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Grandparents: Love, Culture & History

grandparents and grandchildren

Honoring our grandparents is a significant practice in African American culture. Grandparents have always played important roles in nurturing and stabilizing families. Whether through discipline, financial support and/or kinship caregiving, grandparents have always been a vital part of our families.

Karen’s maternal grandmother, Lucille Hood, in 1970

Karen’s maternal grandmother, Lucille Hood, in 1970

Grandparents also provide important links to our cultural heritage and family history. I recall a few stories my grandmother, Lucille Hood, shared about her achievements, beliefs, and her community involvement. In the early 1970s, when Seattle’s Central District (CD) was nearly 70 percent Black, my grandmother was one of several local activists who urged the City of Seattle to locate the Central Area Senior Center at its current location. The building was formerly a nursing home.

She also owned several properties in the CD, including a hair salon that she operated at one of her properties located at 23rd & Yesler. I am grateful and very proud of my grandmother’s community contributions!

Throughout history, grandparents have played significant roles in families, which is why Congress passed legislation in 1978 that earmarked the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. It is a day to recognize, educate, and celebrate the important contributions older adults have made throughout history.

This September 12 marks the third annual local Grandparents Day celebration presented in partnership with AARP, the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM), the Mayor’s Council on African American Elders, and Aging and Disability Services. This year, we are collaborating on two back-to-back events. Due to the risk of spreading the COVID-19 Delta variant, both will be offered virtually (online) and will celebrate the past and present-day contributions and strengths of older adults.

Part One of the Grandparents Day celebration is “Grandparents: Love, Culture & History.” The celebration will be offered virtually (online) from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and feature a short program and entertainment. Register at to receive the online meeting link.

Grandparents Day flyerOur main presenter is Dr. Marcia Tate Arunga. Dr. Arunga is an educator, activist, entrepreneur, and the first-ever dean of the Evergreen State College, Tacoma Campus, a position she has held since 2019. She was born and raised in Seattle, graduated from the University of Washington, and holds a Master’s degree in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College and a Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational Change from Antioch University.

In 1982, Arunga moved to Kenya, where she raised four children and continued her activism work. She is also the author of The Stolen Ones and How They Were Missed, a children’s book about a girl who was taken from her African home to serve in the slave trade and what happened at the village she was taken from (available through your public library).

The program will also feature the NAAM African American Cultural Ensemble (ACE) and spoken word poetry by “Nana” Kibibi (Kibibi Monié), who is known as one of the most exciting storytellers and performers in the Pacific Northwest. Kibibi is also a Seattle native and the Executive & Artistic Director of Nu Black Arts West Theatre, the oldest African American theater company in Washington state.

event flyer

Click on the image above to open the event webpage.

But wait—there’s more! Part Two of this year’s Grandparents Day celebration, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m, is presented by NAAM. It features award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes, who will discuss her soon-to-be-released book entitled Paradise Under Fire, about a teenage girl and her grandmother growing closer together. The program will air live on NAAM’s YouTube Channel. For more information, visit or e-mail

All grandparents and families are welcome to enjoy either or both parts of the virtual Grandparents Day celebration.

Karen WinstonContributor Karen Winston is a senior planner at Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle & King County. Among many duties, she staffs the Mayor’s Council on African American Elders and coordinates three annual events—Memory Sunday, Grandparents Day, and Legacy of Love, the African American Caregivers Forum. For more information, email