Civil rights activist Rosa Parks to attend Black Family Reunion

Civil rights activist Rosa Parks to attend Black Family Reunion


Rockford’s African-American cultural festival, “Black Family Reunion,” will be held Friday and Saturday, Aug. 16 and 17 at the State of Illinois Building, 200 S. Wyman St. The event is sponsored by the Rockford Section of the National Council of Negro Women, featuring expected Guest of Honor Rosa Parks. Nearly 3,000 people from Aurora, DeKalb, Elgin, Freeport, Joliet, Milwaukee and Rockford are expected to attend the two-day event.

On Friday, Aug. 16, a reception will be held for Rosa Parks or a representative from Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, Detroit, at the State of Illinois Building, lower level. On Saturday, Aug. 17, the Black Family Reunion Parade begins at 10 a.m. at Barbour School, 1506 Clover Ave., Rockford. The parade ends at Levings Park, 1601 S. Johnston Ave., where the Black Family Reunion Festival will begin at 11:30 a.m. The festival will continue until dusk.

After a hiatus of two years, the annual event has been resurrected under the chairmanship of George Anne Duckett. “The purpose of this cultural festival is to give other ethnic groups an opportunity to find out what they can celebrate with us. Black families are just one of America’s many families. The Swedes have their festival, as do the Italians and Latinos. Until we put this on, there was no cultural festival for African-Americans in the Rockford area. We want to celebrate a culture that a lot of people don’t understand,” explained Duckett. She added that many people are hosting a family reunion in conjunction with the Black Family Reunion. She expects more than 150 out-of-town visitors to stay at area hotels.

Tickets are available for the Rosa Parks reception for $30 from Janet Wilkins, president, Rockford Section, National Council of Negro Women, 2516 Arthur Ave., Rockford, IL 61101. A video will be shown in the auditorium. There will be two bands, Harlan Jefferson Band and Honey in Paradise, Frankie & Chandra Lagree, as well as dancing.

On Saturday, Mayor Doug Scott will give a welcome, and Margaret Blackshere, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, will speak. People can visit many pavilions and booths selling Southern-style food or African products and artifacts.

A special guest will be Paris, a./k./a. Princess P, age 12, a student at Christian Life last year, who has appeared on TV Teen Summit on BET cable. As a young, experienced studio vocalist, she recorded the 1994 Olympic theme song produced by producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. She is the granddaughter of singer Ann Nesby and the daughter of singer and producer Jamecia Bennett. Her mother and grandmother, both of Rockford, are Grammy Award winners. Her mother, Jamecia Bennett, graduated from Auburn and has toured around the world with the choir Sounds of Blackness.

Paris, “Princess P,” is a young, polished performer and actress who attended acting and etiquette classes at the Children’s Theatre Company, an attachment of the nationally acclaimed Guthrie Theatre. She was featured in the Broadway show Once on This Island, performing the lead role of Little Timone, and successfully completed 50 shows. This princess made her mark when she opened for the group 702 and astounded 10,000 youths for the “Stay in School Jam” at the Target Center. Paris has toured with her grandmother, Ann Nesby, who would stop her show to display Paris’ talent.

Other highlights of the festival: William Stokes will perform DJ services. Performers from Teen Showcase, produced every other Sunday at Levings Lake, will also perform. Many art exhibits will be displayed, as well as costumes from New American Theater’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ musical with chair Earnestine Kenda.

Many choirs will perform on the Religious Stage with chair Bonnie Jefferson. There will be a Health Care Pavilion, children’s area with clowns, balloons, crafts, etc., and a Senior Citizens booth by Northwestern Illinois Area Agency on Aging.

Plan to attend the Black Family Reunion for a great time this weekend!

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