“As the sun rose on July 2, 2000, the sounds of the drums that had been silent for many generations could be heard again. Denmark Vesey’s body that had been hung on this very date in 1822 had his spirit renewed. Gullah and Geechee people began their practices of getting the babies washed and the families fed and the members off to Sunday school and church as they would any other Sunday, but this Sunday (just like the one in 1822) was going to be one that went down in the annals of history. This is the date of delivery of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
Sullivan’s Island which was the major port of entry for all African people enslaved in America, was now the receiving point of the descendants of those Africans. Alkebulan’s seeds came back to this spot and settled in a circle as if the wind had reversed itself. At 5 pm, some came with umbrellas to sit as the sun still stood overhead. They wanted to be there early to prepare and to focus. They watched as others came in and as those in preparation placed the items of the ancestors in the center of the circle-cotton, rice, fanners, long handle hoes, sweetgrass baskets, life everlasting, mortar and pestle, etc.
By 5:45 pm there were those the tents were covering the heads of the elders from the sun as they sat as the edge of the circle. Everyone else was asked to stand as witnesses. At 6:05 the drums began to sound. The people began to bring in the rhythm of the drum through their hands. De shout be dun stait gin!
Amidst the drumming and praise of Gullah/Geechee people again gathered together on this island (but this time of their own free will and in celebration instead of in chains and misery), the media floated from point to point snapping shots and recording. All were awaiting this person that people were here to enstool and ordain as “queen.”
Finally, the procession came from the water. The brooms swep the yard clean as the incencse, drums, libation, and Gullah/Geechee Flag came forth. The elders proceeded in to the beat of the drum carrying the items from the center of the circle. Amidst the crowd was St. Helena’s own, Marquetta L. Goodwine flanked by her family adorned in purple, white, and black all trimmed in gold.
As I emerged from the sands with the Atlantic Ocean at her back, I came forth in chains just as my ancestors had done when they arrived in the New World and these Sea Islands. I took the long journey from the shoreline to the middle of the circle where everyone was still shoutin’. As I kneeled down on top of a perfectly cast net, some people shook from the sign of the chains.
As the drums silenced, Reverend LuElla Smith came forth and prayed for the spirits of all present and thank God for Gullah/Geechee. As Rev. Smith’s voice still ran out with the Holy Spirit, Brother Ogbonni Mossi came forth and poured libation. The names of the ancestors rang out and their spirits joined this circle of their children.
As “Cum By Ya” was soulfully sung, the chains rattled. The entire circle sang for the release of Goodwine. As the melody ended, voices screamed out and tears fell. The chains were removed from me and cast into the center. The drums rolled, applause, and cheers filled the air. I then took my seat on an indigo covered chair.
Numerous elders that represented the Gullah/Geechee community from Georgetown, SC down to Amelia Island, FL had their words. They each spoke of the pain that Gullah/Geechee people had endured from oppression and lack of understanding of who they were. Most of all, they each spoke of how they were forced to received educations elsewhere and told NOT to speak Gullah and Geechee. However, they had all returned back to the root and were now working daily to continue the traditions of their elders and ancestors. They marked this day and encouraged the Nation and me through jokes and words of wisdom to keep on. Disyah duh fuh all we! “African Spirit” ran from the Atlantic as the sun began to take its final rest. His face was indigo blue and his garments white. Under his arm was a small treasure chest. He spoke of how all the ancestors were smiling and celebratin’! Dem kno sey disyah dey bin duh cum! E gladdee e dey ya! “African Spirit” reached into the treasure chest and presented the Queen with pecans and walnuts from Hilton Head, a conch shell fuh lissun tuh de wata an signal de time fuh rise, and an egg. De egg duh de Nation an de Queen Mudduh hafa tek cyare de egg. After placing each in my hands of protection, the spirit went back to water all the while casting the benne seeds of protection and properity. Marquetta L. Goodwine was then officially presented by the Carlie Towne Gullah Geechee People Foundation to the people of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and the world. I had sat as Ms. Goodwine and now rose as “Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.” As the sun set and every eye and camera was on me, I said many words amidst which were these that came to my soul February 13, 2000: “Fuh Mi Peepol Dem: I ain bin ax fuh disyah an reduwo’se ain yeddy na studdee such a ting duh cummin. Mi soul truly look back an; wonda. Now that I have been asked to standin the point position of the front line, I do as I am asked. I lead as I am directed. I listen, pray, and then speak.
Unto those that have asked me to be “Queen:”
You know not how many have called me this before.
Unto those that have supported the question:
Asanté sana! Meny tenks!
Unto my elders that voted through pats on the back, hugs, and continued blessings:
I do this for you and the children to come.
I only speak by your permission and God’s will.
Unto my friends-the dear ones:
I look to you for confidence and solace as we continue to evolve as one.
Unto my family:
I give praise for you being the tabby on the foundation.
Unto the ancestors:
I offer my body as the vessel through which you speak.
ALL THESE THINGS are given unto and with Divine Guidance of the Creator, the Almighty that guided the existence of ALL things and ordained the creation and evolution of Gullah/Geechee-people, language, heritage, and culture.
In the sight of God and witnessed by man while infused by the power of the ancestors, I hereby give completely my mind and soul unto God to direct my path as the head on the body of the Gullah/Geechee Nation as we are and shall be recognized evermore.”
At the end of the words, the drums rang, the sweetgrass baskets were passed, and “Feel Like Journey On” was sung as elders, children, and entire familes came forward to embrace me. People of all ethnic groups and across the country each wanted to say how blessed they were to have been the witnesses to this page of ourstory being written down. It is now the charge to keep this page and all aspects of our heritage. The Nation has risen and now must STAND!
“Hunnuh mus tek cyare de root fuh heal de tree!” The healing has begun and our Nation is ONE!