This last year has been a whirlwind of events and programming. The Okefenokee Heritage Center had our first Bridal Expo and Art Festival, have increased our volunteers and membership, we’ve had interns from Valdosta State University and reached out to granting agencies across the nation. This last year the Okefenokee Heritage Center applied for over 160 grants and were awarded grants from Georgia Council of the Arts, The City of Waycross, Wal-Mart, Lewis and Raulerson, and KTC to name a few. We were also sponsored by South Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. We are SO GRATEFUL for this opportunity to have our community recognized for their artistic integrity and hard work! BRAVO!
Over this last year we have and partnered with University of North Florida and Ware County for a historical restoration project. Red Hill Cemetery is a historical, pre-Civil War African American cemetery and holds historical significance to our country on a national scale. People buried there exhibit affluence that archaeologists haven’t seen in over 50 years of studying African American history. The graves are brick and mortar vaulted with marble. But for years the cemetery has been vandalized. We are presented with a unique opportunity to showcase a historical community where people worked together. In the 30s and 40s we had African American councilmen and business owners right here in Waycross. We were featured nationally as a “Miracle in Georgia” because our community worked together. Standing on the shoulders of our ancestors we can see wonderful things that were done in this community. Frank Hazzard, founder of the First African Antioch Baptist Church on Knight Ave also founded the first African American school in Georgia and the first independently run African American Board of Education in all of the former Confederate States of America. We have a copy of his voter registration card from 1867, when people in other communities weren’t granted the right to vote until the 1960s.
Why do I tell you all of this? To show you that there is hope in Waycross. Hope for this small town to be seen as a beacon of light and hope in the darkness. Hope that people who come from this town can make a national impact. Hope that we can live and work together. The Okefenokee Heritage Center is currently seeking lists of names of people who would like to volunteer on this project, either by helping with research or with the eventual clean up process. If you, your church, or your organization would like to add your names to the list of supporters please contact Elizabeth at 912-285-4260 or email email@example.com. You can also help if you have any old pictures of Waycross and the Red Hill Cemetery. During this season, it’s good to remember where we came from as we set goals for creating a better tomorrow into the future.