Contact: Suzanne Vargus Holloman, Co-Director
(Black PR Wire) Years ago when Dr. Ione D. Vargus, (Temple University’s first African American and first female academic Dean) started formal research on African American Family Reunions, negative books and articles about the Black Family appeared, including a documentary that suggested by the year 2000 the Black Family would disappear. As a result she became determined to show the strengths of Black Family life.
At the time, Dr. Vargus stated: “Our African American Museum in Philadelphia decided to focus on the Black Family as part of Philadelphia’s ‘We the People Celebration,’ and I served as the consultant to their family reunion conference. After the second conference I was asked to spearhead the direction of these gatherings for the future. I decided we needed a structure through which to work and the Family Reunion Institute was established with a focus on supporting family strengths, as an important finding of my study highlighted the revival of the extended family through reunions. When I began the study most Black families did not recognize how much they were contributing to the American family. My agenda became that of helping families revive and preserve the extended family by encouraging reunions.”
Today, over thirty years later, the Family Reunion Institute (FRI) continues to build on the strengths of families by providing resources and support that encourage healthy extended family relationships using reunions as the tool. It is the reunification of the African American family in particular, that inspires and propels its work, although its outreach embraces families of all races, cultures and ethnicities. FRI’s work encourages strong nuclear and extended families; strengthens intergenerational family relationships and activities; inspires family reunions in all cultures; supports effective reunion planning and implementation; shares appropriate and useful reunion resources; and advocates for the documentation, education, and teaching of family history, values, skills and experiences.
Black History Month is as relevant today as it was 95 years ago when it first began as Negro History Week, according to Dr. Vargus. Black family members lend credence to the fact that reunions continue to keep families flourishing. Reunions impart values, positive role models and experiences. They are a place to share family history, meet new members, and visit with seniors and others that haven’t been seen for a while, making the event that much more gratifying. We encourage the celebration and education of Black history and Black family achievements all year long, especially during reunions.