Old Timers Reunion celebrates region's African American accomplishments

The seed that would grow into the annual Old Timers Reunion in Covington that took place this past weekend was planted in the mid 1980’s.

Back then, the late David Housley and a group of graduates of the historic Lincoln Grant School in Covington, established the annual event to celebrate the history of the formerly segregated school and to keep alive the sense of place that many African American Covingtonians share.

The event has traditionally been held the first weekend in August in and around Covington’s Randolph Park, named for the iconic African American physician, James E. Randolph. Randolph broke barriers in the early 1900’s in Northern Kentucky by being the first African American physician to be on the staff of St. Elizabeth Hospital in Covington and the first to be a member of the joint Campbell and Kenton County Medical Society.

This past weekend the Old Timers Reunion, now in its 36th year, was held yet again and welcomed close to 2,000 people over three days. The event was Friday, August 4th through Sunday, August 6th and jam-packed with sports tournaments, free food, and a community resource fair.

Sadly, the recent and sudden passing of Old Timer’s longtime organizer, David Housley, just days before this year’s festivities, was a shock to the community. Housley was a staple in the community, both as a mentor, a community organizer, and his 30-year career as manager of the Randolph Park swimming pool for the City of Covington.

The Old Timers Reunion has become increasingly popular, partially thanks to the efforts of Housley and the many community members who have served on the event’s committee.

“This is an amazing community event,” said City of Covington Mayor Joe Meyer, who was on hand at the Opening Ceremony and officially designated the first week of August as Old Timers Weekend. Mayor Meyer continued the sentiment to seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of its African American community in every area of endeavor throughout the region’s history.

Though not officially a part of Old Timers Weekend, many of the community members elaborated on the Old Timer’s message of unity and sense of place.

Also held this past weekend, just blocks away from the Old Timers event, the Covington Branch of the Kenton County Public Library hosted a premiere screening of the Rural-Urban Solidarity Project sponsored by Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange.

This film series documents the widespread racial justice actions of rural Kentuckians in response to the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and celebrates the legacy of African American Kentuckians across the state. The four films document accounts throughout Kentucky where individuals stood for social justice.

“Collectively, the films tell the story of how the Movement for Black Lives gained a foothold in rural Kentucky and bridge a connection to urban Kentucky that demonstrates solidarity and interdependence,” said Savannah Barrett, co-founder of the Rural-Urban Exchange. Barrett was on hand at this weekend’s event to introduce the films. “The goal of the film series is to uplift Kentucky’s African American stories and inspire greater connection, solidarity, and interdependence across generations.”

“This falls right in line with the decades-old Old Timer’s event,” said Pam Mullins, producer of one of the films premiered and a long time participant in Old Timers events.

Her film, Words I Speak: Solidarity + Resiliency, takes viewers through expressions of solidarity and resilience captured through the stories of four Northern Kentucky African American women. The film looks at the region's past and how it affected NKY’s response to the Black Lives Matter Movement while expressing the aspirations of the four women of transformative change moving forward.
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Read more articles by Kareem A. Simpson.

Raised in the inner city of Covington, Kentucky, Kareem Simpson is an author, innovator, community enthusiast, military veteran, serial entrepreneur, foodie and lover of all things creative.