Living Through Matthew in the #GullahGeechee Nation
by Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com)
Hurricane Matthew is now etched in my mind with Hurricane David, Hurricane Floyd, Hurricane Sandy, and Tropical Storm Hermine. I thankfully lived through each of these storms while my family and I stayed sheltered on our beloved hollowed ground on historic St. Helena Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation. Matthew left an indelible mark in my mind because it seemed like they were broadcasting its arrival for weeks which were only days, but the marathon watching of the repetition and the predictions of utter earthly destruction on the Weather Channel is what made it seem so long and like a tedious journey before the winds and rains ever arrived.
It also left an indelible mark in my mind because I felt like I was in a glass box hollering and people couldn’t hear my voice. I kept hearing of people that were going to evacuate and I wondered if they were paying attention to the projected path of the storm and the width of it. If they did, they couldn’t out run this in any of our four states, they truly needed to get on I-10 West and head out toward the Gulf and pray nothing decided to come up that coastline during their journey.
I couldn’t believe that people had forgotten that it was the EXACT same time last year when South Carolina was on the national news due to flooding that had NOTHING to do with a hurricane. That water came from inland to the coast when rivers crested and dams and levies broke. Couldn’t they hear me and so many others telling them these things would come due to the climate change dynamics? Did they realize sea level rise wasn’t just in the ocean which means the water wouldn’t always come over the land east to west? Then the Spirit said, “Folks don’t follow directions. The masses are reactionaries.”
As the coverage continued and we prayed unceasingly for the islands of our kins people-Haiti, the Bahamas, and Cuba, we also prayed for all in this pathway of what was going to take every thing from the pages and the Powerpoint presentations of scientific reports and predictions about sea level rise and storm surge and place it on the center stage of real life after having rehearsed as theories. I wondered if the people that I worked with in so many meetings to discuss resilience and adaptation would now be paying attention to the cultural heritage aspects of all of this. I also wondered if equity entered their minds. SMH I continued praying while staying.
As my family and I dug out ditches and packed up critical items in waterproof containers, insured that we had our emergency kits and food and cookers in place and suitcases packed, I kept praying. Each time I went to social media, I kept analyzing how few people were sharing the videos and blogs about how to prepare for this. I saw that I could get more likes when I dress up in a fancy dress than when I actually took the time to share FREE information that could be critical during or after a storm. I wished I could get on the Weather Channel for five minutes to share information with my people so that they would be prepared physically, because only GOD could speak to those that were not prepared spiritually. I couldn’t stay in the midst of the wish because there was more to do lifting files from floors in the archive and insuring that as much as possible was covered up in the event that a ceiling blew off. In the midst of all of this, others that did not live on the coast were calling with regular conversations about paperwork and some even just wanted to chat about what we were going to do. I considered it just a conversation because no matter what else is going on in our lives, they don’t assist or support it. So, right now, they were hindering the progress that we needed to make to live once this storm passes over. SMH I continued praying while working and staying.
We watched as the eye of Matthew sought to become a set and get more vision by getting side by side with Hurricane Nicole. I heard the weatherman tell us to ignore her as if we would after he pointed her out! I decided to share information about what would happen if the two combined and as intriguing as this was to my scientific sensibilities, I prayed against witnessing the Fujiwhara Effect in real life.
I also prayed against seeing Haiti suffer again. I prayed against Cuba and the Bahamas having their buildings torn down and lives lost as they kept raising the category on this storm. I prayed that folks were praying with me for us to shift this storm further east before it got to the Gullah/Geechee Nation. I wanted the storm to go blind and have no eye by the time it got here. As I posted to the prayer warriors worldwide, we prayed together and we stayed together and weathered the storm and fought back with power filled spiritual energy and then the eye started to be less defined and the storm moved a few miles further east keeping the eye off the land. I said, “Praise GAWD fa disya! Keep praying righteous people!”
The days came and went with the same reports of this slow moving storm making its way our way and it got to the point that we were rushing him to get on out east completely or come on past and go about your business! Yet, he resisted and we resisted letting him dampen our spirits. We knew he would dampen the ground, but not our souls.
The dampening that he did do was one that unimaginable! When the rains and winds arrived, we watched the sun go down as they moved around. We went to bed to sleep when the lights were suddenly knocked out after a very loud sound that sounded like a transformer exploding. Occasionally, the howling winds woke me, but the peace in my soul allowed me to go back and sleep. It wasn’t until my mother started walking around that I was awakened and I thought it was near dawn, but once I got up with her it seemed like hours and hours we sat waiting for the sun to rise. I decided to go back to sleep since sunrise seemed to be moving as slow as the storm. I awoke to sitting in the midst of what looked like a rice field in the front and a creek or lake front to our right. Trees that used to shade us were now laying down to the left. Praise GOD, we were still standing and dry and safe!
Now, I wondered what was on the other side of the rest of our buildings on the family compound and what was down the roads. The howling winds that we heard for hours in the darkness as the rain swirled and swirled around the building and we heard things rolling around made it sound like everything was blowing away. So, I couldn’t wait for the wind to cease to get out and about in the light of day.
Well, when the wind ceased a bit, I got out a few feet and then couldn’t go any further unless I wanted to get blown away or be one to drown in the standing water. The car was surrounded and I had no intention of attempting to wade to it. I prayed that the starter was dry. I gave thanks that besides that fact that it looked like I had driven it overboard, it was kept out of harms way. I gave thanks that we had been kept out of harms way and I continued to pray.
De Gullah/Geechee Ga’dun
I posted on Facebook and Instagram so that folks knew we had made it through and gave them a short video so that they too could see from my point of view. I prayed that they would remember this moment and stay rallied together without a storm from here on. Otherwise, why live on? Why still be here to work to try to help more people in the world if they don’t seem to care what information you provide or what you share? Why be here together if we choose not to help one another? I wasn’t praying this time. I was just waiting to hear GOD speak as GOD spoke to me ahead of the storm to tell me to get to the island and to stay. I waited to hear the answers, but GOD was holding this conversation for another day.
I spiritually listened as I proceeded with doing the things that I could do such as documenting this historic journey living through Matthew. I thought about getting to COP22 next month with others of the world to tell my story and how I can couple this with all the reports from my scientific and environmental community. I prayed that as folks joined with me in prayer through the storm, that they would now stick with and support me and my Gullah/Geechee family. Yes, the ones that I knew were also still alive on this island because in the distance I could feel their energy. Tenk GAWD fa keepin we! Tenk GAWD fa anointed we! WEBE Gullah/Geechee! Ta GAWD be de gloree! Now, I prayed that those that left would make it back safely.
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) stands proudly at her family compound giving thanks as the waters of Hurricane Matthew slowly recede from the land. Tenk GAWD fa de blessed Gullah/Geechee land!
Please support the fundraising effort to get Queen Quet to the United Nation’s COP22 Conference: https://www.gofundme.com/QueenQuetCOP22
Also, you can support the Gullah/Geechee Nation’s Storm Rebuilding and Preparation efforts by donating here or bringing a group to the coast to assist: https://www.gofundme.com/gullahgeecheestorm
Support the “Gullah/Geechee Land & Legacy World Tour” by bringing Queen Quet to your city or center to provide storm preparedness workshops as well as to present on cultural heritage. Gwine ta www.QueenQuet.com
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- Tagged: climate change, climate science, COP22, cultural heritage, Disaster Preparedness, Geechee, Gullah, Gullah/Geechee Nation, hurricane, Hurricane Matthew, Lowcountry, Queen Quet, Sea Islands, sea level rise, United Nations