It was a blessings to have the opportunity to celebrate the many facets of the sea with my fellow members of the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association on World Oceans Day. If there have been any people that could speak to the accuracies and inaccuracies of reports about our coast, these sisters and brothers have been able to do so. Our people have been on the Sea Islands since the 1600s consistently continuing the African traditions of harvesting from the sea so we have become quite acquainted with water and what a blessing and what a threat it can be. We do all that we can to nurture ourselves from these waters, but to also nurture the coastline in order to help heal the waters of the sea.
In my lifetime, I have witnessed some of the most beautiful creatures emerge along side large and small vessels as we sail. I have also witnessed a drowning. I feel the spirits of my ancestors at the shore and I am blessed by the full water baptisms each time another Gullah/Geechee is submerged. I have taken submarine journeys that made me respect the ocean all the more and I have helped replant our oyster beds in order to assist them with being able to regenerate their families and have another generation of them here. I am thankful that I can see the connections in all of these things to the generations of Gullah/Geechees that live along the Intercoastal Waterway. I enjoy seeing each one of my folks that I encounter whenever I get to the ocean.
My spirit gets dehydrated at times no matter where I am and the ocean or at least a body of water seems to call me to it. When I get to the water, the dehydration is quenched. This week is a critical time for carefully going to the water since June 8th is World Oceans Day, this is Rip Current Awareness Week, and this is US Fishing Week. For the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association members, we need no special celebration to go to the waterways, but having these going on seem to lift the boats and our spirits even higher than usual!
Given that we have already had two tropical storms and the official hurricane season is only a few days into its beginning, the weather broadcasters have issued rip current warnings numerous times already. Many people do not realize that even the best swimmers can drown in rip currents so when the warnings are issued, folks should stay away from the water!
When the tides smooth out once again like they have done this week since the last storm passed over, we encourage people to go down to the shorelines and on the way, clean some debris and trash that humans may have left behind from it before it ends up in the ocean or our creeks. Also, make sure to use environmentally friendly cleaners on their boats and crab traps and such when taking them out into the waters to fish in celebration with our partners at the US Fish & Wildlife Service this week or at any given time thereafter. Most of all, take some time to go to the ocean and pay homage to the Africans that came to the shore by force, but then made this their home. Like the tides, the culture that they created continues to flow along the coastline of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and it is a blessing to be peacefully in the midst of it with those still holdin pun de culcha fa sho pun de sho!
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) is a founding member and secretary of the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association (www.gullahgeecheefishing.net). Some St. Helena members of the group gathered together to plan the annual Gullah/Geechee Seafood Festival and the summer of activities educating the community on seafood and safety in the sea.