- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

The National Mall was teeming with families celebrating the National Council of Negro Women's 16th annual Black Family Reunion yesterday.
The huge annual family picnic continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The themes for this year's reunion are celebrating the extended family, celebrating the strength of the family, children growing up without fathers, black culture and politics.
People strolled from 14th Street to 17th Street along Constitution Avenue to get a general health screening, learn about credit, sample ethnic foods, and dance.
"Our health is our most precious commodity, considering we die sooner and more often from easily treatable diseases," said James Johnson, 36, who was out with wife Allison, son Jarred, and mother Julia.
They all enjoyed different activities. Allison enjoyed taking Jarred, 8, to the self-defense tent and later the children's tent, while Julia chose to listen to local jazz singers until she was ready to eat.
Mr. Johnson spent a good deal of time talking with Fannie Mae representatives at their tent, focusing on understanding credit and how to get in position to buy a house.
"This is what my family will need most in the coming years, and I need to get as much information as I can before I am ready," Mr. Johnson said.
The usual outcropping of health screening tents, insurance and home ownership workshops, local and popular gospel and rhythm and blues musicians, historians, and poetry readings had their place in this year's gathering.
"They have something from every part all of the world, dishes from Africa, Jamaica and the Caribbean, and music, and education about things important to us," said Carl Franklin.
Mr. Franklin, 48, a soul-food chef, was out distributing samples of some of his dishes to get people to come to his booth.
But other topics, which were an extension of current events, took center stage during the celebration.
Reparations for slavery was on the minds of many blacks in attendance.
Literature supporting the highly debated economic reparations for blacks was found at many booths, and discussions could be heard at almost every booth.
Cyrille Oguin, ambassador from Benin, his wife and a large delegation attended a ceremony in their honor, which expressed the ancestral connections of black Americans to countries like Ghana and Senegal.
"This year the black family was extended to include the brothers and sisters from West Africa with whom black Americans share a common ancestry," Mr. Oguin said.
Ghana, under former President Jerry Rawlings, apologized formally for its role in the slave trade, and many African leaders and black American ministers have asked the United States and Britain to do the same.


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