Live entertainment, keynote speakers, health services and more take place this weekend as part of Cincinnati’s annual Black Family Reunion event. Now in its 34th year, the widely attended event will be held Aug. 18-21. Events will take place throughout the city from Sawyer Point Park to Fountain Square to Avondale. All events are free and open to the public. The four-day event is presented by UC Health.
Signature programming includes the Black Family Reunion job fair, presented by Superior Career Fair, on Aug. 18 at Hard Rock Casino; the Heritage Breakfast, presented by Fifth-Third Bank, on Aug. 19 at Fountain Square; the Black Family Reunion parade, presented by Nissan, on Aug. 20 in Avondale; a two-day cultural festival on Aug. 20 and 21 at Sawyer Point Park, which includes live music, retailers, local nonprofit organizations, free health screenings and more; a keynote speaker series, presented by First Financial Bank; and an urban concert series.
According to a press release, Black Family Reunion is a celebratory event that aims to “engage the whole man and the entire family.” It’s held every year during the third weekend of August. In Cincinnati, the event typically sees around 10,000 in attendance. The Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion Celebration was inaugurated in 1989 in Cincinnati by Dr. Dorothy I. Height, President Emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women. The cultural event was created with the intention of bringing together “consumers, corporations and communities to focus on the historic strengths and values of the Black Family.” At first a nationally celebrated event, Cincinnati remains the only major city to hold the event.
Tracey Artis, CEO of event promotion firm JazJordan Inc., has served as executive producer and director of Cincinnati’s Black Family Reunion since 2014. She says each year the event focuses on a key theme, such as “courageous and committed” and “faithful and fearless.” This year’s theme is “bold and beautiful.” She points to the current climate of the country as inspiration, describing how feelings of anxiety right now are universal for African-Americans. She says, in response to that, “You have to be bold and courageous to get through these times.”
“When people walk into Sawyer Point, seeing the theme and seeing the banner, hopefully it resonates with them and they see it as an affirmation,” Artis tells CityBeat. “I think it plays out in different ways for different people, but hopefully, anybody that sees ‘bold and beautiful’ believes that they are. Because of the times we’re living in, it will help uplift and encourage people – which is why, every year, we put on this event. We want to uplift, encourage and strengthen the community.”
The first of two keynote speaking events takes place Aug. 18 at Corinthian Baptist Church and features Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. Dyson is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University and is a New York Times contributing opinion writer and a contributing editor of The New Republic and of ESPN’s The Undefeated website. The second keynote speaking event features Iris Roley, who will speak at the Heritage Breakfast. Roley is the founding leader of the Cincinnati Black United Front, and she played a key role in the city’s landmark Collaborative Agreement – a commitment to alternative dispute resolutions to resolve social conflict, improve community relations and avoid divisive litigation.
Another signature highlight of Black Family Reunion is its “Family of the Year” award. J. Phillip and Gail Holloman and family will be honored at the Heritage Breakfast and will be featured at several events throughout the four-day celebration. The Holloman family supports many Black businesses in the community and advocates for social justice. Phillip and Gail will be recognized alongside their children Jamia (George) and Desmond (Sidonie) and their grandchildren Trey, Avery, Parker, Jaiden, Leila and Zoe.
Phillip is the immediate past president of Cintas and board chairman of the Urban League. Phillip and Gail established the 7 Principles Foundation in 2019, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations that specialize in childhood development, job readiness training for adults and social equity advocacy. Jamia serves as president and CEO, with Gail as board chair. The Hollomans also operate 7 Principles Investment Group, which invests in real estate, the stock market, cryptocurrency and private equity funds. Desmond serves as president and CEO, with Phillip as board chair.
Philanthropically, the Holloman family has been instrumental in supporting several Cincinnati-area nonprofits as well as the University of Cincinnati. Last year, Phillip and Gail contributed $1 million to the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio. Their contribution established the Center for Social Justice, which focuses on bias-free police reform and stopping racially biased voter suppression and redistricting policies.
“We don’t do what we do for recognition,” Phillip tells CityBeat. “But as a family, we were proud to be recognized by the organization that puts on Black Family Reunion. We look forward to participating in this year’s activities.”
He adds, “We’re really hoping that our story will inspire others. To value family and engage the community. That’s our real focus: How can we inspire others?”
The presenting sponsor for this year’s Black Family Reunion is UC Health, a position the healthcare group has had since 2018. Senior Director of Community Relations Tamara Lang says the event is an ideal way for UC Health to reach and engage the community in a more comforting way.
“We don’t want people to only see us during an emergency,” Lang says. “It’s really great for people’s first interaction with us to be at a community event, at something where they’re actually having fun.”
Like years past, they’re hosting the UC Health Pavilion at Sawyer Point Park, on Aug. 20 and 21. They will offer a variety of free health screenings for blood pressure, smoking cessation, lung cancer, early-on prostate cancer and head-neck cancer. They’re providing Stop the Bleed and Take 10 CPR training, and doctors from the Black Men in Medicine group will be available at an “ask a doc” table.
“It’s a really great day in terms of being able to provide a lot of those screenings, on site,” Lang says. “I like hearing the conversations where people are like, ‘When was the last time you got your blood pressure checked? I’m getting mine done,’ and the other person gets theirs done, too. It’s positive peer pressure.”
Featured live entertainment at Sawyer Point Park includes neo-soul artist Raheem DeVaughn, who will perform Aug. 20, and the Grammy Award-winning group The Clark Sisters, who will conclude the Black Family Reunion event with a gospel concert on Aug. 21.
All Black Family Reunion events are free and open to the public. To learn more about each event’s time and location, visit myblackfamilyreunion.org.