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Treasures of Heritage By Cheryl Ellis

As we enter Black History Month, I want to reflect on family and the part it plays in my family’s lives. The local Ellis clan comes from a rich history on both sides. Growing up in the traditional, two-parent family home allowed us to experience the richness of these sides. The Payton-Harris (maternal) and the Ellis-Peoples (paternal) learned firsthand the value of family. To capitalize on this, both sides started our yearly family reunions over forty years ago. These reunions, held in various locations around the United States, gives us time to reflect on the strides we’ve accomplished, the knowledge we’ve gained, or review past mistakes to grow from them. It’s a tradition that, at this point, we would be truly lost without. Also, we’ve mapped out our family trees on each side (complete with books and a blanket) and have learned some amazing insights into who we truly are. What is so helpful when we speak or meet each year; we state our lineage to whomever our relative is, so they can relate to which direction we came from.

It has been intriguing, scary, maddening, and empowering to hear stories from the matriarchs and patriarchs of our families over the years. Also, mentoring and sound teaching are some huge positive rewards that come from intergenerational family members. Finally, our family reunions are one of the traditions that have taught us to love one another unconditionally, learn from past mistakes, treasure family values/history, and honor the institution of the family.