Shoutin with Daniel!
For many years, I have felt as if the Biblical Daniel and I had a bond. I was immediately drawn to the Gullah/Geechee spiritual that chronicles what took place when Hananiah [(חֲנַנְיָה), “Yah (i.e., Yahweh) is gracious”], Mishael [(מִישָׁאֵל), “Who is like God?”] and Azariah [(עֲזַרְיָה), “Yah has helped”] were thrown into the fiery furnace. We sing of them as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego due to the fact that when they were taken from their homeland, their names were changed by the king’s decree. No doubt the Gullah/Geechee ancestors that first sang “Trouble in My Way” were able to relate to this type of alteration to your name and to your heritage due to bondage. So, I am sure that is why up to this moment that song resonance with us when we gather together and someone starts singing it. Aaaah, tenk GAWD! Trubull don lass always!
Just as those men praised GOD when they came forth out of what others were sure would be their certain death, many of us from the Sea Islands have praised GOD through shouting and songs that bear Daniel’s name. De Gullah Cunneckshun and I even recorded such a spiritual for Brookgreen Gardens’ rice overlook. E bin a shoutin time da day tuh fa sho!
For many years, I’ve done the Daniel Fast in order to reflect on the things that have passed and to hear what GOD gives as the direction for what lies ahead. I have also taken the time to re-read the book of Daniel over and over for the 17 years since I was enstooled. Each reading brings a new depth of understanding.
I have always seen the parallels to my people in regard to the strength of the faith of Daniel. I have always seen why I feel akin to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah because even in the courts and lands of others, I do not bow down and alter my traditions and faith in exchange for food and drinks, trinkets, nor what they consider to be advancements. Many times, the further into the courts of others that you go, the more pressure there is from those within to become like they are. Once again, I then hear the Gullah/Geechee voices of my people ring out in my soul and I know that I wouldn’t have ever heard this ancestral connection if they had not held on to it in spite of others telling them to change and fit into their land and their ways.
Tonight I listened closely as Dr. Kenneth C. Doe illuminated the fact that the “cream of the crop” were the ones that we taken from Judah into Babylon. As he spoke, I thought of the Africans that were hand picked to be brought to the Sea Islands due to their skill sets. As I shouted an amen, I turned to the scripture in Daniel 1 that illustrated what the pastor was saying and it read:
3And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;
4Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
I did my best to simply shout in my seat and to hold back my hollering when I read “and understanding science” in order to let everybody get through the entire passage without interruption, but when I got to the end of it which reads: “they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans,” I couldn’t hold back my praise! I was shoutin wid Daniel! I could feel my ancestors their shoutin too! “Gal, hunnuh shum fa tru!” mi bin yeddi dem say.
In the same instant as I shouted out another amen while my feet were moving, I thought of all this interest ivy league schools had in me and how they wanted me to come and study there for my science degrees. I also thought of how they and others continue to seek to dissect the Gullah/Geechee language and our spiritual practices. It has amazed me how folks can’t see what I can see-these that were part of the attempts to destroy our traditions, remove our language and teach us their tongue now are coming back to see what it is that we have and how we held on to it. They are seeking to extract the cream of the crop from the fields of the Sea Islands once again.
This extraction is not new. This has been an on-going thing. Many of us were offered all kinds of incentives to come to their schools and to allow them to “teach us” and shape our thinking if we were in the top ten of our classes. We were courted and offered food and drink at some of the best resort ballrooms that exist in the region. I know because I was one that was courted, but I wasn’t willing to bow. I wasn’t willing to be a part of the group that would be extracted from the Gullah/Geechee brain trust to be placed in another land to enrich it and then never return home. Aaaah, but it took all these years later for me to put that experience together with the experience of these men in the book of Daniel which Pastor Doe summed up this way:
“The king sent for the cream of the crop to make his kingdom better.”
That statement reminded me of a quote by Malcolm X that I have used time and again:
“The political – The economic philosophy of Black Nationalism only means that we have to become involved in a program of reeducation to educate our people into the importance of knowing that when you spend your dollar out of the community in which you live, the community in which you spend your money becomes richer and richer; the community out which you take your money becomes poorer and poorer…. And then what happens?”
What happens when you extract the brain trust of your scientists and those that are skillful with knowledge and wisdom from your community is that you leave your community intellectually and spiritually poor which leads to the economic issues that many think of when they hear the word “poor.” That is why in spite of the Motherland having all the mineral resources, the resources have been extracted and exploited by others and used to make other continents and countries rich. That is why the Gullah/Geechee black gold ancestors were extracted and exploited for their intellectual capacity and the scientific abilities that it took to create a cultural landscape out of the coastal region from Jacksonville, NC to Jacksonville, FL.
The people of the Gullah/Geechee Nation that continue to be the traditionalists have held on to our traditions that were passed down by our ancestors and have held on to the very land that people continue to seek to extract us from. Ef hunnuh kno wha I kno, hunnuh hafa keep holdin pun um pun disya land doe! Thankfully, amongst the traditions that are alive and well are our spiritual traditions. Tenk GAWD fa disya! We holdin pun disya juss likka Daniel dem!
As Pastor Doe said and I have also said many times, “The spirit you feed is the one that’s gonna thrive.” So, it is time to decide if you have the spirit that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had or have you decided that you would prefer to eat the meat of those that feed you in order to keep you in bondage and become who they say you are. I da de Gullah/Geechee Black Gold Anointed Ooman GAWD dun mek mi fa be! I gwine keep standin and shoutin wid Daniel and de shree! AMEN!