Victor Brown invited us to his 68th annual family reunion. Here’s what we saw.

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 9.34.41 PM e1565252189990 Victor Brown invited us to his 68th annual family reunion. Here’s what we saw.
Administrative Law Judge Andrew L. Dixon, III and his wife, Attorney Gecelyne Dixon, both of Tallahassee, Florida (pictured here left and right) engaging in lively conversation with cousin Roberta Clay of Aberdeen, Maryland (center)

Victor Brown, Vice President of Business Development at the Birmingham Business Alliance, is proud of his family and it shows.

Last month, he invited me to meet all his uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and cousins at the DoubleTree by Hilton Birmingham Perimeter Park located off Highway 280, for the 68th annual Lewis – Lowry Family Reunion.

Importance of Reunions

image 17 Victor Brown invited us to his 68th annual family reunion. Here’s what we saw.
Lewis-Lowry Family Crest. Upper left panel represents the family’s Christian Faith. Upper right panel represents chains of slaves or bondage. Lower left panel is the double L for Lewis-Lowry. Lower right panel – clapsed hands represent the unity that shall forever maintain. Photo by Matthew Nibblet for Bham Now

In addition to meeting 40 to 50 members of his family, Victor and I paused to look at his family crest. The motto originated from his uncle, Mansel Philip McCleave. It declares – “Living Diverse but not Divided.”

Victor reminisced, “As a little boy growing up in the black community, I learned that every year, all the people we knew were having a family reunion. At the Lewis-Lowry reunion, when I looked around, I’d see a lot of people–most of whom I didn’t know very well, if at all. Maybe 100 or more in attendance. As a kid, it was a bit overwhelming. Over the years, I came to realize the importance of this history. Our history. Reunions are a very important part of African American life and culture. It unites us.”

Reunions Make Up 25 percent of Summer Tourism in Birmingham

According to Sara Hamlin Vice President of Tourism at the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors, 25 percent of Birmingham’s hotel and attraction bookings in the summer primarily come from family reunions.

“Culturally, particularly in the African American community; people want to get together every year or two years because families are scattered all over the country,” said Sara.

“Traditionally, it dates back to our ancestors who were pulled apart during slavery. They didn’t know where family members were or if they would ever see them again. It is an opportunity now to keep the family legacy going, bringing everyone together, sharing the family history – re-uniting with love ones.”

Because of Birmingham’s Civil Rights history, the Magic City has also become a destination for African American family reunions, even though relatives may not live in the area, added Sara.

More Than an Annual Gathering

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 1.01.29 PM Victor Brown invited us to his 68th annual family reunion. Here’s what we saw.
Tahiera Monique Brown (Lewis-Lowry Reunion President for 2019-2020, and Victor’s Wife), Layla Clark (Victor and Tahiera;’s Granddaughter), and Victor McCleave Brown. Photo courtesy of Victor Brown

Along with the annual reunion, families like the Lewis -Lowry clan formed organizations that have family members serving on a council.

“We have a cousins council,” Brown said. That council meets once a year, and they do the business of the reunion. We have a scholarship fund. Each year we Identify who is going to host the reunion and plan all the activities. There are bylaws and rules. Fees are taken up by the treasurer. A budget is put together.”

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 12.58.56 PM Victor Brown invited us to his 68th annual family reunion. Here’s what we saw.
Lewis-Lowry Reunion. Photo courtesy of Victor Brown

The Lewis-Lowry family is a family of educators, business leaders and entrepreneurs. They take great pride in education. In fact, when relatives went around the room introducing themselves during their “Meet and Greet” time, the majority of the family members over the age of 25 had either a masters or a doctorate degree.

This year’s Lewis-Lowry Family Reunion theme in Birmingham was appropriately called “History, Legacy, Future.” The family toured the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Southern Negro League Museum, and the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument area .

Why it Matters

Roberta Clay, who serves as the matriarch of the Lewis-Lowry family summed up why the Lewis-Lowry reunion matters.

“We have held this reunion uninterrupted for 68 years. More than 68 years ago our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins decided they would like to have a family reunion.

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 9.03.27 PM Victor Brown invited us to his 68th annual family reunion. Here’s what we saw.
Lowry-Lewis Reunion. Photo courtesy of Victor Brown

Over the years as we were growing up was family, it was of extreme importance that everybody was taken care of, looked after, well fed and well educated. It is a lifetime journey. We all care about each other. We all love each other. We can have knock down drag out arguments about anything – and then in a few minutes you will see us loving each other and kissing each other. It is a wonderful, wonderful story.”

Unites Us

Each year, the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts a reunion expo that attracts 200-300 people interested in holding a reunion in the birthplace of Civil Rights. According to the Convention Bureau, Birmingham is fast becoming a reunion destination in the African-American community.

Victor Brown said it best. “It unites us.”

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

Articles: 2008