On July 2, 2000 the statement “Twere a nation within a nation.” came to life as the Gullah/Geechees from the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida came together on Sullivan’s Island, SC in Charleston County by choice. Their ancestors had been brought to and through this island by force during the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. Sullivan’s Islands is where over 40% of all Africans enslaved in North America came through. However, the thousands that came on this day made a concerted effort and a decision to be there and they represented Gullah/Geechees and other Africans of the Diaspora as well as people of numerous other ethnic and racial backgrounds. Amongst the general public were United Nations observers and United States federal government observers and employees united in supporting the human rights stand for self-determination that Gullah/Geechees were taking by bringing their Gullah/Geechee Nation Declaration before the world and elected their first “head pun de bodee” i.e. “head-of-state,” spokesperson, and liaison.
Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation’s election took 1 entire year to complete via petitions on and off line. The enstoolment ceremony at Sullivan’s Island was a public confirmation ceremony. During the ceremony, Queen Quet first speech to the Gullah/Geechee Nation and its supporters acknowledged the fact that Denmark Vesey had been hung on this same date-July 2-in Charleston, SC. He had been hung for attempting to unite the people in a stand for freedom and here all these years after 1822 Gullah/Geechees stand to say they are completing the process of their human right to freedom and self-determination.
Fourteen-year-old Denmark Vesey was transported from St. Thomas to Cape Francais in 1771 by slave trader Captain Joseph Vesey. Denmark began having epileptic fits so Joseph Vesey had to retrieve him and took him on his slave trading voyages which ended when they moved to Charleston, SC. Interestingly, enough, once Denmark got there he never again showed signs of epilepsy.
In 1799, Denmark Vesey won the lottery and bought his freedom for $600. However, he was not able to purchase the freedom of his wife and children.
Denmark became a “class leader” in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1817 in Charleston. This early church gave birth to the Emmanuel AME Church on Calhoun Street in downtown Charleston which has a memorial in honor of Denmark Vesey and other ancestors that founded their congregation and fought to keep it in the city. White Charlestonians constantly monitored the African church, disrupting services and arresting members.
In 1822, Vesey and other leaders from the African Church began plotting a rebellion. His chief lieutenant was an East African priest named Gullah Jack who was also called “Gullah Jack Pritchard” and had initially been enslaved at Kingsley Plantation in the Florida area of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. They set the date for uprising to be July 14, 1822 and men from Charleston and surrounding plantations planned to seize Charleston’s arsenals and guard houses, kill the Governor, set fire to the city, and kill every white man they saw. But in June, several mulatto slaves leaked the plot to their masters, and Charleston authorities began arresting leaders. Vesey was captured on June 22, and he and others were brought to trial and tortured for the names of others involved. However, the men refused to give up their followers. On July 2nd, Denmark Vesey and five other men were hanged. Gullah Jack was executed several days later, with the total number of executions reaching 35 by August 9th.
A painting of Denmark Vesey has been hung in the Gaillard Auditorium in Charleston and a ground breaking for a monument was done. This caused alarm and is still the subject of controversy in Charleston County, SC. The fact that Gullah/Geechees elected their own leaders and still stand with other nations of the world to insure the future of their own community is also not without attempts at dismantling it or attacks from naysayers that are still afraid of freedom and standing up for human rights and freedom! Tenk Gawd freedum da we legacee frum Queen Quet bak ta Denmark Vesey!
Tune een an yeddi de Gullah/Geechee Riddim Radio episode bout disya: