Freedom Festivities: Celebrate Juneteenth with Tybee MLK  

A group of people dancing in the water on a beach to celebrate Juneteenth.

Freedom Festivities: Celebrate Juneteenth with Tybee MLK  

Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the abolition of chattel slavery in the United States, is set for Monday, June 19, and Tybee Island is celebrating in a big way. Tybee MLK, the island’s human rights organization, is hosting their third annual Juneteenth Festival from June 17 – 19, and all members of the community are encouraged to attend.  

Juneteenth

This three-day emancipation event will be held at Memorial Park on June 17 and 18 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days. Festival goers can look forward to Afro-centric vendors, kids arts and crafts, spoken word poets, inspirational storytelling from the African diaspora by master storyteller Lillian Grant-Baptiste, performances from spoken word poets, African drummers and live entertainment. There will also be a live DJ spinning reggae, soca and Afro beat records.  

Juneteenth

The Juneteenth Festival will culminate on Monday with the annual Wade-In Ceremony at the pier. A Tybee MLK tradition, the Wade-In will be led by Gullah Geechee storyteller Patt Gunn, who will acknowledge the African ancestors noting their plight and sacrifices in the struggle for liberation. Together, attendees will wade into the Atlantic as a collective cleansing ritual with drumming and storytelling, celebrating the progress that has been made while acknowledging the path forward.  

It is important to note that Juneteenth isn’t just a celebration for the African-American community. Rather, it’s a freedom day to be acknowledged by all Americans. 

Juneteenth

“The commemoration of Juneteenth is important to our collective national identity. The making of Juneteenth as a federal holiday should make us reflective and proud of our country. . . Juneteenth is the true liberation of our nation,” said Julia Pearce, Tybee MLK co-founder and coordinator.  

Pearce recently returned from Ghana where she spent six weeks between April and June studying education, history and culture and establishing ties between Tybee and the African nation. She was joined at different times by various figures to include retired attorney Carol Ruth Silver and Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, among others.  

“We arrived with wonderful letters of introduction . . . [that] explained our organization’s tireless efforts to galvanize support for education recognition and commemoration of Tybee Island’s Lazaretto and quarantine cemetery,” said Pearce. “The letters explained that we had researched the Transatlantic Slave Trade and how our study of the Middle Passage had connected Tybee Lazaretto with the Door of No Return in Cape Coast, Ghana. The Letters gave  us access as goodwill ambassadors to forge a link of partnership with Ghanaian tourism, education, government and business sectors.” 

During the pilgrimage, Pearce visited many locales and participated in the World Trade Centers Association General Assembly, established relationships with the Rural Education Advocacy Project and Three Sixty (a human rights organization based in Cape Coast) and met with master artists, local chiefs, kings and traditional healers among other things.  

She also traveled to the Door of No Return in Cape Coast Slave Castle, a place used to hold enslaved Africans before they were loaded onto ships and sold in the Americas and the Caribbean. Some of those ships arrived in Tybee.  

“We lectured to students studying African influence on world history at the University of Cape Coast. Our topic was ‘Full Circle Connection’ exploring the link between Tybee Lazaretto and the Door of No Return,” Pearce explained. “The lecture was well received and we exchanged contact information with University administrators and students. Our pilgrimage was successful and we will continue to nurture the fruits of our visit for the purposes of international partnerships of world African history tourism and education.” 

Juneteenth

The Juneteenth Festival is in part a celebration of the accomplishments of this important trip. Tybee MLK will continue to foster relationships locally and internationally to do the significant work of preserving history and advocating for truth and social justice. Visit tybeemlk.org to learn more about the organization and find ways to get involved.  

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