The Savannah College of Art and Design will be hosting Visionary Voices, a tribute to commemorate the courage of Savannah students during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
The university will host a ceremony at Trustees Theater Friday, Sept. 23 before the dedication of a historical marker at the entrance of SCAD’s Jen Library. The marker will be raised in conjunction with the Georgia Historical Society, The Georgia Department of Economic Development and The Hodge Foundation.
On March 16, 1960, three African-American students, Carolyn Quilloin, Joan Tyson Hall and Coleman Ernest Robinson were arrested for sitting in a former department store’s white-only restaurant. The SCAD news release said the Savannah Protest Movement historical marker will elevate the courageous efforts of African-American students and community leaders to end segregation in Savannah.
The commemorative ceremony at Trustees will feature remarks by SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace, former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson and NAACP Secretary Carolyn Quilloin Coleman. SCAD alumnus and artist Masud Olufani and Savannah-born singer Brittany Bosco are also set to perform.
“The university’s many historic buildings across the world tell powerful tales and this historic marker at SCAD’s Jen Library will ensure one of the most important events of this storied city is never forgotten,” SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace said in the press release. “Together, we stand humbled in the shadow of history and give thanks to the gallant souls who stood when a world tried to shut them down. Love wins.”
Olufani, who describes himself as not only an artist but as a television and film actor, was approached by SCAD to produce an experimental film and performance piece that would honor the sacrifices of the participants in Savannah’s historic sit-in movement. He will be performing a multimedia piece titled “Sitting In / Standing Up,” which will incorporate historic film footage, recorded interviews, an art installation and live performance.
“I am humbled and deeply honored to have been selected to frame the spirit of these historic events through an artistic lens,” Olufani said. “I am proud that SCAD has stepped forward to recognize the contributions of these remarkable individuals who collectively gave so much of themselves so we might live with a greater measure of freedom.”
Visionary Voices is the third SCAD program in a series of community events that spotlight local leaders and their legacies. In February 2016, SCAD honored 10 female pioneers during Wallace’s “Savannah Women of Vision” tribute. Such women honored included Mother Mathilda Beasley, Flannery O’Connor and Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears. The university also celebrated the difficult journey of William and Ellen Craft by installing a bronze emblem at the SCAD Museum of Art to honor the Crafts’ daring escape from slavery. As Olufani noted, the freedoms we take for granted were not easily earned.
“Students need to be aware that the rights and privileges they enjoy did not materialize out of thin air,” Olufani said. “All students, black and white, need to be reminded of the face of courage and know that they too can make a difference toward the progress of the human family.”
Because this week is recognized as Preservation Week in Savannah, the placement of the historic marker highlights the city’s shared heritage through preservation efforts and the arts. Olufani hopes his performance Friday morning will be a proper tribute to the civil rights advocates of the past.
“I am really excited and honored to look into the faces of those who sacrificed so much to advance the cause human dignity and freedom,” Olufani said. “If this work can in some way honor the measure of their commitment and courage, I will be so honored.”
The event begins at 10 a.m. and is free and open to the public. Seating inside the Trustees Theater is limited and available on a first come, first served basis.
Written by Emilie Kefalas.