Most visitors to the Gullah/Geechee Nation tend to only seek West African links. However, during my journey to Morocco, I found a number of cultural connections there as well. The herbal healing practices including the homegrown mint used for tea, the fry bread in the morning for breakfast, the rag rugs, and keeping the family together so that none of the elders ever live alone all reminded me of my own people. I felt right at home and was even told that I was part of the family.
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and Sister Aminah preparing Argan oil.
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation with Berber flour and couscous grinding stones.
As the journey continued and I got to see and work with grinders that were small units used to create essential oils and then moved on to see the grinders that were used for flour and couscous, my spirit relinked to using the grinders for flour and grits on the Sea Islands. As I walked through homes and saw their handcrafted items on the bed for warmth, I pictured my own home and my mother’s and grandmothers’ with handmade quilts on the beds. Then just as in the homes of my foremothers, I was told to sit down and eat.
As I walked along the waters of the river, I took in the peace that I find whenever I am where the rivers of our fathers and foremothers flow. I also wondered where these rivers flow to and with what larger body they ultimately connect. It only took a little while to find out that we were only a few hours from the shore. Essaouira was a fishing town with bateau boats dyed in indigo which reminded me of home once again. I thought about how some of our ancestors could easily have journeyed from here to do trade and been caught in the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. I later found out that the sultan here had controlled this port so that all international trade would come through it. He blocked European and American commerce and culture from his other cities. The Africans here are a blend of Arab, Jewish and Berber people. Learning this clarified why so many symbols in buildings and jewelry seemed to represent more than one thing from different cultural practices all blended together. My mind drifted the blending that went on in our praise houses as various ethnicities and spiritual practices linked and went forth to sustain my people.
As we traversed the roads through the valleys and then up into the mountains, I gave thanks for the strength of the women here that I saw hauling items on their backs on the dirt roads and herding the animals. They reminded me of my mother and the elder mothers of my island and all the hard labor that they had gone through while hauling babies on their backs and baskets on their heads as some of these women were also still doing. I thought about the many early mornings that I awoke and traveled fo dayclean ta de field. I could feel myself balancing my neck as I saw other women with the baskets on their heads the way I carried mine in the fields and how I still carry them on stages now around the world and bring out our continuing African traditions from them for groups of people that still want to learn how we thrived and survived.
I gave thanks for the citizens of the Gullah/Geechee Nation that continue our fishing, quilting, basketmaking, and healing traditions. I gave thanks for those that still speak our language and live in our family compounds farming our lands. The journey of reconnection kept me uplifted as I took time to pause and give thanks in the High Atlas Mountains above it all. I was ready to come back down the mountain and across the oceans to tell the story of the journey and how we should appreciate how as much as we have evolved and advanced in our community, we still hold on to the things that are valuable in the Motherland-GOD, family, and the land. Tenk GAWD fa disya.