Over a nine day period I prayed unceasingly awaiting an actual awakening from an extended nightmare. I realized each time I came to Facebook or walked by someone else’s TV or received another email from the national and international media that I had been and continued to remain awake. This nightmare was a reality that would forever be a part of the Gullah/Geechee Nation’s story along with the story of the brutality against Gullah Jack and Denmark Vesey, the countless civil rights movement marchers whose names don’t end up in the documentaries or the books, the countless Black Power Movement leaders who took the beatings and spent the time and now sit traumatized in the confines of prison or walls of the institutions of academia sometimes wondering if the two are not interchangeable. This nightmare is the one that some have never awakened from as you can see in their eyes that don’t change expression as they again get out in front of the TV cameras on queue and they call for people to have vigils again and to hold hands again and to march again and to pray again.
I never notice them calling for anyone to sing and I recall some of their faces when they have sat in a room and I had the microphone or I was introduced and I came forth singing. I saw something move in them that they seemed uncomfortable letting it move, but I never thought of what that was that I saw previously until nine of my people died and the songs returned.
I sat through the homegoing service for Pastor Senator Clementa C. Pinckney and heard pastor and bishop after pastor and bishop SPEAK words from Gullah/Geechee spirituals and I cried out, “SING!” When the words “I Dun Dun” came forth, I just knew these Gullah/Geechee folks up in here are going to follow this up and they are going to sing! Sing like our ancestors did as they marched back into the sea rather than be enslaved! Sing as those watching them self-emancipate did! Sing! Sing as those that were the Freedom Riders walked forward together knowing that they would be putting their lives in jeopardy did and sing! Sing like we grew up doing from the praise houses and hush harbors that President Obama spoke of also! Sing! Sing! Sing! Yet, instead of folks singing with my soul, I was saddened that not only had many been assimilated into sitting and simply saying an “Amen” when called for, that they had also been taught not to sing. At least, don’t sing those songs! Don’t sing the Spirituals that your ancestors created and that kept your people in their right minds and centered their spirits while teaching them the pathway to freedom. Yeah, don’t sing those songs unless you do them with musical instruments and an opera tone. Don’t sing those songs!
While inside they were mentioning these songs that made some start to reel and rock and say, “YES!” as they waited for the songs to be raised like I did, the drums played outside by those that were still retaining their Gullah/Geechee African traditions of how we send home our people when GOD calls them back from us in this realm. The drums struck and the dancers moved to heal their hearts and to pay homage and my soul sang. Yes, hunnuh chillun, ya dun dun wha GAWD tell hunnuh fa do!
The media then took the time to eliminate the words of the many family members and the call to ACTION of United States President Barak Obama when he clearly stated that we should NOT go back to business as usual! He made it clear that:
“It would be a betrayal of everything that Rev. Pinckney stood for if we allow ourselves to go back to an uncomfortable silence…to return to business as usual.”
Yet, after President Obama stopped talking and singing, things went silent. Folks took away from the deaths of nine people and the call to action so eloquently spoken that he sang a song. Somehow one song eliminated all of the important words and history presented prior to one song. The song which many seem to forget the history of-Amazing Grace-was written by someone that was brokering the bodies of African people during the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. This song brought me back to Charleston through Sullivan’s Island. i felt trauma and pain once again as I heard folks join in that song when they did not begin singing their own songs-the Spirituals! They spoke the words and did not sing the songs. Had they forgotten the songs of their own ancestors? Had they forgotten their ancestors? Had they forgotten why we are even here in this place and space now? How do we heal if the songs don’t return or we speak of them without singing them and we sing songs written by those that placed our ancestors in bondage?
I prayed for my people as I recalled Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney and the camp meetings and singing OUR songs. No instruments beyond the hands and feet and voices GOD has blessed us with we used and we sang OUR songs! These Spirituals which Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney and others of the SC General Assembly stood with us to get designated at the official music of South Carolina not for this to be archived in the annals of the historical societies and Department of Archives and History, but so that they would NEVER be forgotten and that if you truly wanted to tell it all in SC, you would know that you had to include these songs that were created by the African people that were enslaved here whose descendants are now call the “Gullah/Geechee!.” SING the SONGS! SING OUR SONGS!
For me, the songs never have to return because they have never left. They are there at every Gullah/Geechee Nation celebration of life in this realm and as we send others home to the next realm. So, Emanuel 9, trust me, we sing these songs and we know your souls are clapping and shouting with us because these songs have brought us a mighty long way. So, for you, I sing another song today after nine days of mourning.