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Height's Life to be Celebrated During the Black Family Reunion

James Wright | 9/8/2010, 11:29 a.m.
The late leader of one of America's noted Black women's organizations will be celebrated during...
The Black Family Reunion will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Sat., Sept. 11 on the National Mall. Courtesy Photo

The late leader of one of America's noted Black women's organizations will be celebrated during an event that highlights the strength and value of the African-American family.

Dorothy Height, the former chair and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) who died on April 20, will be the focus of the 25th annual National Black Family Reunion Celebration on Sat., Sept. 11 on the National Mall. The Black Family Reunion is the signature program of the NCNW -- which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

"We are planning to have a huge mega-festival that will feature a special tribute to Dr. Height," Avis A. Jones-DeWeever, the executive director of the NCNW, said.

"We will have 'edutainment' or a mixture of education and entertainment for all attending."

The Black Family Reunion is recognized as one of the nation's largest family events and attracts thousands of people annually to the nation's capital.

The daylong event was started by Height in 1986 to combat the negative images of the Black family that were common in mainstream media at that time.

The theme of this year's Black Family Reunion is "Continue the Legacy...Live with Purpose" and activities will take place on the National Mall between 7th and 14th Streets and Madison Drive, N.W. and Jefferson Drive, S.W.

Dr. Dorothy Height Courtesy Photo
The activities will start with an ecumenical prayer breakfast at 8:30 a.m. with the Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network of New York City, as the leader of the event and Yolanda Adams of the "Yolanda Adams Morning Show" as its host.

Free activities will be held throughout the day including themed pavilions, talent performances, health screenings, college recruitment and information, economic empowerment seminars and workshops for children and teens. In the evening, there will be a free tribute concert that is being sponsored by Coca-Cola Inc., with entertainers who include Regina Belle, J. Moss, Chrisette Michele and Musiq Soulchild.

The concert will also feature a performance by Step Afrika and remarks from former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, who was Height's close friend.Jones-DeWeever, 42, and a resident of Woodbridge, Va., said that there will be other activities and speakers that should be of interest to guests.

"Alexis Herman will on hand to sign Height's last book, 'Living With Purpose: An Activist's Guide to Listening, Learning and Leading'," said Jones-DeWeever, a graduate of Virginia State University in Petersburg., Va.

"In addition, there will be various officials from the Obama administration [who] will interact with the people and answer their questions regarding jobs, health care and any other issues."

The Black Family Reunion is the first major public activity that the NCNW has undertaken since the death of Height. Jones-DeWeever said that members of the NCNW have determined that the work of the organization will continue.

The NCNW's chair, Barbara Shaw, has been received well. She was one of the speakers at the recent March on Washington sponsored by the National Action Network and has been involved in continuing membership recruitment and soliciting financial support for the organization's activities. However, Jones-DeWeever said "there is no replacement for Dr. Height."

"Her level of dedication and brilliance was unrivaled," she said. "Her death was a loss for us and a loss for the world and we are determined to live up to the challenge she gave us before she died."

Jacqueline Arguelles of Northwest, a former president of the Washington, D.C. section of the NCNW and a member of the NCNW's Lifetime Guild, said that the organization appears to be functioning well since Height's death.

"They have good leaders on board and they were functioning well before Dr. Height passed away," Arguelles, who is the chair of the D.C. Commission on Aging and a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 1A01, said. "The new replacement, Barbara Shaw, has picked up the pace and they have good people to carry on."

Arguelles said that she wants to attend the Black Family Reunion, but has other commitments for that day.

"I will make an effort to get down to the Mall because I knew that the Black Family Reunion was something that Dr. Height held near and dear," she said.