The Donaldson Family has been having reunions biannually since 1981. Reunions are four days starting Thursday and ending after a Sunday worship service.. Between 65 and 100 attend each reunion. The 2019 Donaldson Family Reunion was in Detroit, Michigan.
We try to planning start early with fundraisers, bowling parties, skating parties, yard/garage sales. If we get a later start each family on the host committee pays monthly dues and donates a particular amount to offset the costs of the reunion. We also create a registration fee for each attending family to cover cost of food, transportation and amenities like guided tours, catering, supplies and other fees.
Activities include a picnic, meet and greet, talent show, nighttime games at the hotel, prayer breakfast, fish fry, card games of bid whist and spades, and a pool/splash party at the hotel. Our first night is a theme-based meet and greet with karaoke, skits, poetry readings, words from the family elders, funny stories, etc.
This year our family reunion theme was “IT’S A LOVE THING.” We focused on repairing breaches in family relationships and healing generation gaps. We also encouraged the family to cherish our family elders while they are still with us. We want to stop the practice of only gathering the family when there is tragedy or when someone expires. We gifted our elders with Family Heirloom Bibles so they can record their history in their own way and hand down that piece of history to their living children. We put together a digital presentation of all our family members who have passed on to honor their lives in memory and we had a candlelight vigil for family members who had passed on since the last family reunion.
We followed the vigil with a guided tour at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Members were greatly impacted by this experience. Phone calls and accolades after the reunion poured in and family stated that they were appreciative of that life changing experience. We also provided a tour at the Motown Museum for those who were interested.
We concluded our family reunion activities with a non-traditional Sunday morning worship and workshop provided by a younger family member. The topic was how to recognize and release the barriers that can keep you from being able to love done in a question and answer format that was different from the traditional sermon delivery older family was accustomed to. Most family members were open and responsive and appreciated having an active part to play in the service. As the organizer I wanted to bridge the generation gap in our family by incorporating new experiences and encouraging elders to be more open to change and innovation. We also provided the family with a booklet of updated history and a list of all first-and-second generation children and their offspring. We also began building out our family tree on Ancestry.com and were able to locate new family members in several states.
We choose the next location through a voting process after the family picnic or after the final family activity. We usually try to rotate the city/location to disperse the work and expense involved with setting up the reunion. The reunion location changes every two to three years from state to state. Our next reunion is being planned as a family cruise to an island resort for 2021. We are in the process of transitioning our young people to handling the reunion…this is why they have opted for a cruise in 2021 because they want to do something different that does not involve the normal work intensive responsibilities of the host committee.
We have an active family Facebook page, we create family history souvenir booklets, and a family member who submits a newsletter every family reunion.
Reported by Sonja M Stuckey, Detroit, Michigan.
All photographs by Stuckey Media.