Sunday, April 17, 2005

black family struggle

antoine just called to tell me he's gotta postpone the dinner party scheduled for tonight. i was mad for a minute, but i figure i can just go to a spoken word being held somewhere around here.

in other news, i met up with some of my family members yesterday to finalize stuff for our family reunion in july. we're having it here in atlanta, which is cool. however, i can feel the strains of something insincere within our efforts.

the feeling started when i got to my cousin tony's house yesterday afternoon. the one thing i kept hearing was how "the georgia connection" was gonna do the family reunion up big, making it the most spectacular reunion yet. i was cringing from the inside when i heard this. the thing i hold most precious regarding family reunions is the time spent meeting new relatives and getting reacquainted with old ones. whenever i'm in the presence of my family, i'm keenly aware of the journey of each generation, and how their steps created the paths for my generation and those after mine.

so to me, it's not about putting on the best show. it's about making it the most meaningful moments possible. it's about establishing traditions that will be carried forth by those afterwards. it's about honoring the struggles of our elders and engaging in discussion on how past mistakes can be avoided by younger folk in the future.

in other words, i was totally out of place at that meeting.

i suggested to tony that we put together a living legacy video. have all of the family members over the age of 80 sit down for a discussion before the camera. i felt this would be a great opportunity to engage them within the events of the family reunion and not relegate them to merely royalty observing from the sidelines. at first, he didn't like the idea. it wasn't until someone else said it was a good idea that he changed his mind.

it was at that moment i realized the family reunion in his mind wasn't about family at all, and that saddened me. it made me think back to a time when black families were forcibly torn apart. moms and dads weren't in the same household as their children or their spouses for that matter. they were torn away and sent away to plantations where they didn't know anybody. yet despite this, the black community remained close, as folks adopted other folk as family, finding solace in the communion of people in the same situation as them. no matter if the blood connected them, the struggle did. family was really important back then.

and now i'm part of a family where it seems the young folk don't care about the legacy. maybe i'm just being overly cynical, especially after that meeting, but i can't shake the feeling that all of the shit our ancestors went through is being wasted somehow. it seems ridiculous they would fight so hard so that later generations would de-value the importance of history and its part in how the present is shaped. they didn't fight for human rights so that we could turn around and place little importance on our interaction with each other.

the meeting yesterday was little more than an exercise in pettiness. folks were bitching about the lack of communication from other family members, bitching about how nobody was stepping up to assist in the planning of the reunion. bitching about the limitations of the contract with the hotel, the paltry menu selections, the limited amenities, etc. that shit was getting on my nerves. it took everything in me not to just walk out.

now this isn't to say i don't understand how necessary it is to have those things taken care of. however, my main concern was making sure the family reunion wasn't just a gathering of individuals at a place and handing them a list of activities, none of which would do anything in the way of bringing the family closer together.

i was the youngest member there, and i felt that generation gap. i felt like they were looking at me like i was a nusance, bringing up the "inconsequential" ideas like a living legacy video and a family quilt.

i felt alone in a room full of people and that disturbed me, yet i'm not sure how to go about fixing it. i can't instill within them the value of family. they're all grown folk. all i can hope to do is throw in my two cents and hope they land in the hands of someone who shares the same feelings i do.

i've got some work to do.