By Zappa Montag
Labor Day 2012 will be a day I will remember for quite a while. In a beautiful display of community and nature coming together for perfection, the 2nd annual Pan-African Family Reunion Celebration took place at Mosswood Park. What a day! I knew it was going to be great when I saw the amount of time and organization was being spent leading up to the big day by the volunteer crew, but the magic and family love that took place was above what any of us could have expected. As someone who loves Mosswood Park, and has seen many an awesome day unfold there, this was still something special in comparison.
I arrived before 10a.m to help out, and was put to work grilling. With ambitious plans to feed several hundred folks, we took our task seriously. Food is key, especially for a Pan-African party! The long lines of people heaping their plates with healthy until late in the afternoon attested the quality and abundance of the meal, so our mission was definitely accomplished. An 11 o’clock yoga session in the grass was the first of many family centered healthy activities planned, and volunteers and early birds stretched out to begin our day together right. It was a beautiful thing to witness the slowly growing crowd of East Bay folks settles in to enjoy the sun, and celebrate our shared love for Africa and Oakland, and each other. Many of us have been coming to Mosswood for cultural events for many years, and have seen so many changes, and ups and downs. With gentrification, and social ills that adversely affect the black community sometimes feeling like unbeatable forces trying to push us out of our beloved town, it felt extra good to see the positive and unabashedly black crowd reaffirm our presence and our mission.
This event wasn’t about big music acts, or stage shows or anything fancy. DJ’s did spin tunes that spanned the great musical currents of the African Diaspora, but mostly people hung on the grass, talking, and people watching, and checking in with folks we hadn’t seen for a while. I felt blessed to have my kids, many old friends, and some newer friends that I have been lucky to have become part of my life around. Oakland, like Mama Africa, keeps giving generously to those of us who us who seek her gifts. As the afternoon sun warmed us, the organizers had some family style games for all to play. Sack races, and relays, with prize incentives, got the kids and adults to get some friendly and often hilarious competing going. I was even roped into the action for the adult relay, which we somehow didn’t win. By the end of the games, everybody was loose and happy, and it was time for some dancing, Pan-African style. What a show of moves, grooves, and beautiful people it was! Africa came into full existence right there as if there was no disruption from 500 years of Babylon’s foolishness. All was right, and all felt grateful and renewed. A night-time movie and big time clean up, wrapped up the events as talk turned to next year’s celebration which is already being anticipated and planned. See you there!