The Gullah/Geechee land and legacy journey has been an uplifting journey and a spiritual ride.
I could have never anticipated that going upcountry would bring me back by the riverside.
I didn’t expect to stand in the place where what my ancestors harvested would be processed
But standing there by the river, instead of feeling pain, I felt blessed.
De Gullah Cunneckshun and I have had two blessed opportunities to fellowship with the people of Spartanburg, SC. The first time that i made my way “up that side” was to present for an African American genealogy workshop. Not unlike that first journey, going back to this town brought me back to my roots, but from another perspective.
As I entered Wofford College’s Leonard Auditorium, I felt at home. I felt a connection. I felt peace. Before I could ask who actually built the space, I was escorted to see a special feature of the building. This was an exposed part of the initial walls of the building which was encased in glass. The bricks within had been made by the hands of the enslaved people that had been a part of the plantation located where Wofford now sits. Many of their descendants still live in the surrounding area. I wondered if they knew of this monument to the scientific knowledge and architectural skills of their ancestors. I prayed and gave thanks for all that they endured and I honored their legacy in our presentations on the campus.
The final day we left the campus and made our way down by the riverside. I got to stand next to and overlook Lawson’s Fork Creek where the bricks had been made so many years before. I suddenly started hearing ancestral voices singing “Gonna lay down my burdens down by the riverside!”
I looked around me at the towers of bricks that had been made and stacked perfectly and that had become the Glendale Mills Cotton Factory which had been built in Bivingsville which is now “Glendale.” Not only had African hands built bricks here, they yet worked in cotton, they also had been part of creating iron works that built the bridge that caught my eye as we made our way down the country road and off the beaten path to end up here-down by the riverside. I thought of all of the African knowledge that was contained in the miles of space that now appear to be ruins to many of the local people. I looked down at the garden below that is now being planted and tended to by students and I wondered do they feel the pulse of the blood from the African ancestors that toiled this soil long before they were ever born. I wondered what songs were song as the Africans toiled. Once again, I started hearing in my heart and my mind, “Down by the riverside…”
I stood in this space and I gave thanks for the opportunity. I gave thanks for the journey. I gave thanks for being a vessel that could share the stories of my people that built what is yet standing down by the riverside.
Ain bin likka we ribba ain ting wha change wid de tide
But mi still coulda feel de soul whey dey ya an abide.
GAWD tenki tenki fa de ancestas wha build all a disya and may e storee nebba be sit aside.
Tenki Tenki GAWD fa disya healin time down by de riverside.