Tybee Island celebrates Juneteenth with annual wade-in

Updated: Jun. 19, 2021 at 10:35 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - Families, friends and current and former city officials gathered on Tybee Island’s North Beach Saturday for their annual wade-in ceremony to commemorate Juneteenth, the first year the City of Tybee Island formally celebrated the holiday.

“I thought today was one of the best celebrations I had ever seen,” said Edna Jackson, former mayor of the City of Savannah.

Tybee Island’s Juneteenth celebration was organized by the Tybee MLK Organization and many say this year the event was even more special.

“It is a celebration on them making a decision to make Juneteenth a holiday,” said Jackson.

Just days ago President Joe Biden signed a bill declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday. It’s also the first Juneteenth since the City of Tybee Island made it an official city holiday.

“For me, it means it’s a step in the right direction that we are finally recognizing something that a lot of African-Americans kind of already knew. We’ve always known about Juneteenth and kind of celebrated it. But now I no longer have to explain what Juneteenth is and why I would like to maybe take the day off and volunteer in my local community or do some kind of event like this,” said attendee Cecili Reid.

In the 1960s a group of young advocates, including former City of Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson, went into the water at North Beach to protest the segregated beach.

“I thought today is a time where you can reminisce about what went on back in the day, but you also have to think about where we’re going in the future,” said Jackson.

The group was led into the water by Gullah Geechee storyteller Patt Gunn for the third year in a row. Cecili Reid says she enjoyed that the celebration paid homage to what Juneteenth is all about.

“It’s important that it’s not just for African-Americans, it’s for everyone else to learn. There’s some things that people haven’t heard of ever before, so learning about the Gullah Geechee and learning about how Sherman came through Georgia and burned everything down. Some of that stuff isn’t taught in our schools,” said Reid.

Tybee Island’s celebration continued after the wade-in with an African Art Exhibit at The Guard House and an Arts Festival on the pier.

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