Heritage Days at Penn Center

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Every year, Penn Center celebrates the history and culture of the Sea Islands. Since its inception in 1981, Heritage Days Celebration has grown from a single day of events and food to three days of culturally fun-filled events.

This year, the 31st Annual Heritage Days Celebration theme “Eyes Still on the Prize: Continuing a Legacy of Change” honors the 150th Anniversary Commemoration (2012-2014) of Penn Center Community Service, The Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Teaching the Trade” by Heritage Days featured artist Cassandra M. Gillens.
“Teaching the Trade” by Heritage Days featured artist Cassandra M. Gillens.

Penn Center’s 31st Annual Heritage Days Celebration is an exciting three-day event that includes  music and dance performances, Gullah storytelling, period re-enactors, delicious cuisine, regional artist and authors, food and craft vendors, and youth day activities.

The celebration kicks off with the Opening Ceremony & Founder’s Day Memorial Service at 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7. The York W. Bailey Museum presents The Art of Cassandra M. Gillens, a spectacular collection of art depicting Gullah Lowcountry living at its best.  The collection will be on exhibit through the end of December. Cassandra Gillens was chosen to be the Featured Artist and was commissioned to create a work of art depicting the Penn School story and the rich heritage of the Gullah people. She created “Teaching the Trade,” a beautiful rendition of the Penn School era.

Penn Center cordially invites the public to attend this free art event opening — a meet the artist wine and cheese reception from 8 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7.

On Friday, Nov. 8, Penn Center presents Youth Day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; center stage entertainment 2 to 4 p.m.; and a Heritage Symposium: The Civil Rights Movement & Social Change from 3 to 6 p.m. in Darrah Hall. The symposium will commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Penn Center (2012-2014) and the Civil Rights Movement. Vital dialogue will take place between activists, educators, authors and former students who integrated schools regarding the movement and social change.  At this symposium, expect equal parts lecture and personal accounts, multimedia presentations and Freedom Songs, a live music presentation by Natalie Daise connecting traditional spirituals sung during the Slavery Era to march and protest songs of the Civil Rights Movement. Friday night promises to be an evening to remember with the Fish Fry, Oyster Roast, Lowcountry Boil and a Blues Concert featuring the legendary Roy C & Band, Jessie Sumter paying tribute to the God Father of Soul, and DJ Sweet Music Man. The blues event will take place on center stage at Penn Center from 6 p.m. to midnight.

The Heritage Days Parade will kick things off on Saturday morning beginning at 9 a.m. Just a reminder to all parade attendees, to be in place by 8:30 a.m. due to road closings on Hwy 21 and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Right after the parade, enjoy craft and food as well as local farmer vendors on the Penn Center grounds. Saturday’s center stage entertainment from noon to 5:30 p.m. promises to be new and exciting with this year’s Master of Ceremonies, Ron Daise of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and Penn Center’s 1862 Circle Member. Ron Daise, born and raised on St. Helena Island is a cultural preservationist formally of the Nick, Jr. television show “Gullah Gullah Island.” New to the events lineup this year is “Gospel Praise Celebration” — a concert featuring gospel recording artist Latrese Bush, local and regional gospel singers and groups, and the “Family Slide Dancers Workshop & Dance Social” introducing the culture of urban line and soul slide dancing to the Lowcountry.

Also new this year to Heritage Days will be “Artists & Authors Row” from November 8-9. The row will feature the creativity of local, regional and national visual artists, craft makers and authors. Much of the artwork will also be for sale.

Penn Center is recognized as one of the nation’s most significant historic and cultural institutions.  The mission of Penn Center is to promote and preserve the history and culture of the Sea Islands and in doing this provides many public programs for the community at large.

For more information, visit www.penncenter.com or call 843-838-2432.