By Tanya Dennis
The Gaines family hosted a seven-day party in Oakland to celebrate its 37th annual reunion with over 70 far-flung family members in attendance, coming from as far away as Afghanistan.
Family members came from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas .A large contingent arrived from various parts of California.
Sandra White, from Sugarland Texas, showed up from Afghanistan, where she has served for five years as a moral, welfare and recreation manager for the U.S. Army.
“California was the draw, as well as seeing family members again. We had it here in 2004, and I’m impressed by how my Aunt Muriel (Jackson) coordinated this event,” she said.
The family, led by Steve Jefferson, kicked off the celebration with a video presentation, “Honoring Our Legacy,” which highlighted some family achievements: Antonio Hardy, who participated on game shows; Chelsea Reed, who is studying to be a pharmacist; Camille “CeCe” Williams, who plans to attend medical school in Cuba; Kendra Bryant, who recently graduated from medical school;
Aaron Jefferson, who will attend St. Mary’s College High School; Natalie Jefferson, who recently became office manager at AC Transit; and Bruce and Debra Hardy, who celebrated their wedding anniversary during the reunion.
During the celebration, family members fed the homeless, visited wineries in Napa Valley, hosted a bowling night and went to Cache Creek while the children went to Great America.
Despite its many members, the family name is currently carried by only two of the relatives, patriarch Joe Gaines and his son.
“My father had two sons and nine daughters, and only one son had children, which is why we’re the only two with the name, ” said Joe.
Family members point to the Great Migration West as the reason why of the relatives now live in California.
The familt was led by “Poppa” James Jefferson who came to California to work with the railroad, blazing the trail that brought many members from Texas to the Golden State. Seeking relief from the acute poverty in the “Black Belt” of Texas, the family began a migration that started in 1910 and continued to 1970.
The annual family reunions began in 1979.