Barbados family reunion, on board the Jolly Roger. That's Jon, on the right! Courtesy of Jon Daniel.
Jon Daniel, whose collection features in our Afro Supa Hero exhibition, blogs about his earliest memories of family reunions and Bajan heritage for Black History Month, and ahead of the 50th anniversary of independence for Barbados on 30 November. He introduces a very special author too - his Aunty Jean. Jon says:
"Through my father, Horace Nicholson Daniel (1930-2014), I have dual nationality and citizenship of Barbados. My earliest memory is actually of Barbados and Grenada where I was taken as a young child, as I was fortunate to have parents who saw the importance of connecting us with our family overseas.
"In fact, large family reunions were arranged on a regular basis in either the United States or Barbados.
"It was such a crucial aspect of my family history that I am particularly proud of, as it has been instrumental in providing the inspiration for my lifelong passion for uncovering African diaspora history and representing the many heroines and heroes that form my Afro Supa Hero exhibition and brand.
Jon Daniel dancing with his Aunty Jean. Courtesy of Jon Daniel.
"My Aunty Jean and her sister Joan started these incredible family gatherings, which would unite my relations from across the globe, and where we would literally take over an entire hotel or resort for the duration of the visit. I recently reconnected with my Aunty Jean and she very kindly took me up on my invitation to compose her thoughts on how it all started to share with you all now".
Aunty Jean writes.......
"My Father died in January of 1977, his death was the catalyst and the inspiration for my sister and I to organize the first “Walcott Family Reunion”. Seated around my parent’s dining room table, we talked with newly met cousins as well as some we had known from childhood.
"Over the next few months my sister, Joan and I made inquiries and worked out plans to hold the first family reunion in Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.A; our parent’s hometown as well as the home of daddy’s older sister Aunt Idie. It was fun reconnecting with some, and introducing ourselves through the mail to other relatives we had yet to meet.
Walcott reunion, 1981. Cleveland, Ohio. Courtesy of Jon Daniel
"We made trips to Atlantic City from our homes in New York to look at venues and to block rooms. It was an exciting time for me, we were starting something that would have really pleased my father.
"That first reunion, was a fabulous success bringing so many family members together to dance, share meals and stories and led us to plan the next reunion in Barbados the family home island. One of our cousins still living there helped us find a venue, an outdoor club, as well as hotel accommodations.
Aunty Jean. Courtesy of Jon Daniel
"Family came from England & U.S.A, again dancing, eating, and in some cases just getting to know a bit of family history and appreciation of the island culture.
"We continued to plan reunions every other year, going back to Barbados on the alternate year. We had one reunion on a cruise; one in Ohio, U.S.A; and a few smaller ones at several New York parks. Some were planned by a small committee of interested family members. Alas sometimes good things end.
"We no longer have these large family reunions, the older generation of my father, are all gone. It would be so wonderful to have some of the younger generation decide they would like to reunite with family they met those many years ago, and meet some they don’t know. I, and my sister are now part of the older generation remembering the fun and the joy of meeting and celebrating family at those reunions of years passed."
- By Jean McCurdy
Aunty Jean, crowned MS Senior New York 1999. Courtesy of Jon Daniel
Jean McCurdy is originally from Atlantic City N. J., but lived most of her adult life in New York. Jean was a professional dancer, having studied at Phillips/Forte studio and at Julliard. She has been married for fifty-seven years, has four children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Having taught workshops on Human Relations in Public Schools and in businesses, Jean began the study of yoga in her twenties, & taught yoga privately and in schools for more than thirty years. She has also always loved singing but only began singing in public as the result of participating in the MS New York Senior America Pageant and being crowned MS Senior New York 1999. Moving to Arizona in 2002, Jean began performing with MS Senior Arizona, as well as numerous shows in her community and also as the female partner in the duo “Sugar & Spice”. For the past six or more years she has been a board member of “The Cameo Foundation”, working as a volunteer for The Annual Cameo Ball, Dancing Fashion Show and MS Senior Arizona Pageant as well as performing with the “AZ Inspirations” to help raise money to aid Victims of Domestic Violence. Sharing her love of music and dance is Jean’s way of communicating heart to heart.