Rising Tides Lifting the Boats and the Cultural Heritage of the Gullah/Geechee Nation

by Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com)

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) and a Founding Member and Secretary of the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association stands amidst the exposed roots of a tree on Hunting Island just a few feet from the marsh to show the effects of climate change on the Gullah/Geechee Nation's coast.

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) and a Founding Member and Secretary of the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association stands amidst the exposed roots of a tree on Hunting Island just a few feet from the marsh to show the effects of climate change on the Gullah/Geechee Nation’s coast.

I have often heard the adage, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Since I da an island ooman, this resonates with me each time that it is stated.  As I look at the waves of emails that I am receiving regarding the latest issue of destructionment coming to the Gullah/Geechee coast-seeking to find oil, the discovery of more examples of environmental injustice via brownsfields within our boundaries which have poisoned many of the people in the urban communities and waterways of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, and I engage with more and more global partners around the issues of sea level rise and the threats of climate change to the Gullah/Geechee Nation, it seems that the tide is sending in waves of negative impacts all at once.  Yet, the boats that we see along the horizon this time are not the US Coast Guard, but they are filled with folks that want to be part of what seems to be a mounting rescue effort that I am directing to insure that the Gullah/Geechee culture is not washed away as others turn their heads to look at money and issues in far away lands while ignoring the consistent removal of Sea Island sand and Gullah/Geechee cultural heritage resources with each passing wave of these activities.

As I moved from press events and rallies to prevent the use of seismic air guns to blast in the Atlantic Ocean where I live and where the sea creatures that I love live to being seated once again in the circle of friends and supporters of the Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank that want to keep our waterways and the people that literally live on top and in them healthy, the drastic difference between what we value and what others value is inescapable!  For Gullah/Geechees and our supporters, the quality of life and the continuation of unique culture is priceless.  Thus, we will do all that we can to continue to treasure these things as anyone would do with that which they value. Yet, on the other side, those who pray that they find oil believe that the blast of seismic air guns that will cause decibel levels of sound to be strong and loud enough to cause creatures within the ocean to move to other places to avoid the sounds, do not consider this a major consequence.  They have devalued or completely ignored the inextricable connections between the Gullah/Geechee cultural traditions, foodways, and our subsistence fishing traditions which these creatures that would migrate play a part in.  Ironically, this then gives us yet another connection to these creatures because we are often asked to move to other places away from our homeland of the waters also, but we refuse to do so.  So, as these folks discuss and plan, they prove that they are not considering Gullah/Geechee cultural heritage nor the traditional Sea Island lifestyle (of which these creatures and our culture are a part) valuable because unlike us, they do not treasure it.

It appears that in spite of the rising tides that have come as a result of hurricanes and the sea level rise the is being experienced on the Atlantic Coast even when there aren’t any storms, there are those that do not believe that they are in the same boat with others that also live on the Sea Islands of the southeast.  Yet, when either of these two things take place, I see boats literally rising here and the concerns of folks along this coastline rising with them.  The potential economic losses caused by damage to our southeastern coastline raises concern with those that have bateaus or a yachts as well as with those that along walk along the shores.

The interesting thing about this is that the very statement “a rising tide lifts all boats” is attributed to the late United States President John F. Kennedy and the forwarding of the belief that improvements in the general economy will benefit all participants in that economy.  However, when it comes to the economic motives of most non-Gullah/Geechees that set sites on the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast, the native traditionalists of the Gullah/Geechee Nation are not included in sharing the wealth that these economic concepts are to generate.  The ones that would harm the balance of our ecosystem and our cultural community we do not want to participate in because there is not enough money to every pay for the loss of who we are nor of our Sea Islands.  So, Instead of having our bateaus remain in the water, we have found folks that seek to simply move their economic agendas forward plugging holes in the boats that could cause our culture that is within to sink instead of rise.  Therefore, I am thankful for those that are sailing their boats along side of us or behind us to a place where we can anchor together in discussions of how to keep the various valuable aspects of the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast protected from destructionment and keep the people alive with the various aspects of our cultural heritage in tact.

These partners and allies realize that a great deal more can be accomplished if we work together to build a new boat together which will allow us to ride on the waves as a team that realizes that there are enough issues already happening due to the choices that humans have made and the negative impacts those choices are having on the earth.  So, instead of wanting to use science to test for the potential existence of oil, they would rather use science to formulate plans on how communities can come together to protect cultural heritage in the face of climate change.   This boat that we are building together could take us the distance that we need to go in a process of educating people about how to live in a way that can be celebrated by all and would no doubt showcase the treasures of the world for many groups of people.  Not only would the tides then be the mechanism that lifts our boats, the celebration of the spirits of people united to keep our quality of life and cultural heritage valued and thereby taken care of.   With this going on, no doubt even those that are not islanders or coastal people will want to sail with us in the journey to protect cultural heritage.   This type of unification would lift the spirits of people around the world!  Fa sho de Gullah/Geechee bateau gwine keep on sailin pun disya tide!

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) and Representative Glenda Simmons-Jenkins stand proudly united with global partners focused on protecting cultural heritage at risk due to climate change.

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) and Representative Glenda Simmons-Jenkins stand proudly united with global partners focused on protecting cultural heritage at risk due to climate change.

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Very inspiring. DH

Trackbacks

  1. Coastal Flooding and Culture in the Gullah/Geechee Nation | Gullah/Geechee Nation
  2. Gullah/Geechee Land, Legacy, Access, and Sustainability | Gullah/Geechee Nation

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