Tybee MLK wants to ‘get into good trouble’ with fundraiser for new historic markers

Local News

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) – A local human rights group is asking for the public’s help to raise awareness about Tybee Island’s racial history.

Tybee MLK Human Rights Organization spearheaded a community effort to be more transparent about racial events on the island, dating all the way back to slavery.

Back in July, Tybee City Council passed a modified version of a Race Equity Resolution, including the erection of new historic markers on the island. The markers will commemorate the historic wade-ins of the 1960s and a description of the slave quarantine hospital along the Lazaretto Creek.

An anonymous donor gave $4,000 to the organization to get their work started. The donor asked that they, in the words of the late Rep. John Lewis, “get into good trouble” by having members of the community match the principal $4,000 donation.

Pat Leiby, a community organizer for Tybee MLK, helped arrange the island’s Black Lives Matter march a few months ago. She says it’s important for everyone to do their part in telling the full story of Tybee.

“I’m a little old lady, 80-years-old, on this little old island and there’s not a whole lot I can do to change Washington D.C.,” said Leiby. “But if I can start making a difference right here on Tybee, maybe I will have contributed something to helping us understand the system and how we can change it.”

Patt Gunn is a Gullah Geechee storyteller and runs the Savannah Gallery on Slavery and Healing. She believes it’s important to tell these difficult stories of the past so history doesn’t repeat itself.

“If you don’t know your history, you’re doomed to perhaps repeat it,” she said. “This work is really about healing all of us but we have to get to the truth.”

A big question left unanswered is the specific location on the island where the quarantine hospital was located, as well as the location of graves of kidnapped Africans.

Jim and Diane Hilleary are Tybee residents who feel they may have stumbled upon the location of the hospital on a quiet part of the beach near Battery Park and the mouth of the Lazaretto Creek.

They think it’s time for the community to get involved to help put the puzzle together of these forgotten historic locations.

“Over the years, different people have discovered different parts of the story,” said Jim Hilleary. “I think the work now is to put together all the different people that are working now, that have worked in the past.”

Diane Hilleary, a psychotherapist, believes putting the story together is a way for people of all races to properly heal from the generational trauma experienced in the past.

“There was a need, during the time of slavery, to justify the way enslaved Africans were treated,” she said. “I think that’s left a legacy of shame and of narcissism and so much heartbreak and trauma that needs to be righted.”

If you’d like to donate to their cause, you can send donations to Tybee MLK Matching Fund, PO Box 312, Tybee Island, GA 31328. Make checks payable to Tybee MLK with a note in the memo stating “Matching funds”.

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