Groundwork Jacksonville Green Team Youth Corps to debut project during the Kingsley Heritage Celebration

National Park Service and nonprofits Groundwork Jacksonville, Timucuan Parks Foundation and Jacksonville Arts and Music School partnered on the project

The Groundwork Jacksonville Green Team Youth Corps will be debuting their animation project titled “The 400 Project – Honoring the Enslaved Voices of Kingsley Plantation” at the annual Kingsley Heritage Celebration. The virtual event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 20 and Saturday, Feb. 27 to celebrate African heritage and remember the enslaved that lived at Kingsley Plantation located within Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (TIMU). The event will be on TIMU’s Facebook page and webpage. The National Park Service and nonprofits Groundwork Jacksonville, Timucuan Parks Foundation (TPF), and Jacksonville Arts and Music School (JAMS) worked together to develop the project as part of the Groundwork Green Team Youth Corps’ program.

Over the summer, the Groundwork teens worked with TIMU rangers on a program to commemorate 400 years since Africans were brought to the English colonies to be enslaved. The youth worked with Jacksonville Public Library staff to learn research techniques. They also gained special insight on Kingsley’s heritage from descendant Peri Frances Betsch. The teens then utilized their creativity to tell the story of Kingsley Plantation through the voices of six individuals who were enslaved there. They wrote and recorded two simulated radio shows – one featuring mock interviews with historic African Americans who were enslaved at Kingsley Plantation and the other, a radio variety show, featuring music, poetry, and interviews.

During the fall and spring, the Green Team worked with young artists from JAMS to animate the radio programs. Together, they created illustrations to visualize each radio show, including commercials from fictitious sponsors. The “Late Night Show” includes an original song created by the Green Team to tell the story of the folk hero, Couter “Gullah” Jack Pritchard.

“This was originally going to be a live presentation at the annual Kingsley Heritage Celebration but the pandemic changed those plans,” said Shanell Davis-Bryant, program manager for Groundwork Jacksonville. “We worked together with our partners to shift the project to a virtual format, and the teens developed the idea of creating a two-part radio show and then an animatic. They combined their learning with their creativity to tell the stories of Kingsley Plantation.”

”Helping young people discover, connect with, and transform these stories enriches everyone’s understanding of the unfolding legacy of enslavement. Their perspective brings something new that we are truly excited to share at the Kingsley Heritage Celebration,” said Emily Palmer, park ranger, National Park Service. The animations are planned to be released on digital platforms for Virtual Kingsley Heritage Celebration on February 20 and 27, along with descendant interviews, ranger presentations, and more. Visit TIMU’s Facebook page at facebook.com/TimucuanPreserveNPS or nps.gov/timu to experience this virtual offering.

Each year, 20+ teens that live and go to school in Jacksonville’s urban core are interviewed and selected to be part of Groundwork Jacksonville’s Green Team Youth Corps. The teens are mentored and trained to implement a variety of environmental remediation and conservation projects in their community. Timucuan Parks Foundation works with their park partners, including TIMU, the city, and the state to introduce the group to Jacksonville’s “wilderness” parks, where the youth can engage in healthy outdoor recreation and service-learning projects, including kayaking, hiking, learning about Jacksonville’s natural resources and history, and assisting with watershed cleanups and other resiliency projects.

“This summer, in addition to the 400 project, TPF and our partners and volunteers hosted the teens for kayaking and swimming in Timucuan Preserve, a nature hike at Dutton Island Preserve followed by fishing and outdoor cooking, and an audio tour and shoreline cleanup at Kingsley Plantation,” said Felicia Boyd, TPF outreach and program director. “We are always excited to introduce the next generation of stewards to the rich history, natural beauty, and resiliency of Jacksonville’s parks and preserves.”

TPF secured grants that helped fund the summer program and the audio-visual project, including funding from the 400 Years of African American History Commission, the National Environmental Education Foundation, and a National Park Service Challenge Grant.

After the “The 400 Project – Honoring the Enslaved Voices of Kingsley Plantation” makes its debut at the Kingsley Heritage Celebration, it will be available for viewing and educator use online at groundworkjacksonville.org.