I have been a supporter of the National Park Service for 25 years. I first learned that that there was a reality to Yogi Bear when I picked up a document concerning the Underground Railroad Study and called the 800 number on it to find out how my organization-the Afrikan Kultural Arts Network (AKAN™) could assist with providing input and support for this critical project. The telephone call led me not only learning of the existence of the National Park Service and the public lands that our tax dollars go into, but also to decades of partnerships and collaborations in celebration of the history of America told on publicly owned lands.
Each year, I look forward to celebrating National Park Week due to the fact that I have served with the National Park Service in a variety of capacities over the years including as a consultant and as a member of the National Park Relevancy Committee. The biggest problem for me as an advocate for national parks that helped get the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor established has been the fact that there were no actual park sites in my immediate area and none on my island. I am pleased that all of that has changed now given that we also got the “Reconstruction Era National Monument” established as a multi-site historic monument in Beaufort County, SC which includes sites on historic St. Helena Island.
As much as I am celebrating National Park Week April 21st through 28th along with the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, by traveling to national parks in the midwest and Great Plains, I am truly looking forward to people traveling to my home county to celebrate our national monument the first weekend of June when we host the “Realities of Reconstruction Conference.” National Park Week is dubbed “as a time to explore amazing places, discover stories of history and culture.” The Reconstruction Era National Monument and our conference that will explore the sites within it will allow the participants to celebrate the historic legacy and culture of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
As I look out over the waters in the plains, I can only think of the waters of the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast and the many stories that flow there. I also think of the tide of change that we see happening to the national parks and how we need that tide to change toward continuing to protect these historic lands for the public to enjoy forever. These are spaces of many untold stories that inspire the continuation of exploration and courage like that of those who tread these areas decades ago and left their marks. The natural treasures inspire us to not just celebrate, but contribute to encouraging the existence of more healthy open spaces to which families can go and breath, relax, and learn.
Tenki Tenki ta all supportin de national parks! I’m enjoying the journey!