Family reunion shelved

Commissioner Williams-Cox’s family among those that will skip annual get-together this year

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Add family reunions to the list of social events that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox’s family is high on that list. The family that is spread from California to at least three East Coast states will be skipping its reunion this summer.

Forgoing the event this year is the family’s way of adhering to social distance guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control, William-Cox said. She estimated that about 70 family members would have met in Live Oak next year on her paternal side, while her relatives on her maternal side were also planning a cruise this year.

In years that the family has been able to gather, they’ve had events like a talent show and banquet. Their tradition, as is the case with many Black families, include attending church on the final day before a group dinner on their last day together.

The stories that are shared at a reunion are among the things that Williams-Cox remembers most, though. She’d even gotten answers to things she was concerned about as a child, she said.

“Some things that happened, I didn’t know how they happened or how they came about,” she said. “There were some real good stories about childhood.”

In addition to City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox and her sister, Palmyra V. Wood-Williams, regulars at their family reunion include the oldest three members, 95-year-old uncle Hinson R. Hicks, Sr. (center), 77-year-old uncle Ernest T. Brown and their 74-year-old mother Mary E. Wilkins.
Photo courtesy of Palmyra V. Wood-Williams

Some of the answers came through conversation with a brother at previous reunions, she said.

“Some of the things he shared with me are just priceless,” she said. “I learned things too from my mother’s childhood. Some good stories.”

Williams-Cox’ parents weren’t married. Her mother and father each has six children. 

Rev. Palmyra Wood-Williams is one of her younger maternal sisters. She is a staunch believer in social distancing and has been using virtual communication to stay in touch with her grandchildren and children, she said.

But a July 4 reunion with her paternal relatives has been struck from the calendar. It was planned for Quincy.

“Everything got thrown off – not being able to come together as a family to love up on one another, encourage one another to celebrate the milestones from the last time we saw one another last year or the year before,” she said.

In the meantime, Wood-Williams, an associate minister at St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church, will have to settle for whatever virtual contact she could make with her family.

“I’m a touchy, feely kind of person so I like to do the hugs and all of that,” she said. “I understand we can’t do all of that, but I want to be able to see you, I want to be able to touch you and hug up on you.

“Even though we are not able to be in the same room, not able to be in the house, not able to be on the same ship we are able to see one another virtually,” she said. “I’m grateful for that.”