I can recall the evening that my mother and I took the ride off the island into town to go and hear what was the latest plan someone was coming up with to attempt to disrupt our Gullah/Geechee way of life. We crossed the two bridges to arrive at a place that is near and dear to me since I have presented in the space numerous times and also since we voted to officially begin the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association (www.gullahgeecheefishing.net) here-Building 12 at the Technical College of the Lowcountry. (I won’t even get into what positive energy the number of the space has for me.)
Tonight was the direct opposite of the first evening that I ever used this space for a gathering. When we had come here before, we came to find out from Gullah/Geechees and African Americans how many of them were keeping up the fishing traditions along the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast. Tonight, it looked like I had crossed more than two bridges because in the sea of people, I was hard pressed to find faces of those of African descent and none of us were speaking on stage.
We sat back and listened to scientists and environmentalists present the pros and cons of using seismic guns to test for the presence of oil in the Atlantic Ocean and how that would then lead to further oil exploration. Many of the questions about what would actually happen in regard to our ecosystem were answered with “We are not sure….” My mother said, “That’s why they need to leave it alone!” I nodded in agreement! Yes, if you are unsure of the potential massive harm to the environment and the cultural collateral damage, you do need to “leave it alone!”
That night as we stood up to leave, I counted how many people of African descent where there and there were no more than a dozen in an auditorium filled with people. I was saddened by this because I knew that once again, a decision could be made for us and no one would have heard our voice. How can someone hear you when you don’t get to talk to them? So, I knew from that evening, I had to keep my charge and do as I had been elected to do-SPEAK! I could hear the ancestors saying, “Speak gyal! Speak!” I felt the spirits of some of our fallen men of the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association and I knew that this had to be done for them and the many members of my ancestral line that had sustained their families due to our waters. As I always say, “De land da we famlee and de wata da we bloodline!” I couldn’t sit idly by and let them poison the blood.
It didn’t take long for me to begin to hear from others that had read my blog and seen the images of me at the BOEM meeting protesting along with Oceana against this exploration. Exploration has led to exploitation of my people over and over again and something had to change!
As the word started to flow through the community and through the family, Gullah/Geechee Nation leaders joined me in going to the hearings on this issue and we went to environmental film broadcasts to gather with other folks that wanted to learn what oil has done to other coastal communities in the Gulf. We were again often the only people of African descent that were there. However, the main point is that we were appointed and anointed to be there for “such a time as this.”
I thought of this when I was asked to come to Capitol Hill during my annual break when I do not do public activities ESPECIALLY going to political places! I prayed. I meditated. I thought of how cold it could be (in more ways than one). Then I got the message that it was the Gullah/Geechee energy that would warm the space and that energy was needed to be harnessed with that of the many other ocean leaders that were now being joined by celebrities to go up the Hill to make it extremely plain that we OPPOSE seismic gun testing and offshore oil exploration and drilling on the Atlantic Coast! (We thought that all the towns and counties sending in proclamations would have already accomplished this, but we wanted to make sure that they heard our voices!) In one voice we had to SPEAK!”
As our Gullah/Geechee Nation Representative from Georgia and I sat in the airport, we saw the reports of the snowy weather that had already passed through. Since things were clear, we felt we would be on time. Instead, the plane was delayed due to a part that needed to be replaced. We sat for hours with the time ticking down to us getting to this event to stand with the other ocean leaders on the Hill. However, in spite of it all, we made it there and I walked in to the venue just as they lined us up to take the stage to thank us for our work.
As I sat down to hear the speeches and gave thanks for the honor as an oceans leader, I appreciated the energy in the space. Ted Danson let us know, “We will win this! You will forever be known as ocean heros!” Folks cheered and I nodded.
As we all spoke and embraced, I kept agreeing that we would win and simply asked, “When is the next thing?” I was told that the report from the Obama administration would be released in March. So, I have been simply waiting for the call or the email and last night it came. WE WON!
Oceana sent out a message stating:
“Today, the Obama administration made a historic move to protect the East Coast from offshore drilling. In the newly proposed five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management removed the Atlantic Ocean for leasing from 2017 to 2022. While Oceana applauded the Obama administration for listening to widespread opposition along the East Coast, it continues to urge the government to stop seismic airgun use in the Atlantic and not to hold new lease sales in the remote and unforgiving Arctic Ocean.
In response to the newly proposed plan, Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s vice president for the U.S., released the following statement:
‘President Obama has taken a giant step for our oceans, for coastal economies and for mitigating climate change. This is a courageous decision that begins the shift to a new energy paradigm, where clean energy replaces fossil fuels, and where we can avoid the worst impacts of decades of our carbon dioxide emissions.
This is a victory for people over politics and shows the importance of old fashioned grassroots organizing. It will prevent oil spills and coastal industrialization; it makes seismic testing unnecessary and it will help promote the clean energy solutions that we so desperately need.
With this decision coastal communities have won a ‘David vs. Goliath’ fight against the richest companies on the planet, and that is a cause for tremendous optimism for the well-being of future generations’.”
It is for the future generations of the Gullah/Geechee Nation that I rise daily to do the work that GOD has charged me to do even when there are times when there may be only one Gullah/Geechee voice in the room that I am headed to. If I am that one Gullah/Geechee I know that the past generations want me to speak. I know that I would have done my mother a disservice if I didn’t continue to go to these meetings and protests even when she could not come along. I know that we all will do Mother Earth a disservice if we do not begin to take care of her as she feeds us. We are not going to eat the money when we cannot get seafood from our waterways or vegetation from the land. So, like mama said, some things you need to “leave alone!” However, standing for our rights is not one of the things that I will leave alone!
I am glad that GOD didn’t leave us alone on the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast and instead chose to smile pun we one mo gen! Tenki Tenki GAWD! We got de victory!