IT APPEARS that celebrating Savannah’s African American heritage has made the leap out of the confines of February’s Black History Month, expanding into the fall season in a huge way.
The Jepson Center for the Arts got the ball rolling with “Freedom’s March: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement.” Frederick C. Baldwin’s images are accompanied by nearly two dozen related events, hosted all over the city in the next three months.
This week’s offerings include Indigo Sky Gallery’s exhibit of art by students from Gadsden Elementary (Saturday, Oct. 18, 1-4 p.m.) and a Tuesday, Oct. 20 lecture at AASU, “Having our Civil Rights Movement Say: Celebrating the Feminine ‘Freedom Speak’ of Ellen Baker and Fanny Lou Hammer” by Dr. Elizabeth F. Desnoyers-Colas, (6 p.m., University Hall, Room 156.)
Included on the “Freedom’s March” schedule are two events next week sponsored by the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, part of its party celebrating the completion of its new annex, located immediately to the east of the museum and fronting Alice Street. With seating for over 250 guests, the new annex provides much-needed space and improved access for educational programming and performances.
On Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m., Savannah taxicab driver-turned-bestselling author Robert T.S. Mickles, Sr. will give a lecture at the new annex based on his book Blood Kin: A Savannah Story, which spent several weeks on the Essence magazine bestseller list.
Two days later (Thursday, Oct. 23, 6 pm) author, film producer and 60’s-era civil rights activist Constance Curry of Atlanta will appear at the annex to screen her documentary An Intolerable Burden. The film tells the story of the late Mae Bertha Carter’s enduring efforts to enroll seven of her children in the all-white school system of Sunflower County, Miss. The late W.W. Law, icon of the Savannah civil rights movement and founding member of the Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, appears in the documentary.
The completed Civil Rights Museum Annex is the latest of several new or restored buildings and upgraded business ventures established on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the past decade. With a de facto SCAD campus on the north end, several thriving businesses in the stretch south of Liberty Street and beyond the I-16 off-ramp overpass, and the always buzzing Visitors Center/Railroad Museum/Battlefield Park complex along a significant stretch of MLK’s west side, it is easier than ever to imagine the vitality of the street back in its early 20th century prime. The boulevard, formerly known as West Broad Street, was the center African American life in Savannah.
The Big Show Savannah festival, kicking off Friday, Oct.31, is a three-day-long festival celebrating West Broad/MLK’s nearly lost heritage. The party, featuring live music, food, crafts, and vendors, will be concentrated in the six blocks of MLK Boulevard between the overpass and Gwinnett Street, on the east side of the street.
The Big Show’s two biggest gatherings are scheduled for Friday night and all day and evening Saturday, beginning after Savannah State University’s homecoming parade passes by at lunchtime. A more subdued party will wrap up on Sunday from noon-6 p.m.
MLK Boulevard will not be blocked off during the festival. With local emphasis on alternative transportation on the rise, and the festival’s theme of “LiveGreen – Save the Planet,” it’s too bad Big Show-goers won’t have the chance to experience one of Savannah’s great historic boulevards without dodging modern day auto traffic. cs