The first time I heard “Send Me, I’ll Go,” I IMMEDIATELY had it locked into my mind and my heart after that. I have sung this song at many worship services over the years since then. I have lived it for decades as I traveled roads, train tracks, and in the air to get to places while others waved me goodbye and sent prayers of safe travels with me. Many did not fully overstand nor did some care to about this mission that GOD had given me. Aaah, but “a charge to keep I have. A GOD to glorify!”
Thousands of Gullah/Geechees from the Sea Islands have been taught that ef hunnuh crak hunnuh teet likka disya, hunnuh ain da gwine nowhey. Yet, GOD has allowed me to defy their predictions and their denigration of an entire ethnic group of people. Out of the lack of knowledge of what Gullah/Geechee actually is, teachers beat students that spoke our mother tongue and forced them to assimilate to speaking America’s version of the English language (which is actually a dialect of English). This caused many of our people to lack the ability to communicate with their family members on levels that had more depth than mere words have. They lost the spirit of who they were due to the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma that they suffered hearing, “Stop speaking like that! That is not proper!”
Aaaah, the word “proper!” According to Oxford:
truly what something is said or regarded to be; genuine:
belonging or relating exclusively or distinctively to; particular to:
in the natural colors.
satisfactorily or correctly:
the part of a church service that varies with the season or festival.
Since we are about to host the 11th Annual “Gullah/Geechee Nation International Music & Movement Festival™,”I am quite tempted to delve into the worship aspect of this, but I will leave that to another time and focus on the “satisfactorily or correctly” part. Most Gullah/Geechees speak “Gullah” or “Geechee” or both in a correct and satisfactory manner. However, if the listener misinterprets them speaking Geechee (which is a dialect or pidgin of the Gullah language) as English, is that the speaker’s error or the listener’s error?
The aforementioned question leads to making people aware that there was and often still is an issue with what is “truly what” Gullah/Geechee “is said or regarded to be.” Most people never get to encounter “genuine” Gullah/Geechee traditions due to the fact that they look for it to be staged and to be on stage. They forget that language is one component of the cultural heritage of the people. Therefore, they want something that they either find entertaining or that fits with their latest academic assessment of what such a cultural group of indigenous people should sound like and be like. They want us to be “the required type” that fits within the constructs of the parameters that they have established so that they can be experts on who were are. However, when they encounter the true living traditions and those do not coincide with their constructs, they deem the genuine to be unsuitable and inappropriate and they think that which is scripted and acted out to be “proper.”
Those of us that are “distinctively” Gullah/Geechee are those of the “natural colors” that enhance the world via not only the way we paint our houses and art work or by the way we adorn ourselves, but also by the way that we color the world with our rich language. We are often told that we are a “colorful people.” We have no problem with this and would prefer that folks stop trying to paint over who webe!
I have had the opportunity to go and to share this message around the world and to be embraced by numerous indigenous peoples of various ethnicities that tell me to keep up the fight. Keep on speaking your language! Keep on living your traditions! I can hear my ancestors singing, “Oh no! Don tun bak!” When I hear this and begin to sing again, I can continue to go and GOD continues to send me.
No matter where you go, you need to come back home at some point. My returns home bring more and more appreciation for my Gullah/Geechee people. We are a global family that speaks without words. We speak with our souls. We kin yeddi wha hunnuh ain da sey louda din wha hunnuh da sey!
The more I paused under an oak tree or two, I would find myself never alone. One or two Gullah/Geechees would see me and tell me that they appreciate the work that I am doing fa allawe. “Gwine on Queen!” It is in those moments that I realize that these decades of work and going and going have not been in vain. Folks truly do appreciate it! Now we need to celebrate it!
The celebration came as a vision to bring our people to something that is authentically Gullah/Geechee. The Wisdom Circle Council of Elders and I began hosting the “Gullah/Geechee Reunion” at Sullivan’s Island and the reunion evolved into being the Saturday of the annual “Gullah/Geechee Nation International Music & Movement Festival™.” To welcome the festival to Charleston five years ago, Mayor Joseph P. Riley presented me with a proclamation for “Gullah/Geechee Nation Appreciation Week” and from that day on, I knew that people had begun to get passed believing that to be and to speak Gullah/Geechee was “improper.” They recognized that there IS a difference between the language called “English” and the Gullah language. They also realized that what I expressed regarding the fact that when you speak, you do not translate word verbatim, you translate concepts and ideals, was a critical point to accept if you every wanted to get understanding or overstanding of a tradition other than your own. Those that truly appreciate another cultural group realize that listening to that group tell you who they are is the “proper” thing to do. So, now from North Carolina to Florida, counties and towns celebrate “Gullah/Geechee Nation Appreciation Week” because they realize that it is bonafide Gullah/Geechee and that you actually cannot get any more real than that! Fa tru! Disya how we do!
Disya da de chillun wha da shout wid we fa disya “Celebration of Self-Determination” which is the theme for this year’s “Gullah/Geechee Nation Appreciation Week.” When the Gullah/Geechees stood together on Sullivan’s Island to tell people that we stand on our human right to self-determination, this brought about a critical shift in the way the world started to see us. In fact, it started to cause the world to actually see us. Those that have since taken the time to actually and “factually” see us and for those that took the time to respect us for who we had been created to be are the ones that now appreciate us and our traditions. These are the others that embrace us globally and the entire family of those that are proudly and properly Gullah/Geechee that will be a part of our week of Gullah/Geechee appreciation. To this celebration, “I’ll go, if I have to go by myself.” Aaaah, but this time, it sounds like I can hear the drums and clapping in the distance and some folks singing the same words. So, I’m sure when I get there, e gwine be a time crakin we teet and shoutin and gwine on fa tru!
Tenk GAWD fa Gullah/Geechee and fa kno who webe and fa plenee oda chillun wha appreciate we! WEBE Gullah/Geechee anointed and FREE! Cum shout wid mi!