KISSIMMEE (FNN NEWS) – The 2018 Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion wrapped at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center Sunday night. The largest African American party in Florida kicked off on Thursday evening and in earnest Friday morning, lasting through Labor Day weekend. Here are my three faves from this year’s Tom Joyner Family Reunion (TJFR).
#1: Variety is the Spice (or Hot Sauce) of Life
The festival–concert series–convention–expo–insert fun word here–offered something for everyone. Attendees got to choose from concerts and panel discussions on the Expo Main Stage, to the hundreds of expo vendors (small business and corporate alike), to more intimate talks, meet-and-greets, and album listening parties in various other rooms throughout Gaylord’s Convention Center. Then, there were the roof-tearing performances: Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly, BBD, Erica Campbell, Marsha Ambrosius, Tamia, and more.
#2: Girl Power
2018 is the year of the woman. Women have netted major political wins in special elections all across the country, making history while they were at it. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have toppled industry giants in the name of retroactive accountability for the men who mistreated their female (and in some caes male) counterparts in the entertainment, business and political arenas–not without a swath of collateral damage in their wake, but causing change nonetheless. Shonda Rimes so monopolized Thursday night prime time that she was able to tell ABC “Bye, Felicia” and slide over to Netflix. And between Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Zazie Beatz (Deadpool 2, anyone?), Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o (#WakandaForever), women are captivating our imagination on both the big and small screen.
At TJFR, the women showed up and showed out, some of which I was seeing in person for the first time, like Tamia and Marsha Ambrosius (above), who are phenomenal singers.
One appearance that personally put a smile on my face was seeing Bern Nadette Stennis (“Good Times”), a TJFR stalwart, on the Expo Main Stage. She’s a faithful vendor every year, and we’ve interviewed her before, but seeing her on stage was personally gratifying for me.
Renowned journalist April Ryan also stopped by to talk with Sybil about her new book, Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House. Erica Campbell brought the house down as well on Sunday because she too is a soul-stirring singer.
#3: Mayor Andrew-Where-the-Heck-Did-He-Come-From-Gillum
Fresh off of making everyone’s head explode with his historic Florida Democratic gubernatorial primary victory, Mayor Andrew Gillum and his wife stopped by the TJFR for a live interview during the Tom Joyner Morning Show Friday. This man has a charisma akin to former President Obama. Any crowd he faces is abuzz with excitement (and it’s true–Florida National News has covered his many Orlando appearances), and his TJFR stop was no different. Tom Joyner is so dead serious about his support, he was rocking an Andrew Gillum campaign shirt.
TJFR is always a whirlwind, and this year’s Reunion was no exception. As always, it lived up its “party with a purpose” motto, empowering and entertaining the thousands of people who descended on Kissimmee to enjoy their time off on Labor Day Weekend.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org