CINCINNATI — The 32nd Annual Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion starting Thursday evening might be like none other in its history, but organizer Tracey Artis said the mission behind it hasn't changed.
"We've always been about the business of Black Lives Matter and making sure that our community has everything that they need," said Artis, the executive director of the Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion.
The reunion takes place on the third weekend of August and will continue through Sunday, as usual. What will be absent this year, though, are the multiple large-scale gatherings, typically including a parade, speakers and gospel singers who draw thousands to Sawyer Point Park.
Artis said COVID-19 changed this year's format.
"As the director, I thought we still should be giving back to the community," she said. "We still should be doing things to help families. We still should be doing things that when people still do get a chance to come down to the park, we know that it will help enrich their lives."
Rather than have people gather on the Sawyer Point lawn this year, Artis has coordinated an in-person drive-thru event in the park's parking lot, located at Pete Rose Way and Eggelston Avenue. Volunteers will direct cars through the lot so people can register to vote, get a free COVID-19 test, and receive back-to-school supplies, food boxes and an assortment of free goodies donated by event sponsors.
"I just really thought about what can we do to give back," Artis said. "So, we're excited."
There also will be speakers and singers this year. Those can be viewed virtually by signing up for them at www.myblackfamilyreunion.org.
The first virtual event begins at 7 p.m. Thursday.
"It kicks off with Dr. Jamal Bryant as our keynote speaker," Artis said. "And then on Friday, we have Dr. O'dell Owens for our Heritage Breakfast."
Artis said continuing the event is important for the same reason civil rights activist Dr. Dorothy Height started the reunion in 1988.
"The whole premise of it was, she heard a reporter say that he felt the Black family was going away, was deteriorating, and she said, 'No, we are still here standing,'" Artis said.