SAVANNAH – In honor of Savannah’s 32nd annual Black Heritage Festival this February, the Savannah African Art Museum (SAAM) will participate by hosting two online workshops that focus on tracing lineage and honoring ancestors.
This year’s Virtual Black Heritage Festival theme is “Reflect, Reform, Rejoice.” Museum officials say these three words represent the history of African Americans as they marched from enslavement to freedom to contributors, and the festival’s aim is to present activities that attract a broad cross-section of age, socio-economic and ethnically diverse residents.
SAAM invites guests to join the “Honoring Your Ancestors” virtual workshop starting the week of Feb. 13. During this workshop, participants will discover how a few cultures around the world honor their ancestors and explore featured art from SAAM’s collection exhibiting how some African cultures honor their ancestors. Participants will then learn about the “Rest With Honor” initiative and how they can support this cause by signing a petition.
The “Rest With Honor” initiative was started by Lori Lyons, a New York journalist who discovered that two Savannah squares – Calhoun and Whitfield – are constructed on top of African burial grounds. Lyons is not requesting for the excavation of the graves but is campaigning to have Calhoun and Whitfield’s names replaced as they were both strong advocates for slavery, and to have a marker placed on the squares declaring them African burial grounds.
The “Tracing Your Roots” online workshop, beginning the week of Feb. 27, is back by popular demand, officials said, after amazing feedback from last year’s in-person workshop before the pandemic. In this workshop, participants will be given free resources and tips on where to begin researching their heritage as well as what public records are available to them. SAAM will provide free links and documents to participants to help organize their findings.
Savannah locals who participate in the workshop also will receive additional information about non-circulating material on genealogy and local history available at the Kaye Kole Genealogy Room, at the Bull Street Library.
“These free online workshops are here for the public to discover their lineage as well as support a cause which honors the memory of our ancestors here in Savannah,” SAAM Education Coordinator Lisa Jackson said. “Because February celebrates Black History Month nationally and our city’s annual Black Heritage Festival, we believe that these workshops are highly relevant and meaningful. We proudly support the Rest with Honor Initiative and are happy to incorporate this into our February workshops.”
Negro History Week was established in February 1926 by historian, author, educator and journalist, Carter G. Woodson, and in 1976 — the U.S. bicentennial year — the month of February was officially designated Black History Month.
The first Savannah Black Heritage Festival took place in August 1988 under the guidance of the late Westley W. Law and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History with support and funding from the city of Savannah. For more information visit savannahblackheritagefestival.org.
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