“Family Inspiring Family” was the theme of the 100th Bowers Family Reunion and the title of a new documentary. The Bowers Family Reunion takes place each year the second weekend in July. The Bowers family comes together, not just to commune, but to remember the important foundation of faith, devotion, wisdom and tenacity that has kept the family thriving and together for well beyond the past 100 years.
It all started in July, the summer of 1914. The world had just entered into WW1. Racial discrimination was a huge issue In the deep south, the engine of agriculture for the nation and the place where the sweat and blood of American life struggles, is still defined today. A young entrepreneurial American farmer named Nolyar Bowers, brother of eight siblings and father to nine children, had just lost his beautiful young wife and the mother of his children, Annetta. Annetta, was the primary nurturer of the family and a teacher at the nearby school located in the community church. How would he raise and provide for his nine children- be both father and mother to them? Especially during the world’s climate of war and social racism at the time.
In the midst of this tumultuous time and personal tragedy, Nolyar Bowers, being a deeply religious man, enlisted the tradition of prayer. He gave thanks for all the blessings he and his family had received and he asked for direction. At some point unknown, Nolyar had an epiphany and a moment of clarity.
As the story goes and is told at each reunion, Nolyar called his brothers, sisters, their families and his nine children together to have a Saturday afternoon gathering and feast. The family came together that second weekend in July and had a day of fun and fellowship. When the family gathered for the afternoon meal, Nolyar prayed and gave thanks. At some point he looked around at his beautiful family and made a request. After first communicating his concerns of continuing alone as a single parent, he asked his siblings to help in the rearing and leading of his children towards a successful, fruitful and spiritual life. He then requested that the family come together every second Saturday of July in communion, love, prayer, and gratitude. Of course they all agreed and so it was and is today 100 years later.
In the film we can see how the Bowers’ family love was most likely felt that day; and the welcome, if not too many, opinions of how these reunions were to proceed.
Although the family diaspora over the years has spread family to all corners of the United States and worldwide in many cases, the tradition and it’s format remains the same. Wherever the occasion is held, the Bowers Family Reunion is run like a well oiled machine, complete with a theme, chairpersons, committees, meetings, bank accounts and Roberts Rules.
A bank account that opens new each year to hold the accumulation of donations transferred from the past reunion is for financing the “set up” expenses of the current reunion — called seed money. This seed money enables deposits for securing hotels, banquet rooms, park, picnic, and golf course reservations, group transportation, stamps, mailing, and printing cost. The balance due on all deposits, catered food, entertainment, gift bags, t-shirts, hats, souvenirs and memory booklets, with up-to-date family directory, normally comes from the new funds accumulated in the pre-arrival registration fees.
In other words, the Bowers Family Reunion runs like a business. and has become a major cultural affair. However, when you witness the Bowers family coming together, the feeling of love and a deep historical culture is, not only beautiful, but deeply palpable.
The three day’s of events at the reunion feel not unlike a holiday retreat. The main focus being family communion, sharing and catching up, healing hugs, laughter and sometimes joyful or memorial tears. There are also those Intimate conversations with special relatives whom one can “discuss things”, someone close enough to give comfort or advice, but not close enough to interfere or judge too harshly; unless needed. There are family group meetings about family business which get very special attention. Everyone from the very young to the eldest senior, who is usually in charge, is welcome to be present and urged to contribute. So, registration, meet-greet-eat-talent show- games and prizes on Friday night; golf and/or sightseeing the current city Saturday morning, then in the afternoon the traditional outdoor picnic, followed by the family business meeting and choir rehearsal for Sunday service. That evening all gather for the main banquet dinner with speakers, awards-show and dancing. Afterwards, the generations gravitate into late night chats with peer groups. The next morning everyone meets for Sunday breakfast followed by worship and memorial service, after which they bid each other farewell, and give blessing for safe travels as the three day reunion comes to a close.
Each year one of the descendants volunteers to head the hosting committee for the upcoming reunion. Throughout the years the annual Bowers reunion has been held all across the nation. However the Centennial took place in Bascom on the grounds where the very first gathering was held-now the Liberty Hill Baptist Church yard. The surviving eldest daughter of Rev. A. H. Bowers Sr., granddaughter of Founder Nolyar Bowers, Queen Ester Bowers Brown, nominated her son, Pat Brown to host the 100th Bowers Family Reunion. Pat accepted the responsibility with the help of his Mother and sister, Harriet Birk.
Queen, as she was affectionately called, was just that. She carried the legacy in her very heart and disseminated it at every reunion to the children on Friday, “talent show” night. She is a published author of several books on the subject of the Bowers’ family heritage, Bascom, Marianna , Jackson County and lastly her autobiography entitled, “My Journey”. Queen had a dream for the Centennial and she shared it with her family to fulfill. She wanted to have an Historical Marker of Nolyar Bowers placed on original Bowers property in Bascom on the main highway. Queen worked tirelessly to raise the funds.
As the 100th Bowers Family Reunion approached with only several months to go, Queen Bowers Brown, Mother, Retired Teacher, Writer, Social Activist and Historian, became ill, and passed away. Just as her grandmother, an Activist, Mother and School Teacher had passed several months before the first reunion in 1914. The other similarity was Civil and Global unrest. As in the summer of 1914, during the summer of 2014, race conflicts and wars in the world are ever present.
Queen also had other civic projects she wanted to complete. One was to saved the historical railroad trestle that separated the Blacks and Whites during segregation. She was given an honorary marker from the city of Marianna during the Bowers Family Reunion Centennial.
Queens two surviving children Pat Brown and Harriet Birk, took the well laid plans their mother had suggested for the Centennial and rolled up their sleeves. If they were overcome with grief, as one would suspect, they hid it. They followed their mother’s wishes and asked for any member who wished in the entire family of Bowers descendents to participate. They negotiated tasks and held the lines taunt while trying to govern a very strong willed group of relations. In the end, the reunion went off beautifully.
There were of course last minute changes; however these changes brought about Prayer. Prayer being the cornerstone of the Bowers family. The Historical Plaque honoring Nolyer Bowers and his descendants was unveiled on the second Saturday of July just as granddaughter Queen had wanted. The picnic, held on Liberty Hill Baptist Church grounds, near where Nolyar and Annetta and much of the primary ancestral family are buried, had tents filled with food and memorial pageants were performed. There were horse drawn wagon tours around the 640 acres Nolyar’s grandfather had left the family, complete with orators chronicling the history of each section of the land. The day was so beautiful even the rain waited until the food was gone and the last tour was done to come.
Trestle Bridge: http://www.jcfloridan.com/news/article_aab20d54-06d7-11e4-a2a2-0017a43b2…
Noylar Bowers Marker: http://www.jcfloridan.com/gallery/collection_04f05a14-09df-11e4-b4ae-001…
Of the over 300 attendees, Sally Paige, now 99 years old and the current Matriarch, sent her love from Los Angeles California. The banquet Saturday evening had announcements and certificates from President Obama, the Mayor and the Governor. Rev. Jasper Bowers, the current Patriarch, was recognized for receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. There were so many beautiful family dedications that the evening continued far beyond what anyone could have expected–but all dedications were heard.
The Sunday Worship and memorial service successfully and prayerfully ending the event. Before all departed, Queen’s son, Pat Brown, spoke of his mother’s wishes and with heartfelt emotional longing openly proclaimed that he hoped he and his sister Harriet Birk, had done well with her wishes. What ever was being held back during the process of getting the job done finally came forth.
The Bowers Family Reunion Centennial was published in newspapers and magazines across the nation and all attendees made it safely home.
Nolyar Bowers’ dream came true. The force of prayer and love for righteous humanity runs strong in the Bowers family and in an ever changing world, we see that these roots he planted hold fast as the tradition continues.
The Wave: http://wavenewspapers.com/news/article_f018efd6-ecef-11e3-9e56-001a4bcf6…
Ebony Magazine: http://www.ebony.com/life/the-coolest-black-family-no-46-the-bowers-446#…
When we think of it, the American Culture is made up of an accumulation of tribes from all over the world. The basic unit being the over all family. Individuals who make up the nuclear family are composite particles of the larger tribal family. The tribal family is a major part, the foundation, of the chain which will eventually become the tribal village. These are the tribal villages within the colorful blanket of souls that make up America. There is no place like America on earth. It is is the birthplace, for the most part, of voluntary communion. Every tribe, including the indigenous American Indian, has had a struggle to survive in the making of what is now America.
The American of African descent is indeed however, a race and culture created in America. The African American, the product of what was a dark past, now thrives with its roots of origin created here in America. Unlike other ethnicities who migrated to America from their homelands and continued to thrive as representatives of same, Americans of African descent only became an agreed upon race after attempted chattelization, through and up to a time when freedom was finally established. Therefore, one could say the origin of the people known as African Americans and the indigenous American Indians, are the only two races in America whose primary culture was created here.
Faith, re-education, new family ties and extremely hard work against unending opposition, have been the ingredients responsible for the survival of this young race. Family inspiring family over the years has been the safety net and spiritual support system. The strong shoulders that helped labor to build the streets we walk on and structures we live in, are whose shoulders we stand on today. For that reason many families carry on the reunion tradition. Coming together to celebrate, to remember what the family stands for, to rejuvenate itself and each individual, and to continue on the path knowing that support is always within you. ” The 100th Bowers Family Reunion: Family Inspiring Family” documentary, shows these are the main ingredients for the powerful movement towards excellence in living a life of communal value and peace.
Nolyar may have sensed in that moment of clarity, that coming together in an annual family reunion – not knowing what someone is going through, having the opportunity to have those little private chats with a family member who can often say just the right thing, give the right hug or teach that right lesson- might well carry a soul a while longer. Sometimes even change or save a life.
The Bowers Family Reunion that took place this summer the second weekend of July 2014 celebrated it’s 100th year anniversary. With an attendance of over 300 souls representing more than half of the family members who span the globe, the Bowers family continue to be in supportive connection because of this annual event. From the looks of things, family will continue to inspire family for 100’s of generations more. “The 100th Bowers Family Reunion: Family Inspiring Family” is now in post production.