GPB's Benjamin Payne reports on a new photography exhibition on display at Savannah State University's Whiting Hall.

16 students from Savannah State University stand outside the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick on Nov. 18, 2021.

Savannah State University students stand outside the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick on Nov. 18, 2021.

Credit: Jason Miccolo Johnson

When more than 100 African American pastors assembled outside the Glynn County Courthouse in November 2021 during the murder trial of Ahmaud Arbery's killers, Savannah State University journalism professor Jason Miccolo Johnson and his students were there — not just to bear witness for themselves, but to document the demonstration for all to see.

Now their work is on display in a photography exhibition, unveiled Saturday at Savannah State's Whiting Hall. The 32 photographs were taken by Johnson and four students in his “African Americans in the Media” course: Kalel Akins, Damien Bryant, Beyoncé Gordon, and Alonzo McKinney.

“I want the public to see the quality of work that can be achieved with a cellphone,” said Johnson, whose students at Georgia's oldest public historically Black college/university used 35mm cameras as well as their own cellphones. “I want to connect the dots between the power of cellphones and capturing and documenting real life — and that that has impacted the justice system.”

The pastors' rally was a response to defense attorney Kevin Gough's comment that he didn't want “any more Black pastors” in the courtroom, after he objected to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's presence in the public gallery.

Gough's client, William “Roddie” Bryan — whose own cellphone video of the killing led to a national outcry over Arbery's death — was soon found guilty of murdering the 25-year-old Black man, along with co-defendants Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael. The three white men were later found guilty of hate crimes in a separate federal trial.

Johnson said he chose the pastors' rally for his students to cover because he “felt that it was going to be one of the most visually impactful days,” adding that more than 500 people total were in attendance.

The public exhibition will be on display until the beginning of Savannah State's fall semester.