On many days, i walked by the “Queen Quet Day” proclamations hanging on my wall and the keys to cities within their cases on my way to or from more work for my community. The days when I wonder if anyone is actually listening, the Spirit stops me in front of these and I try take a look and recall the blessings I have had on what is often a tedious journey. I give thanks.
Many times, I am so intensely engaged in the work that I do not realize when the Queen Quet Days come and go and then I receive letters from brothers from prisons across the country and cards they’ve bought or made for me and I realize that while I am steady working, someone else is somewhere celebrating me and my journey. In those moments, I pause and give thanks for the blessings once again. Then, I feel like journey on.
I awoke on the first day of “Queen Quet Week 2015” with a quickened spirit. I was immediately motivated to work on the updates of my inspirational devotionals and to get them ready for Kindle purchases. I got this done and headed out to show a movie as part of our “Gullah/Geechee Living History Series.” As I talked with the elders in attendance and hugged my youngest attendee who was only three, I gave thanks for this blessed Gullah/Geechee journey. Seeing them was a reminder of why I have the calling that I have and why I do the work that I do. This was definitely for my youngest attendee!
I awoke today with my mind on the numerous letters that need to be written to help keep open our historic institutions and to obtain funding for our Gullah/Geechee land fund and I thought of the letter that I need to write to prevent a major production from misrepresenting Gullah/Geechee culture to their audience that they seek to entertain. In the midst of these thoughts, I also heard the birds chirping outside and knew that they were telling me to come out and enjoy some Sea Island sunshine. So, I listened to the message from GOD sent though the birds and proceeded outside to the Gullah/Geechee Ga’dun and added more color to it. I gave thanks.
I walked the compound in appreciation of all that my ancestors left for me and the rest of my family. I gave thanks.
I worked quickly to get my task accomplished at the time I had set to change clothes for the second time in the day so that I could proceed to Penn Center, Inc. I looked forward to the afternoon since I had not seen Congressman Clyburn in some time and I wanted to obtain his new book, “Blessed Experiences” directly from his hands. I also appreciated how God orchestrated this day so that I could sit and listen to someone that I enjoyed hearing and not have to be the speaker myself.
When my family and I arrived and entered the doorways of Frissell Hall, I barely stepped in when I was embraced by several elders that have been supporting me for years. When I got into the room, I put my things down and walked toward Congressman Clyburn who was having a nice light conversation. As soon as he saw me, he stood up and gave me a warm embrace as he has many times at his office on the Hill, but this was the first time on my island. I said, “Welcome back!” He and I both agreed on how it felt good to be in this space that we both knew so well and had many memories in from different eras of time.
After we chatted and I got my book signed and Gullah/Geechee TV interview done, I could finally sit down and he stood up. As I sat, I looked around the room and felt good about how my students and I had worked to make sure that this wood and windows shined as we cleaned this space from top to bottom during “Gullah/Geechee Volunteer Month” in March. I remember mopping my way out of this space and I felt good about the energy in the place. I smiled to myself and gave thanks as I sat next to my mother who taught me all that I know about cleaning and who had attended this school. She like Congressman Clyburn can recount the Civil Rights meetings that they took part in here.
I looked at my own school teacher sitting ahead of us in the room and I sat amidst the elders that were in the room that are still the ones engaged in insuring that the community understands ourstory and the importance of continuing our legacy. This very moment was a continuation of that legacy. I gave thanks.
United States Congressman James E. Clyburn and Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) worked together on the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act and on the International African American Museum (IAAM). They stand proudly together on historic St. Helena Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
As I listened attentively to Congressman Clyburn as I have done at our many meetings, he spoke of how his book got its title and then proceeded to convey some of the details of what lies within the pages. He recounted for the audience our journey building the International African American Museum (IAAM) and the day that we both saw our faces embossed on a mural in the room where the IAAM board was meeting to finalize the architectural team. He said, “Queen will remember…” I said, “Yes, I do!” as I nodded my head. I continued to nod my head so much as he recalled the story that someone looking in from the window may have wondered what song I was listening to and why the others in the room seemed not to hear it. The answer for that could come from Gladys Knight, “I feel a song in my heart again!” I truly felt a shout coming on!
Congressman Clyburn talked more about the process of completing the book and as he closed his talk and got ready to open the floor to questions, he said, “I want to mention this because Queen Quet asked me about it.” and he proceeded to detail the things we went through to get the Lowcountry Special Resource Study of Gullah Culture done and then the next steps to get the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act passed. I sat back and recalled every moment of the journey that he was now outlining, but as he recounted the parts that he had to go through to get the congressional support, I was recalling the phone calls and the meetings and the updates and being out in the community getting letters and petitions signed to get that support also. When he got to the part that said “the bill passed” and he got the call at about 5:30 pm, I turned to one of the elders and said, “and his office called me at about 5:45 pm that day!” She said, “Really?” I said, “Yes! They said, ‘Your bill passed!” Once again, i gave thanks! I gave thanks that day and I gave thanks today! It truly was a blessed outcome and experience!
Congressman Clyburn inscribed my copy of his book “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black” with “To Queen Quet: You are a blessing to me and many others! Thanks!” I did not read it when he signed it. I read it beneath an oak tree outside before I departed. I felt a shout coming on! I gave thanks!
As I drove away from St. Helena Island heading into Georgia, I thanked GOD for orchestrating the music that was playing in my soul and for every note that my heart could sing as I recalled the worked that took nine years to accomplish that was recounted in just a few minutes from a podium. I gave thanks for having my steps ordered by the Lord and having those steps take me from the Lowcountry up the Hill to begin a journey with the first Black man to have been elected to the United States Congress from South Carolina since Reconstruction. I gave thanks for our ancestors that had built this building where he and I now stood together because I could feel them shouting and it was to that same polyrhythmic song that was in my soul.
I gave thanks as I recalled that this was only the beginning of “Queen Quet Week” which means that there are many more things yet to come over the next few days of this blessed Gullah/Geechee journey. I pray that the circle keeps enlarging and that I can get some folks to shout with me. Tenki Tenki GAWD fa disya journee and fa de Gullah/Geechee famlee!