Three words. Reflect, reform and rejoice. They represent the history of African Americans as they marched from enslavement to freedom to contributors, according to Robert Louis Stevenson, retired Savannah State University professor.
“Since this trek has been long and arduous, what has been accomplished embodies reformation, that upon reflection is cause to rejoice!” he wrote.
So set the theme for the 32nd annual Savannah Black Heritage Festival, a virtual event from Feb. 5-21, found online at savannahblackheritagefestival.org. Some events can also be viewed on Facebook, YouTube and on a local television station.
The redesigned website allows for a virtual tour of African-American history in addition to experiencing the jazz, dance and hip hop ballet performances, along with other educational presentations.
Teddy Adams performing his jazz magic. Gospel singer Demetrius West. Sons of Mystro with their interpretation of reggae classics. Hiplet hip-hop ballerinas gliding across the stage. Music industry emerging stars singer-songwriter India Shawn and Koryn Hawthorn, a contemporary Christian music and gospel singer.
That’s part of the virtual entertainment. There will also be presentations in the form of panel discussions and the annual W.W. Law presentation by Telfair Museums.
New this year on Feb. 11 is a community forum entitled “The COVID Vaccine and You: What Black and Latino Communities Need to Know,” presented by the Savannah Morning News, Savannah Tribune, E-93 and Magic 103.9. The conversation will be an open discussion about the facts and myths of the COVID-19 vaccine, featuring local medical professionals and historians. The event is at 6 p.m. at St. Phillip AME Church, 613 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Capacity will be limited to comply with CDC recommendations and will be streamed on SavannahNow.com and facebook.com/savannahnow.
Festival Coordinator Shirley James and her team spent time on many phone and virtual meetings to bring this talent together. “We had to address the fact that everything is going virtual out of safety precautions due to the (COVID-19) pandemic. But we still want our audience to experience the Savannah Black Heritage Festival,” she said.
They wanted people to be engaged with Black history and culture and especially contributions made in those areas from our local area, she said. “There is a lot of history in Savannah itself. The festival web site also provides an option with ongoing virtual links to historical places in the city.”
The festival is presented by Savannah State University with investment by the city of Savannah.
Festival web links will show visual narratives of the historic places in the city, James said.
“For instance, were going to highlight some of the historic African-American churches in Savannah that have not normally been highlighted in the past,” James said.
“The other challenge we face, too, is how to engage our youth with this. Most of the youth participants will be engaged in conversations, courageous conversations in reference to certain issues going on today,” she said.
Each year there is the laying of wreaths at historical monuments. This year several groups are working with youth who will participate in this event. “We’re asking youth organizations to give the origin and history of these monuments, either through Zoom or recordings,” she said.
At about 9 a.m. Feb. 6, the festival will release the links and viewers can “see the various locations and monuments where the wreaths have been laid,” she said, with the information from the youths.
Events usually found on Grand Festival Day at the Savannah Civic Center will now be virtual through the festival run, including local vendors and health workshops and, in the evening, live entertainment with headliners. This will be replicated on the web site, with performances by Shawn and Hawthorn.
This year on the web site find the Scroll of Honor which will recognize agencies and organizations that have been on the forefront during the pandemic providing for our citizens, James said. This includes medical care, essential/everyday needs and services, food banks, homeless shelters, and more.
The positive about the Black Heritage Festival going virtual, James said, is that more people will be able to engage with the programing. Seats will no longer be limited “This will go nationwide and worldwide. The viewership will definitely increase; even though it’s a challenge, it’s a positive.”
Andria Segedy is the news submissions coordinator for Savannah Morning News. Contact her at email@example.com. Twitter: @andria_segedy
32nd annual Savannah Black Heritage Festival – A Virtual Experience
Presented by Savannah State University with investment by the city of Savannah. “Reflect, Reform, Rejoice” Feb. 5-21.
Go to savannahblackheritagefestival.org for all links to the virtual presentations. “RR” indicates links to programs will be accessible through Feb. 21. Most Virtual Presentations will be released on the YouTube Channel: bit.ly/SBHFYouTube. Updates will be posted to the festival web site.
• Feb 1, 6 p.m.: 79th National Freedom Day Observance (a precursor event). Commemorating President Abraham Lincoln’s signing a resolution for the 13th Constitutional Amendment to outlaw Slavery. Observance initiated by Richard R. Wright, former slave and 1st President of Savannah State University. “RR” Presented by Savannah State University Student Affairs Office, The Wright Choice Initiative Mentoring Program. Contact: 912-358-3147; firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch on festival web site or wsav.com/savannahblackheritagefestival.
• Feb 5, 5 p.m.: Opening of 32nd annual Savannah Black Heritage Festival. Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and Kimberly Ballard-Washington, interim president, Savannah State University. “RR”. Festival web site.
• Feb. 5, 6:30 p.m.: Virtual live – “Burn Baby, Burn.” Part I. Low impact fitness class for youth and adults. A family workout from the comfort of your home. Presented in part by St. Joseph’s/Candler Health Systems. Register at bit.ly/burnbabyburnfitness.
• Feb 6, 9 a.m.: “Lest We Forget: A Call to Remembrance.” Opening Libation Ceremony. Conducted by Master Storyteller Lillian Grant-Baptiste. “RR”, at festival web site.
• Feb 6, 9:30 a.m.: Laying of Memorial Wreaths. A Virtual Experience at various African-American Historic Monuments and the War II & Vietnam Memorials. Learn the origin and history of the monuments presented by local youth organizations. “RR” on festival and WSAV web sites. Presented in part by Lester’s Florist.
Feb 6, 11 a.m.: “Reflect, Reform, Rejoice – Celebrating the Multi-Dimensional Life of W. W. Law.” Presented by the Earl T. Shinhoster Youth Leadership Institute. “RR” on festival and WSAV web sites.
Feb 6, 7 p.m.: Sons of Mystro, classically trained violinists use their instruments to interpret reggae, classics, American pop songs and their own creations accompanied by beats by a DJ & guitarist. Funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Georgia Council for the Arts. Presented in part by International Paper Co., Georgia Power and Carver State Bank. View festival web site.
Feb 7, 7 p.m.: Virtual gospel concert featuring Demetrius West. Live stream performance on WSAV-TV 3. Opening performance by members of the Anointed Voices, GSU/Armstrong Gospel choir. “RR” on festival and WSAV web sites.
Feb 8, 5 p.m.: Opening exhibition, fabric art featuring works by Sonja Robinson. “RR” on festival web site.
Feb 10, 6:30 p.m.: The W.W. Law Lecture. Presented in part by The Telfair Museums. Register in advance for this webinar at bit.ly/LawTelfairlecture. After registering, you will receive confirmation email with information about joining the webinar. Watch it on festival or WSAV web sites.
• Feb 11, 6 p.m.: LIVE. A Community Forum. “The COVID Vaccine and You: What Black and Latino Communities Need to Know.” Presented by The Savannah Morning News, Savannah Tribune, E-93 and Magic 103.9. Streamed on SavannahNow.com and facebook.com/savannahnow.
• Feb 12, 8 a.m.: 32nd annual African-American Read-In; WHCJ-FM 90.3 will broadcast students reading works and speeches by African-American authors, poets, and orators. Or stream at savannahstate.edu/whcj.
• Feb 13: 9 a.m.: Virtual vendors booths open through 11 p.m. Feb. 10. Access links to shop with vendors on festival web site.
• Feb 13: 9 a.m.: Virtual health fair covering mental health, food and nutrition, dental care, screenings, COVID precautions. At bit.ly/VirtualHealthFair. At 9:30 am, join “Burn Baby Burn” Part II. Low impact workout. Register at bit.ly/burnbabyburnfitness. Presented by St. Joseph’s/Candler Health Systems.
• Feb 13: 1 p.m.: The Authors’ Corner. Self-published authors discuss their books. “RR” on festival web site. Live Zoom log on to bit.ly/theauthorscorner.
• Feb 14: 3 p.m.: “Forged by Fire: The Strength and Resilience of Our People & Our Story.” Master Storyteller Lillian Grant-Baptiste will portray how storytelling, music and folklore have been used as tools of resistance, reform and reconciliation throughout African American history. “RR” on festival or WSAV web sites.
• Feb 15: 6:30 p.m.: Virtual Visual Art Exhibition featuring work by members of the Friends of African American Arts and Savannah State University Alumni. “RR” on festival web site. Presented by SSU Department of Fine Arts, Humanities and Wellness.
• Feb. 16, 6:30 p.m.: Annual Future of Jazz Concert and Tribute to the Late Ben Tucker. Featuring local and regional young jazz vocalists and instrumentalists under the direction Teddy Adams. “RR” Pre-Recorded. “RR” on festival or WSAV web sites.
• Feb 17, 6:30 p.m.: A Readers Theatre Performance by the SSU Players by the Sea. “RR” on festival website. Presented by Savannah State University Department of Fine Arts, Humanities and Wellness.
• Feb 19, 6:30 p.m.: Dance performance featuring SSU Obsidian Dance Repertory. “RR” Presented by SSU Department of Fine Arts, Humanities and Wellness. View at festival or WSAV websites.
• Feb 20, 10 a.m.: LIVE Zoom, Courageous Conversation, Part I: “Youth Generation Awakening”; Registration required in advance at bit.ly/SBHFCourageousConversation. “RR” on festival website.
• Feb 20, 1 p.m.: LIVE Zoom, Courageous Conversation, Part II: “Youth Generation Awakening”; Registration required in advance at bit.ly/SBHFCourageousConversation. “RR” on festival website.
• Feb 20, 7 p.m.: Headline performers India Shawn and Koryn Hawthorne Live Stream at WSAV TV 3. “RR” on festival or WSAV websites.
• Feb 21, 7 p.m.: Hiplet Ballerinas performance. LIVE STREAM performance on WSAV-TV 3. “RR” at festival or WSAV websites. Presented in part by International Paper Co., Georgia Power and Carver State Bank.
• Feb. 7-21: Perpetual virtual historical tours on websites for festival, WSAV or festival YouTube channel. Tours of Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, Savannah African Art Museum, Laurel Grove Cemetery and Historic African American Churches in Savannah.