SAVANNAH, GA – MAY 31, 2022 – The Savannah African Art Museum will hold its second annual Juneteenth Celebration from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, June 18, 2022, on the museum grounds, at 201 E. 37 St. The festivities will reflect on and honor the past while celebrating the future. This event will feature music and dancing, spoken word performances, a marketplace, African food samples, and more. The event is free and open to the community, but donations are welcomed and appreciated.
This year’s Juneteenth theme is Sankofa, an African word from the Akan people in Ghana. The literal translation is, “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind” – they believe the past serves as a guide for planning the future. The Akan people believe wisdom is derived from creating a robust knowledge of the past. To accomplish this, the Savannah African Art Museum invites the public to celebrate Juneteenth as the museum exhibits African roots and makes its world history connections through music, art, food, and storytelling. The museum will also share information of local resources and services available. Please be aware there will be limited disability parking available with a valid State Disability Parking Permit. Some seating will also be available, but patrons are welcome to bring their own folding camp or lawn chairs to the event.
Some of the activities and attractions Juneteenth attendees can expect to enjoy include tours of the museum’s West African collection, performances by Deep Slam Artists, presentations from the Pinpoint Museum on Gullah/Geechee history and culture, Dancing to African & African influenced music by DJ Santiago, Zumba with Mai Evans, African Food Samples, Ghanaian fine artist William Kwamena-Poh, Fine Artist Viyanca, The African Diaspora Marketplace, Savanna Naturals, Ari’s Handmade Jewelry, voter registration opportunities, and informational tables hosted by the African-American Health Information & Resource Center, the Bull Street Library’s Kaye Kole Genealogy & Local History Room, and the Book Nation of Dreamers, Children’s literacy program.
Juneteenth is the oldest national date of remembrance and celebration of the abolition of chattel slavery in the United States, dating back to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and the enslaved were now free. This came two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, as there were not enough Union troops in Texas to regulate and enforce its order. However, it was after Gen. Robert Lee’s surrender in April 1865 and the arrival of Gen. Granger’s regiment that the forces were finally strong enough to overcome the resistance of enslavers and all slaves were then set free on what became known as Freedom Day – Juneteenth.
The news was met with shock and utter joy. The day became a celebratory time for prayer, song, and the telling of stories about Africa by the elders, as families gathered and sought other relatives from plantations near and far. Education, empowerment, and self-improvement quickly became top priorities. Activities such as rodeos and fishing were part of the celebration, as were foods like barbecue, black-eyed peas, watermelon, cornbread, okra, and hibiscus tea. The celebration soon spread from Texas to other regions of the southern U.S., including Georgia and South Carolina.
During early Juneteenth observances, mainly African American communities participated in the festivities. With every passing year, the annual commemoration flourished but there were declines in the early 1900s. Additionally, during the Great Depression and the Civil Rights Movement, Juneteenth encountered both declines and resurgences in participation. The celebration gained traction in the 1980s and continued to grow in the 90’s on into the new century with 47 states and the District of Columbia all passing legislation recognizing Juneteenth as either a state holiday or day of observance. Last year on June 17th, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing June 19th as a federal holiday.
“Juneteenth marks a day of reflection, remembrance, and freedom that we all can commemorate “ said Savannah African Art Museum Education and Community Outreach Liaison Lisa Jackson. “Last year was the museum’s first Juneteenth celebration and the first year Juneteenth was observed as a federal holiday! We were so pleased to have so many join us in celebration of both firsts! We look forward to returnees and others to come celebrate with us, enjoy the festivities, experience our collection, and meet new friends.”
To learn more about the museum, upcoming workshops, and the newest collections, please visit www.savannahafricanartmuseum.org and follow the Savannah African Art Museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @SavannahAfricanArtMuseum.
Savannah African Art Museum is a nonprofit institution that introduces all audiences to African art and culture. Their mission is to provide engaging experiences that educate and start conversations about the power, diversity, and spirituality of African art. Learn more by visiting www.savannahafricanartmuseum.org or dropping by their location at 201 E. 37th St. for a free tour.
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