. It was a network of native communities that linked people through roads and trails they carved themselves, which they built long before Europeans arrived. Native people cultivated farmland and crops to survive the harsh winters in the northern parts of America. The Native people knew where the oyster beds were, the water routes, and what plants had medicinal value. Settlers came to America with a culture of conquest and killing that they experienced in hundreds of years of religious savagery between Catholics and Protestants, especially the killing and exploitation of the Irish by the English and Scottish. White supremacy can be traced to the Christian Crusades against Muslims and not to capitalism, though capitalism exploited the idea to the fullest later.

These Europeans did not tame the wilderness. They invaded and murdered the original inhabitants. There are many fake origin stories from one country to the next, as apartheid South Africa once claimed and is now claimed by Israel using similar tactics for decades in a systematic way to force Palestinians from their homes, according to Amnesty International.

The fake Captain John Smith story never mentions his threat to kill all Native women and children if the Native people would not help feed and clothe the settlers from England and provide free labor for the English settlement. When Native people refused, the settlers burned their crops in an attempt to starve out the so-called “Indians.” This would result in the Pequot War, in which settlers would slaughter the Pequot tribe in the 1600s. Unknown to many, this was the first “Thanksgiving,” according to research by historians, in which settlers had a celebration thanking God for their murderous exploits. Scalp hunting was brought to America’s shores by the Scottish Protestants, who also invented the term “Redskin” to describe the bleeding head of one of their victims. Mutilated bloody corpses, which Puritans scalped, were the origin of the term “Redskin.” It was not developed as an indication of “race.” Later in history, the practice of scalping and gutting pregnant Native women would be carried out by the Scotsman Andrew Jackson, whom many now call the “Hitler of America.”

The Thanksgiving Myth is that of smiling “Indians” welcoming the European explorers to America, showing them how to reside in this ‘wilderness,” and sitting down to dinner with them. They supposedly hand their lands off to “frontiersmen,” so these invaders can create an incredible country committed to freedom, opportunity, and Christianity until the end of the world. That is the story — it’s about Native People yielding to settler colonialism. The myth is bloodless and, in numerous ways, an argument for the racist idea of Manifest Racial Destiny. Thus, the Thanksgiving myth was created to present a false history to deny the horrors of American origins and later to invent a fake ideology coined “American Exceptionalism.” American Exceptionalism was derived from these false ideas, created by criminal or ignorant historians, which claim that America is an “Innocent Nation” while other nations may have blood on their hands. Nothing could be further from the real history of America and the truth about Thanksgiving. Today, many of us celebrate family and friends and want nothing to do with the invented narrative. We can always choose to provide our own meanings and, at the same time, educate our community about the lies.

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Downtown SA Lights Up for the Holidays



Downtown San Antonio will sparkle this holiday season with an array of lights and holiday events. 

Set against the backdrop of one of the city’s most historic and charming walkways, five blocks of Houston Street will buzz with twinkling lights, decorations, entertainers, and vendors from Nov. 24 and runs through January 2. 

 Additionally, on Nov. 24, kick off the holiday festivities with the Annual H-E-B Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Travis Park. Festivities begin at 4 p.m. and include live entertainment, food trucks, letters to Santa, giveaways, holiday crafts, a special visit from Santa, and a movie screening of “The Grinch.” The tree-lighting ceremony begins at 6 p.m., followed by the movie at 7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. 

Get front-row seats to the 42nd Annual Ford Holiday River Parade, which offers a spectacular one-hour parade along the San Antonio River Walk starting at 6 pm at the Tobin Center. This year’s theme, “Holiday Stories,” will kick off the San Antonio tradition. Always held the day after Thanksgiving, the parade and river lighting ceremony will feature 28 illuminated floats and over 100,000 lights (2,250 strands) illuminating the River Walk. The lights turn on from sundown to sunrise every day until the weekend following New Year’s Day. Seating ranges from $15 to $40. It is broadcast live at 7 p.m. at the Arneson River Theatre.

The Rotary Ice Rink, presented by Valero, will also return this fall at Travis Park in downtown San Antonio. Since 2019, nearly 200,000 people have enjoyed the rink and surrounding festivities. For more information, including hours of operation, pricing, and specials, visit (

For more events, go to (

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Black Life Texas

Black Soldiers’ Convictions Overturned – A Century Later!



More than 100 years later, the U.S. Army recently overturned the convictions of the 110 Black soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment (also known as the Buffalo Soldiers), who were falsely found guilty following the World War I-era Houston Riots. 

The records of these soldiers will be corrected, to the extent possible, to characterize their military service as honorable. Seventeen of these men are buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a sign telling the story of these men to educate visitors about what happened. 

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said, “After a thorough review, the Board has found that these soldiers were wrongly treated because of their race and were not given fair trials. By setting aside their convictions and granting honorable discharges, the Army is acknowledging past mistakes and setting the record straight.”

The Houston Riots took place on Aug. 23, 1917, following months of racial provocations against members of the 24th — including the violent arrest and assault of two Black soldiers. Following the assaults and amid rumors of additional threats to soldiers, a group of more than 100 Black soldiers seized weapons and marched into the city, where clashes erupted. The violence left 19 people dead.

In the months that followed, the Army convicted 110 soldiers in a process that was, according to historians, characterized by numerous irregularities. Ultimately, 19 men were executed in the largest mass execution of American soldiers by the U.S. Army. The first set of executions occurred in secrecy and within a day of sentencing, leading the Army to implement an immediate regulatory change that prohibited future executions without review by the War Department and the President.

In 2020 and 2021, the South Texas College of Law petitioned the Army to review the convictions. Shortly after, the Army received petitions from retired general officers requesting clemency for all 110 soldiers.

“As a Texas native, I was grateful to participate in this process early in my tenure at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, and I am proud that the Army has now formally restored honor to soldiers of the 3-24 and their families,” said Under Secretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo. “We cannot change the past; however, this decision provides the Army and the American people an opportunity to learn from this difficult moment in our history.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been deeply involved as this case has unfolded and is prepared to assist any family members upon receipt of the corrected records. Relatives of the soldiers may be entitled to benefits. Family members or other interested parties may request a copy of the corrected records from the National Archives and Records Administration, in accordance with NARA Archival Records Request procedures found at (

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