Written by Caro Moya
On Monday, April 10 around 7 p.m., the Savannah community gathered at the Sentient Bean to be part of “Back in the Day to Current Day: Savannah Activism Across Time,” an event honoring Savannah’s activists from the past and hearing from today’s activists.
The event was part of the Monday Means Community series hosted by Emergent Savannah, a social-cultural organization that seeks to promote a more empowered community by honoring the past to shape the future. These events take place at the Sentient Bean the second Monday of every month.
The evening consisted of songs, story-telling, reflection and poetry readings. Patt Gunn, local performer, hosted and moderated the event, introducing key figures in Savannah’s Civil Rights Movement such as Reverend Gilbert Hall and Grover Thornton. Their stories were reminiscent of life during segregation in Savannah. They spoke of iconic milestones like the 1960s boycott on Broughton Street and a driving desire for change that united the community.
Savannah’s current activists like Cody Shelley, Akeem McMichael and SCAD graduate student John Paul Park listened to the accounts and participated in a question and answer session afterward.
Short intermissions were marked by songs such as “Oh, Freedom,” “We’ve Come This Far by Faith” and “Wade in the Water,” all performed by Faith Crystal and Imani Gunn.
A poetry reading by Trelani Michelle, a SCAD graduate with a master’s in writing, featured interview excerpts from her book in progress titled “We Speak Fuh We.” She aims to record case studies and stories of black elders in Savannah as a way to reconstruct the past and shed light on their truths.
“Nelson Mandela said, ‘To move your people forward, you need the wisdom of the elders and the energy of the youth’,” said Michelle. “Well, we have what we need, but I think there’s a disconnection there: they’re not talking. So, that’s another purpose of this book, is to forge an intergenerational conversation, an intergenerational dialogue.”
The event ended with those who wished to participate joining hands in prayer, followed by a big round of applause and, given it was “hug a stranger day,” a lot of hugging.
“The legacy of activism continues,” said Patt Gunn in closing. “We must be guardians of freedom at all times.”