Historic St. Helena Island, SC Celebrates Heritage!

Historic St. Helena Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation is one of the last Sea Islands with a contiguous Gullah/Geechee community throughout the entire island.  The people of St. Helena Island have stood for their rights over the eras of time and against the odds that worked to enslave them during the chattel slavery era and beyond it during the timeframes in which people tried to make them become ashamed of and to end the expression of their culture through their language, African traditions, and spiritual practices.  As a result of the continued power of this community to come together, it has become a place and space of celebration of rich and interesting history and the continuation of a unique culture that is now recognized around the world.

The second weekend of each year is the annual Heritage Days Celebration which began as an event to bring back the “Farmers’ Day” tradition to Penn School which was the first trade, agricultural, and normal school for freedmen in the United States of America.  This celebration has grown to be a homecoming for native St. Helena Islanders.

This year as folks return home, they will find a brand new state-of-the-art library with the first “Gullah/Geechee Room” within it.  The library will be officially dedicated on Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 10 am and the entire community is invited to take part in this historic event.

The library will be the site for special activities during the Penn Center Heritage Days on Friday from 9 am to 2 pm.

At 7 pm in Thursday evening, the community is invited to take part in the Praise Meeting/Community Sing at Bethesda Christian Center on Dr. Martin L. King Drive or one at Frissell Hall at Penn Center, Inc.  This tradition continues to go on to keep alive the Spirituals which are the official music of the state of South Carolina and of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.

On Friday, November 9, 2012, the Heritage Days Celebration continues at the St. Helena Elementary School Gymnasium with the Heritage Symposium which will be a historic discussion about Douglas A. Blackmon’s “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.”   From there folks can support the Gullah/Geechee businesses in the Corners Community of the island and then proceed back to the Penn Center, Inc. grounds to see the exhibitions featured there including the “Sankofa Museum on Wheels” and the “Slavery by Another Name Paintings and Assemblages” exhibition in the York W. Bailey Museum.  (The opening reception for this will be held Thursday from 4:30-6 pm.)

At 6 pm, the heart and soul of St. Helena Island comes out as the native Gullah/Geechees of the island meet up at the fish fry, oyster roast, crab crack and blues night at Penn Center, Inc.  Folks dance to the live music as they enjoy local seafood and reunite with people that they have not seen in years or at least since the last Heritage Day.

Saturday morning, November 10th, if you are not on the island by 8 am, you may find it difficult to get on especially if you are driving because Highway 21/Sea Island Parkway will be closed down by 9 am and will remain closed until the parade ends.  Dr. Martin L. King Drive between that highway and Club Bridge Road remains closed until 1 pm.

At 1 pm this year, Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation who once was an annual part of the presentations at Heritage Day from its inception, returns for a special 30th Anniversary presentation on the main stage at the event.  Queen Quet will remain on the campus to meet and greet the public and educate them about Gullah/Geechee history, heritage, and culture as she does book and CD signings throughout the event.  Look for the Gullah/Geechee Nation flag to find her in front of the Lathers Building.

While Queen Quet does her signings outside, authors Kevin Lowther, Bob Rogers, Robert Middleton, and Yvonne Bondurant will each present for 45 minutes beginning at the top of each hour inside the Frissell Community Hall.  These book talks will take place from 1-5 pm.

The center stage entertainment will go on from 11 am to 5 pm as the annual parade ends and brings the public onto the grounds.   Between acts, people should make sure that they support the numerous crafts artists and vendors and enjoy the local cuisine not only on campus, but all along Dr. Martin L. King Drive.  There will even be a “Sea Islands Cook-Off” in the dining hall on the campus.

Admission through the main gate at Penn Center, Inc. is $7 per day.  Many of the events throughout the weekend have additional cost.  For more details, call (843) 838-2432.

Make sure to have walking and dancing shoes as you make your way to St. Helena Island to celebrate the heritage that continues amidst the Spanish moss covered oaks of this historic Gullah/Geechee place.

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation give you an overview of the history of Penn on the video below from Gullah/Geechee TV (GGTV):


  1. Evelyn Jackson-Murray

    I am so amazed after listening to the Gullah GeeChee language, it is like hearing my dad’s voice and his words, I wept knowing that these are my people. This is a wonderful release in my life, in my inner being of my soul. All through out my child hood my dad would say, “he would die and be in his grave before he would be anyone’s slave” His favorite food is Okra and rice. I had to take a walk to be able to breath with finding my dad’s people who are my people!! It is the beginning of spring and this will allow me to make the trip this summer so that my soul can inhale and exhale the very air near the trees that hang with the Spanish moss of my child hood and walk on the land where life has been held for us around the land of our Diaspora suffering. Too many African souls and African Descendents of our people who were stolen and placed under a hard task master of RomanEuropianAmerican who sense 1763. Whites have proven them selves time and time again even to this day to show a Constitutional Psychopathic Inferiority with a tendency showing inadequate historical habitual misbehavior to the customs that to this day have never nor currently shown any lifelong ethnic Compassion or competency for the ethnic customs of the Gullah GeeChee people and any other Native African American of the African group who have shared a Diaspora of the pass and currently here in the Portland Oregon Diaspora where this group has not been allowed to settle and make a permanent holding to establish a footing to call home or even to be called a Community, All still being blocked by racist decisions the descendents of the GROUP’s old task master, RomanEuropianAmerians. who still to this day a sense of responsibility to their fellowman who is has been a historical and still is a society that is is part of the whole yet has not been shown a sense of responsibility by those who make make decision that has fail to learn by experience showing their inadequate, incompatible, and inefficient current understanding of the Group, These tendency will only stop if the United Nations recognized the plight of a people who are still under the yoke of a slavery and need to be under international protection to end the Habitual historical and current continuing Systemic Psychopathic dehumanizing tendencies and incompetence of abuse that will only be brought to and end with World wide intervention by the United Nations World Court. the United State of America has more than shown their Constitutional Psychopathic Inferiority which does prove that they as white/Caucasians as the individual power that be have failed to learn by experience that they are inadequate, incompatible, and inefficient based on their tendencies and misbehavioural racist withholding and constitutional rights of Native African American who have loss all knowledge of native Language. The Native African American Gullah GeeChee should approach the United Nation On behalf of the preserving of thier language and Customs the same as the Diaspora Jews and Diaspora First Citizen of this land who were and are allowed to build under protection as a Community and a nation here in America.

    • Kevin woods

      God bless your soul; and, I pray he will help the rest of ours.

    • AbaKuka Babasdsk

      Your Remembering your dad’s words, voice and spirit are like a giant strong tree planted and anchored deep into the earth of your ancestors; our fathers and mothers of all our yesterdays. In your remembering, you do them all proud! And YOU make US ALL Stronger. MUCH STRONGER! Thank YOU, my sister! My nephews and nieces in your hands have a great teacher and intelligent, self-assured, confident and proud future! The very Best of Blessings to You. And To ALL OF US. And To a more Just Humanity. Long Live The Gullah/GeeChee Nation. And Every Sunrise, and sunset make you an ever more glowing presence among the Best of All Time, the World over. And Thank YOU again for the beauty of your spirit!

      • Peace Ms. Jackson-Murray!

        Your words are RIGHT on time! I awoke to the words of upliftment as I came online to blog once again. I would usually go straight to what I set out to do, but the Spirit led me to log on and go into email. Therein was your message here. I give thanks for you, your words, and for our ancestors! Tenki Tenki ta hunnuh!

        Gladdee fa kno bout de chillun wha hunnuh crak hunnuh teet bout tuh! GAWD bless allawe!

        I am MUCH STRONGER and know that my living is NOT in vain due to your words this day!

        Queen Quet

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