The annual Savannah Black Heritage kicks off its 33rd year in February with the theme “Celebrate Culture, Celebrate Heritage, Celebrate You” as the central theme for the 2022 festival which is hybridized with virtual offerings and some in-person offerings.
“Between all the public health issues and how we’ve had to adapt to virtual presentations, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the celebrations of our lives,” said Teresa-Michelle Walker Jackson, director of the Savannah Black Heritage Festival. .
The festival will run from February 1-20 and will offer a variety of programs to stream online that celebrate culture and heritage.
“This year we said these are our circumstances. This is where we are. Let’s keep celebrating. Let’s not lose sight of why this festival is here and what we want for the future and why it’s so important to the community,” Jackson said.
The festival is presented by Savannah State University and the City of Savannah Department of Cultural Resources. South Arts, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, provides additional support that makes all festival events and activities free and open to the public.
“It’s beautiful, especially when you look at the amount of programming that we’re able to present and the diversity that we’re able to present in that programming for free and if you’re busy and you miss something, it’s always there virtually to watch as well,” Jackson said.
The first Savannah Black Heritage Festival (SBHF) was held on August 20, 1988 and was established under the guidance and direction of the late Westley W. Law and the Association for the Study of Afro Life and History -Americans (ASAALH), with moral support. and general funding from the City of Savannah. From there it grew and was held annually at various venues around the city, including the Savannah Civic Center and did not take place during Black History Month.
“It wasn’t a big festival at first, but WW Law was putting on these beautiful things to celebrate black culture. And it just got bigger over the years,” Jackson said.
In 1999, Mayor Floyd Adams and the city council approached the administration of Savannah State University (SSU), the local historically black university, asking them to accept the role of SBHF producer for the city. and to establish February as the official month of celebration. for the party. Since then, the festival and the team have grown steadily to expand the festival’s offer.
“I am grateful to our team. Shirley James who is one of the former coordinators but still on board to advise me. As well as coordinators Amanda Hollowell and Ruby Hall and our administrative assistant, Darlene Wilson. We work hard to provide programs that anyone can participate in,” Jackson said.
The program will include national and regional musicians from many genres, dance performances,
young local talent, historic tours and visual art exhibits by local and internationally renowned artists. This year’s festival features four signature performances. All of these performances are exclusively for the Savannah Black Heritage Festival.
“We have the gospel concert with Byron Cage. We have a headline performance from MK XYZ, who is a national recording artist with Epic Records. We also have Orchestra Noir, and we have Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble. All of these will be available through our website or social media,” Jackson said.
The festival also features presentations and workshops on history, health, finance, writing and courageous conversation with a focus on youth and community.
This year’s opening ceremony will take place on February 1 with the presentation “Lest We Forget: A Call to Remembrance,” led by master storyteller Lillian Grant-Baptiste. It’s a chance to usher in the festival while remembering and paying homage to your ancestors.
Additionally, February 1 is the National Freedom Day observance commemorating President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of a resolution for the 13th Constitutional Amendment to outlaw slavery. This day of celebration was introduced by Richard R. Wright, Sr., former slave and 1st president of Savannah State University.
“The theme for Freedom Day this year is ‘The HBCU Experience: A Story of Liberation.'” A montage of video reflections from various HBCU graduates led by SSU President Kimberly Ballard Washington, alumni students, serves as the focal point for a panel of students moderated by SSU graduate Sean Edwards,” said Dr. Carolyn Jordan, coordinator of the Wright Choice Initiative Mentoring Program and the great-grand-grand- daughter of Richard R. Wright, Sr.
On February 2, the Savannah African Art Museum will launch the exhibition Culture, Currency and Continuity: The Significance of Cowrie Shells in African Art. This event can be enjoyed in person. Another in-person event on February 2 at 6 p.m. is the SSU FAHW & FAAA Exhibit & Artist Talk at Savannah State University in the Kennedy Fine Arts Building Gallery. This event is also in person.
Throughout the festival there will be the Law of World War lecture series. One, presented by Telfair Museums on February 3 at 6:30 p.m., where Dr. Halima Taha will present a talk on the Brandywine workshop and archives. The exhibition highlights the works of 13 artists who use the medium of printmaking to challenge us to expand our understanding of who makes art, who poses for it, and how it comes into being.
Another in-person event is “Ida B’n the Lynching Tree”. This theatrical performance tells the story of Ida B. Wells, a founding member of the NAACP, going through major events in her life to include her lifelong crusade against lynching and inequality. It is presented by Savannah State University’s Players by the Sea in collaboration with The Collective Face Theater Ensemble.
“We definitely want more in-person events one day, including the return of Grand Festival Day, but in the future we will find ways to do both in-person and virtual events for the festival. That way we can accommodate a lot more people,” Jackson said.
For a full list of events and more, visit savannahblackheritagefestival.org