Family Reunions Regroup Amid Covid Disruption
As a summer tradition with deep roots suffers, relatives determined to get together reunite on Zoom or in smaller, socially distanced gatherings

This summer, Krystal Brown had planned to attend two reunions and catch up with dozens of relatives from across the U.S. Both gatherings were called off.

“I was like, ‘Dang, I don’t get to see my family,’ ” said Ms. Brown, a 31-year-old customer-service representative from Apex, N.C. “I was heartbroken because family is really important to me.” One cousin has died from coronavirus. The gatherings bring together four generations of her family; one reunion has been rescheduled for next year.

The pandemic that has disrupted life around the world has also hit the family reunion. These gatherings, often held in the summer, require months of planning. For many Black families, they are particularly resonant. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture dates the tradition of family reunions back to Emancipation, when former slaves would place “Information Wanted” ads in Black newspapers to find relatives separated by slavery.

“Sometimes we honor our ancestors at our reunions,” Ms. Brown said.

Restrictions on travel and the size of gatherings have made in-person reunions a challenge for families across the U.S. In a recent survey of 1,000 adults by market-research consulting firm Longwoods International, between 48% and 53% said they had canceled travel plans in the final two weeks of March and each week in April. Between the weeks of May and July 29, the number hovered between 37% and 49%, but trended down in recent weeks as more people said they were figuring out how to travel safely.

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