Throughout the weekend of March 6-8, 2020 a three-day observance was held in Savannah (about 40 minutes outside of Effingham County) to commemorate the largest sale of more than 429 African men, women and children on US soil on March 2-3, 1859.
Slave owner Pierce Butler, to settle gambling debts, liquidated nearly half of his enslaved assets, which totaled more than 900 enslaved persons on his Butler Island and St. Simon Island Plantations located in Darien, Ga. Days prior to the hellish sale in human property over 400 persons were brought to Savannah to a location large enough to further imprison such a massive amount people—the Ten Broeck Race Track (where the Otis J. Brock III Elementary School now sits). Throughout the two-day sale, families were ripped apart and sold off across America, as it rained torrentially stopping only after the last enslaved person had been sold.
Over the past year of hard work and commitment by the Weeping Time Committee, spearheaded by Dr. Kwesi DeGraft Hanson of OCEANS1.org—a group that comprises of several organizations, community leaders, elected officials and concerned citizens received three written Proclamations recognizing March 2 and 3 as the “Weeping Time Weekend.” The first Proclamation and Recognition was signed by Chatham County, a second from the City of Savannah signed by Mayor Van Johnson and a third from the State of Georgia signed by Governor Brian Kemp.
The 2020 Weeping Time Commemoration was a three-day observance. Day 1 was on Friday, March 6, which began with the participation of Otis J. Brock III Elementary School. Groups of children, school teachers and school Principal, Selina-Ruth Gillans gathered around the nearby Historical Weeping Time Marker where they received an overview of that part of American History. Later that day a symposium was held at the Beach Institute. Former Savannah Mayor Dr. Otis Johnson moderated the panel which consisted of Dr. Griffin Lotson, Dr. Kwesi DeGraft-Hanson, Pamela Oglesby, Moniqua Johnson and Christopher Monroe.
Day 2: Saturday, March 7 The Weeping Time Commemoration was held on the grounds of the Otis J. Brock III Elementary School. The Program: Invocation and Opening Prayer by Bishop Willie Ferrell of Royal Church of Christ; Welcome and Synopsis by Dr. Kwesi DeGraft-Hanson founder of OCEANS, Inc.; Musical Interlude Drumming by Abu Majied and Yusef Major; Reading of the Proclamation by The State of Georgia by Senator Lester Jackson; Remarks by Dr. Dionne Hoskins-Brown, Chairwoman of The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission; Rev. Griffin Lotson, Former Mayor Pro Tem City of Darien; Honorable Savannah Mayor Van Johnson; Acknowledgement at the Empty Chairs Temporary Memorial by Clergy, Civic, and Community Leaders; Negro Spiritual “Down by the Riverside” by Ms. Pamela Oglesby and Ms. Brenda Roberts; Soprano Artist Delores Spencer with song “Lord, How Come Me Here?”; Special Remarks: Dr. Otis Johnson, Former Savannah Mayor; Ms. Elyse Butler, Georgia Historical Society; Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier, District 1, West Savannah; Reading of The Names of The Enslaved by Ms. Kiplyn Primus, Ms. Lucy Bising-Korn, Ms. Elyse Butler, Ms. Brenda Roberts, and Dr. Kwesi DeGraft-Hanson; Wreath Laying by Mayor Van Johnson and Representatives from the City of Savannah; Special Thanks by Ms. Brenda Roberts; Song and Closing Prayer by Mrs. Peggy Clemons, Minister from Atlanta.
The Commemoration continued in Darien, Ga in front of the still standing Pierce Butler Plantation Home and Historical Marker of The Enslaved Persons at Butler Island. The Program: Welcome by Honorable Hugh Hodges, Mayor of Darien; Proclamations from City of Darien, Ga, McIntosh County Georgia, City of Brunswick Georgia, Glynn County Georgia; Prayer Service Theme “Prayer Makes the Difference; Scripture Matthew 6:5-9; Devotion by Deacon Freddy Palmer & Company; Libations by Sister Alberta J. Mabry, Eunice M. Moore & Valeska Moore-Carter; Island Stories at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Darien by Sister Margie B. Washington, Butler Island Sister Amy Roberts; Dinner Performance by Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters.
Day 3: Sunday, March 8, the commemoration closed-out with the annual church service held at Solomon Temple COGIC on Savannah’s Augusta Avenue. Presider: Federal Commissioner Griffin Lotson; Invocation by Brother Lonnie V. Ware; Old Testament by Sister April McKellar; New Testament by Mother Johnny Mae Taylor; Choir Song “Lift Every Voice; Church Welcome by First Lady B. LaRonce Gordon, The Seidman family and Sister Stephanie McFarland; The Occasion by Sister Brenda L. Roberts; Solomon Temple Praise Team; Community Greeting by Attorney Zena McClain; Remarks by Former Savannah Mayors Otis Johnson and Eddie W. DeLoach; Introduction of Speaker by Mrs. Latrisa DeGraft-Hanson; Speaker, Dr. Kwesi DeGraft-Hanson; Introduction of the Ministry Speaker by First Lady B. LaRonce Gordon; Speaker, Superintendent Pastor Larry James Gordon. After the service congregants and guests walked two blocks to gather at the Weeping Time Historical Marker for closing remarks and with the joint pouring of Libations between the “Two Weeping Time Sister Cities”—Darien, Ga and Savannah, Ga.