This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Savannah Black Heritage Festival, an annual month-long festival that has become an inextricable part of the cultural fabric of Savannah.
This year's theme, “Celebrating 30 Years of Black History, Culture and Art,” continues a proud tradition and includes an array of programming for people of all ages and from all walks of life.
There will be a variety of tributes in this year's programming to civil rights legend Westley Wallace Law, the founder and former organizer of the festival. The kick off of festivities will be Feb. 1 and 2 with the observation of National Freedom Day, an event initiated by Major Richard R. Wright, a former slave and Savannah State University's first president, to commemorate the signing of the 13th Amendment. The observance will include the broadcast on WHCJ 90.3 of students reading radio speeches originally delivered by Wright.
On Feb. 2, beginning at 10 a.m. simultaneously at the African-American Monument and the World War II Monument on River Street, the Haitian Monument in Franklin Square, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Emmet Park, there will be a memorial wreath laying ceremony. Following the ceremony at 11 a.m. at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, the celebration of the legacy of W.W. Law begins with a youth leadership session and a festival poster art exhibition, with work from local artist Amiri Farris, Peggy Blood, Wendell Smith, and others.
On Feb. 3 at at 3 p.m. at Butler Presbyterian Church, 603 Victory Drive, there will be a recital entitled “Songs of Freedom and Justice” featuring the Savannah State University Chorale.
On Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Philip AME Church, 613 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Benjamin F. Chavis will deliver a lecture focusing on the many cultural and civil rights contributions of W.W. Law. Chavis is president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the CEO of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, and the leader of the Wilmington 10, so his talk should prove to be one of the highlights of this week's events.
On Feb. 5 and 6, there will be a series of events by the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble of Denver, Colo. On Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m., artistic director Cleo Parker Robinson will host a public conversation at the First Congregational Church, 421 Habersham St., where she will highlight various African-American cultural and historical influences on modern dance choreography. On Feb. 6, the ensemble will present their premiere evening performance at the Johnny Mercer Theater in the Savannah Civic Center, which will also include a ceremony for 2019 festival honorees Peggy Blood, Kenya Cabine, Cynthia Collins, andCheryl Dozier.
The Feb. 6 performance will be the third appearance of the dance ensemble in Savannah. The event is free; seating is on a first-come, first-served basis with a limited reserved-seat section for military families and seniors. Any unfilled seats will be released 10 minutes prior to curtain call.
Mark your calendar for the Feb. 9 Grand Festival Day, which will include a variety of offerings throughout the all-day affair.
Check out next week's Do for more details, including highlights of other events happening that week.