This second week of the 29th annual Savannah Black Heritage Festival has quite a lot in store, including the yearly Grand Festival Day, which acts as a sort of centerpiece for the festival.

This year's Grand Festival Day is from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Savannah Civic Center and includes a range of activities for everyone.

The highlight of Grand Festival Day is the evening performances from the winners of the Y.E.S. talent showcase, along with local musician Laiken Love and a headline performance by "American Idol" season 15 runner-up La' Porsha Renae. Other family-friendly activities include the annual health fair and youth exercise program, a forum for parents and youth on the impact of the "village" in children's lives, a magic show, a local authors corner, a crafts village, and other workshops and performances.

This year, for the first time, the festival is charging a $5 all-day admission fee for ages 16 and older at Grand Festival Day due in part to the city's reduction in funding for the event. Children and Savannah State University students with ID will be admitted free. Festival coordinator Shirley James hopes people will understand the necessity of the admission fee and still come out and support the festival.

The theme for this year is "Celebrating the Dynamics of Cultures and Shared Experiences" and much of the programming throughout the month reflects that theme, like the presentation by poets Al Black and Len Lawson titled, "Poets Respond to Race," which focuses on issues like the Charleston 9 and the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House. There will be multiple presentations of "Poets Respond to Race," at 8 p.m. Feb. 12 and noon Feb. 13 at the Ogeechee Theatre at Georgia Southern University Armstrong campus, as well as at 11 a.m. Feb. 14 at the Savannah State University Asa Gordon Library, and later the same day at 6:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 421 Habersham St.

"We've always tried to look at our theme for the festival and look at the atmosphere in our country or in our state and try to see how we can address certain issues," explains James. "We try to do things like that in addition to entertaining our public in order to engage and educate."

Dance and music also always feature prominently at each year's festival and this week includes the annual gospel concert at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at Overcoming by Faith Ministries, 9700 Middleground Road, and the annual Future of Jazz Concert and Tribute to the Late Ben Tucker at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Jewish Educational Alliance, 5111 Abercorn St.

In the realm of visual arts, a very special exhibition opens Feb. 11 at the Beach Institute African-American Cultural Center titled "The Parallel Between Ulysses Davis and Richard Law - A Diversity of the Arts." The opening reception, which begins at 3 p.m., will include a co-lecture by Dr. Peggy Blood, a fine arts professor at SSU and director of the Confucius Institute, and Richard Law, a local artist and professional barber like Ulysses Davis himself.

Davis is one of the more iconic of Savannah's folk artists and this exhibition should be an interesting window into his art for those who aren't familiar. For those who are familiar, it will provide an exciting opportunity to view some of his work up close and personal.

In other programming, artist Paul Stephen Benjamin will be giving a talk at Telfair's Jepson Center at 6 p.m. Feb. 8 related to the opening of his exhibition "Reinterpreting the Sound of Blackness." For a more in-depth discussion of Benjamin's exhibition, see last week's interview with the artist at And for the full festival schedule, go to


What: 29th annual Savannah Black Heritage Festival

When: Throughout February

Where: Various locations

Cost: Most events free



8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Feb. 10, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.; Admission $5, free for ages younger than 16 and for Savannah State University students with ID.

8:30 a.m. Walk Georgia healthy walk; pre-register at 912-652-7981 or

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Adult Health Fair; screenings, exercise demos; first-floor lobby

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Seventh annual Youth Health Exercise Program; third-floor ballroom

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. "Be the Difference: A Courageous Conversation about Parenthood" forum for parents and youth to age 19; RSVP to 912-713-3554

12:30-1:30 p.m. WellCare Fitness Expo; third-floor ballroom

12:30-2 p.m. Savannah Stars with Magic Marc; first-floor Mason Room

1 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. Two sessions of "YES andâ¦Improvisational Lessons for Life" interactive workshop for high school students about careers in entertainment; limited enrollment at 912-358-4309

1-2:30 p.m. Local Authors Corner; self-published authors discuss writing, publishing and marketing books; second floor

1:30-3 p.m. Crafts Village; make dolls, masks, jewelry, drums, baskets, flowers, wallets; individual and group reservations required as space is limited; call 912-358-3370

3:30 p.m. Grand Festival Day ribbon-cutting ceremony; MLK Arena

4:30 p.m. Annual Youth Talent Extravaganza featuring local talent, young authors from DEEP Center and the Line Dancing Seniors

7-9 p.m. Concert with winners of Y.E.S. Talent Showcase, Savannah's Laiken Love and "American Idol" season 15 runner-up La'Porsha Renae