The Day of the Geechee is Gone-A Queen’s Mourning Song by Queen Quet
by Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com)
Of the numerous films in my collection and that of the Gullah/Geechee Alkebulan Archive, “A Soldier’s Story” is one of my favorites not only because I saw “A Soldier’s Play” Off Broadway, but also because of the outstanding acting that was done on stage and the power with which is transferred to the big screen many years later. I started to love it even more when I met Art Evans at our screening of “The Will to Survive: The Story of the Gullah/Geechee Nation” in Los Angeles, CA. He hugged me hard enough to leave a lasting impact. When he let go, he looked me in my eyes and thanked me for teaching him what “Geechee” actually meant. I was stunned to know that the most painful line I had ever heard that still makes me cringe whenever I watch the scene in which is was uttered by Sarge was not even understood by one of the primary actors in this film. “The day of the Geechee is gone!” hits me in my heart and my soul whenever I look into these eyes and hear these words:
Each time I thought that I may have healed from this insult to my heritage and culture and this intensely convoluted scene filled with self-hatred masked as racial preservation, I see the film again and I have the same reaction that I have found out that hundreds of Gullah/Geechees have had to hearing that we were gone or dead to some folks! My reaction was no different when a character on BET’s “The Game” (who is ironically named “Blue,” like our spiritual color-indigo) stated “The day of the Geechee is over!” on an episode of the show last week. The pain returned! The outrage was immediate! I felt like he had hit me in my heart because he had spit on my soul by making a joke of my culture which has had to fight to survive in the face of degrading remarks about us not amounting to anything if we are Gullah or Geechee. When I thought I had recovered from the first blow, another came from an Anglo man on the same show! They put this character on BET to insult me! Dem ain fuss kno who de Gullah/Geechee be!
I paused. I prayed, My soul was ready to sing a mournful song for CJ once again. I spoke to others, but I knew this would not leave my mind just as CJ and Sarge and their dichotomy has never left my soul. I feel like Sarge killed one of my family members because he reminded him of from whence he came. CJ was being himself and was not the one seeking approval from those that had done all they could to attempt to eliminate his Africaness nor his ability to be Geechee. Was it CJ that the race couldn’t afford or was it Sarge? Can we afford those that are willing to entertain for dollars while others of us have our lives on the line to keep our true traditions as Gullah/Geechees alive? Yes, I and others have the Sarges that plot to make our days our last so that they can cage us and/or kill us. They want the truth to die and the caricature to live. As in the case with Sarge, a word to the wise-“Hunnuh betta mind!”
As I think of this continued distortion of the reality of the real living traditions of Gullah/Geechees and the stories of those of us that know the truth, stand for the truth, and lay our lives on the line for the truth, I realize why the media and the marketing companies seek to put forth this concept “The day of the Geechee is gone.” or “The day of the Geechee is over.” I also realize that they need to have something to juxtapose to the reality of the existence of the truth speakers since we are seen as a problem since the faux examples of cultural heritage do not hold up long in the face of the real thing. Pondering this led me to think of the words of WEB DuBois from “The Souls of Black Folks” in which he writes:
““To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.”
I could have kept quiet and not answered a word and swallowed the pain hearing this line uttered from Blue’s mouth and that of the Anglo coach on “The Game,” but then the Creator spoke into my soul to consider the source of the broadcast and the name of the show. I realized that it is my logic, my education, and my calling that allowed me to see that this was yet another opportunity at propaganda that would mislead people regarding who de Gullah/Geechee be fa tru. So, to that end, I decided not to keep quiet, but to insure that I wrote some words in response to Blue.
I realized that my education on the Sea Islands had accomplished what my teachers told me education was to do-it taught me how to think! Furthering my education at Ivy League schools and graduating with honors and returning home to embrace the Gullah/Geechee in me and to share it with the world was not supposed to be the plot nor the plan. How dare me love CJ! Why not embrace Sarge? I could see that Sarge could not embrace himself and CJ represented who he saw in the mirror. Sarge thought by getting rid of CJ from the earth and making him “gone” would eliminate Sarge’s self-hatred and endear him to those who oppressed him. My education gave me the insight to see into and pass him as it does help me see pass those that are participating in strategies that that will ultimately only breed division amongst Gullah/Geechees and amongst “Black folks.”
As I pondered why I could see this in a moments time just from hearing a line repeated on TV, again, “The Souls of Black Folks” came to mind. I was reminded of why folks like me that have the ability to communicate with our own people and others of the world (like CJ could) were to be depicted as those that needed to be eliminated at least from being a part of the community in the south. We are not to be promoted and to live on. We were not to learn things and teach others because as WEB DuBois said:
“the South believed an educated Negro to be a dangerous Negro. And the South was not wholly wrong; for education among all kinds of men always has had, and always will have, an element of danger and revolution, of dissatisfaction and discontent. Nevertheless, men strive to know.”
I would add, “and women strive to know.” As a Queen, I strive to know how others can continuously seek to speak in this manner about a cultural group that continues to fight to stay alive in spite of having suffered from the physical and psychological damages of chattel enslavement, environmental injustice, displacement, and human rights violations. I find myself singing a mourning song for the line that said that we are gone. However, that mourn quickly evolved into a shout as my ancestors reminded me, “Dey ain fuss kno wha e da crak e teet bout!”
Just as GOD destined it for Art Evans to meet me, I pray that the actor that plays Blue will one day come and see me. Den hunnuh gwine yeddi fa tru bout who webe! THIS IS THE DAY OF THE GULLAH/GEECHEE! WE BINYA AND DISYA WHEY WE GWINE BE HOLDIN PUN AND LIBIN WE CULCHA PUN DE ISLANDTS EEN DE SEA!
I am so glad I came across this article. I was watching the exact episode you referred to tonight & it too made me cringe! However, this was not my first time hearing it. I love watching “Martin” and one of my favorite episodes is when he gets pulled over for a rolling stop and later on acts a fool in the courthouse and towards the end he said “The Day of the Geechee is over,” immediately I jump to defense because it sounds ignorant but yet I have no clue what it means. You see I’m from Charleston, SC and we are geechee. I have never seen the movie you referred to but while doing research I came across the clip you talked about with Sarge and CJ. I felt like I kind of got a definition for the phrase but I’m still feeling incomplete. Where did the phrase originate?
As stated in the article, it originated with the character Sarge in “A Soldier’s Play” which became “A Soldier’s Story.”