31st Savannah Black Heritage Festival Opens February 1st

Hiplet Ballerinas ©Photography by Amparo
Hiplet Ballerinas ©Photography by Amparo

According to Shirley James, Coordinator for the 31st Annual Savannah Black Heritage Festival, committee members are working diligently to make sure this festival in one of the best. The festival is scheduled February 1-23, and the central theme for this year is “Your Story, My Story, Our Stories.” As usual, attendees of all ages will be exposed to cultural educational experiences in the performing and visual arts, as well as lectures, crafts, and health and wellness activities.

James says, “the schedule includes national and regional musicians of many genres, dance performances, local youth talent showcases, historic tours, visual art exhibitions by internationally acclaimed and local artists, the W.W. Law Lecture and dramatic productions. However, the Committee is excited to present the Hiplet™ Ballerinas of Chicago, IL, as the featured dance troupe, and to feature Kuntrell Jackson, who will conduct several Courageous Conversations in our schools and for the public about Youth, the Criminal Justice System and Life on Parole based on his personal experiences.”

Hiplet™ Ballerinas fuse classical pointe technique with African, Latin, Hip-Hop and urban dance styles that are rooted in communities of color.

The dance technique specifically designed was made ballet accessible to all, by mixing it with current popular songs that will be familiar to audiences who don’t normally attend ballet performances. Performances may incorporate the rhythms of African drums with Tchaikovsky, arabesques, and beat-boxing or even Tango en pointe – all while showcasing Hiplet’s trademark sass and hip movements. The premiere evening performance will be held Tuesday, February 4, 7:30 p.m., at the Johnny Mercer Theater. This performance is free and open to the public, and admission tickets are not required. Seating will be on a first-come, first-seated basis. There will be a limited reserved-seat section for military families and seniors; however, these seats will be released 10 minutes prior to curtain call. Honorees for the 31st Annual Savannah Black Heritage Festival who will be recognized prior to the Hiplet ™ dance performance are Robert E. James, President, Carver State Bank; Lester Anthony, Owner, Lester’s Florist; Odessa Grant, Owner, A Touch of Afrika Boutique and Cultural Shop; Stephen Moore, Owner, Good Times Jazz Bar and Restaurant; and Gary Gordon, Owner, 520 Wings.

Opening the 31st festival will be the 78th National Freedom Day Observance Celebration on February 1st at the Coastal Georgia Center, as well as a Youth Read-a-Thon Celebrating W. W. Law at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, presented by the Earl T. Shinhoster Leadership Institute. An art exhibition of works by artists from the National Alliance of Artists from Historical Black Colleges and Universities (NAAHBCU) will open, Sunday, February 2 at the Beach Institute African American Cultural Center.

The Bright Star Children’s Touring Theatre will return and present multiple performances of their new productions in our schools and community which include Rosa Parks and Friends, North by Night: More Heroes of the Underground Railroad and a workshop, which addresses career decision-making for high school youth entitled “Yes, and… ?: Improvisational Lessons for Life.” These performances and the workshop are funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and Georgia Council for the Arts.

James reminds everyone that Grand Festival Day, a family-fun event packed with activities and top entertainment, will be held at the Savannah Civic Center on Saturday, February 8. There will be a minimal $5 fee for an All- Day Admission bracelet for adults 18yrs and over. The Sankofa Traveling African American Museum exhibition will be on-site, and Kuntrell Jackson will facilitate the public forum about Youth, the Criminal Justice System and Life on Parole. The Local Authors Corner, crafts, vendors and live entertainment are all part of the day’s schedule. The annual gospel concert will be held Sunday, February 9, and The Sons of Mystro, the young duo of classically trained violinists who use their instruments to interpret reggae, American pop, classics as well as their own compositions, return for a February 14 evening Concert. The 13th Annual Future of Jazz legacy concert performed in tribute to the late Ben Tucker will be held on February 18.

“There are other activities and programs that will capture the interests of attendees of all ages,” says James, “so we invite you to go to the festival website to see a full schedule. The new website address is www.savannahblackheritagefestival.org. Also, call 912-358- 4309 for updated information.”

On behalf of the festival committee, James expressed appreciation for the support and commitment over the years from the City of Savannah and Savannah State University who have presented the Annual Savannah Black Heritage Festival for the citizens of Savannah and her visitors open to the public and with at least 98% of its programs free of admission.

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