#AuthenticallyGullahGeechee Organizations in the Gullah/Geechee Nation

Due to the fact that the native Gullah/Geechees that came together decades ago to insure that they were properly recognized as a nation did this successfully, there has been an increase in tourism related activities in their region. Millions of people visit the Gullah/Geechee Nation seeking to connect to the traditions and cultural heritage of the people. Unfortunately, this has created a parallel operation to divert the financial benefits away from the native Gullah/Geechees and to send it through non-Gullah/Geechee operated organizations and institutions.

Given that the native founded and operated organizations and institutions were established to insure that their culture is accurate represented and presented, they continue to carry out their missions in spite of the opposition and lack of support that they receive from the new organizations that came into being after them. These native Gullah/Geechee organizations and institutions are:

• The Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition (www.GullahGeechee.net) was the first organization to exist in the world that contained the term “Gullah/Geechee.” This organization was founded by Marquetta L. Goodwine whose roots stem from Polowona, Dataw, and St. Helena Islands in Beaufort County, SC. She has since been enstooled as Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. Queen Quet continues to lead the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition to carry out its mission. The Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition:

  • advocates for the rights of all Gullah/Geechee people around the world
  • promotes and participates in the preservation of Gullah/Geechee history, heritage, culture, and language.
  • works toward Sea Island land re-acquisition and maintenance.
  • celebrates Gullah/Geechee culture through artistic and educational means electronically and via “grassroots scholarship.”

Each year the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition host hundreds of visitors and volunteers at “De Hunnuh Home Gullah/Geechee Research Center.” They sponsor “Gullah/Geechee Volunteer Month” annually and people come to the Sea Islands of the Gullah/Geechee Nation from across the United States to assist with the efforts to sustain the environment and the Gullah/Geechee culture.

The Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition collaborates with the official 501(c)3 non-profit for the Gullah/Geechee Nation, the Gullah/Geechee Angel Network (www.GullahGeecheeAngelNetwork.com).

• Elder Carlie Towne, the Minister of Information for the Gullah/Geechee Nation, who is a native of Union Heights in Charleston, SC, evolved the “Gullah Geechee People Foundation” into the Gullah/Geechee Angel Networkwhich:

To preserve, protect and promote the cultural heritage of the Gullah/Geechee People who have lived in the southeastern portion of the United States of America from North Carolina to Jacksonville Florida 30 miles inland (known as the “LowCountry”) for over 300 years. To connect all people, not just in the 50 states, but internationally throughout the Diaspora, Europe, Caribbean and Africa.

Goals and Objectives are achieved by the implementation of the following seven (7) point program:

The Performing Arts:  Musical plays, dramatizations, poetry, storytelling, enactments and workshops

Arts and Crafts:  Workshops in the production and displaying of traditional Gullah/Geechee cultural items.  Demonstrative workshops that encourage the development of functional skills and forms of expression to potentially showcase and stimulate direct participation in the growing ethnic tourism industry, festivals and cultural events.

Educational:  The establishment of Cultural Learning Centers designed to foster motivation, achievement and cultural enrichment.  Historical/Research excursions from the tip of North Carolina (Cape Fear) to the outlining areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

Scholarships and Awards:  Lifetime Achievement Award programs and events recognizing those persons who have given selflessly of themselves, and have done considerable work for the benefits of their particular community as it relates to cultural preservation.  Awarding Scholarships to youth who exhibit talent, and are oriented toward developing skills which foster Gullah/Geechee Culture.

The Internet and The Media:  Networking with organizations, institutions and groups which focus on Gullah/Geechee Culture.  Consistently present positive role models and activities to the low country in particular, and to in the Diaspora in general.

Production, Preservation and Documentation:  Production and archiving of Gullah/Geechee video and audio recordings, books, symbols and banners.  Radio, television and computer production programming.

Health and Nutrition Awareness:  Forums and symposiums which explore lifestyles, food staples, food cultivation and preparation of Gullah/Geechee cuisine, as well as developing holistic programs to promote well being.

The Gullah/Geechee Angel Network is currently renovating “Yenna Chiren House” which will serve as a community cultural center.

Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Committee of Northeast Florida (https://www.facebook.com/neflaggcommittee/) also works in collaboration with both of these organizations.

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Committee of Northeast Florida was founded in 2003 by Representative Glenda Simmons-Jenkins, William Jefferson, Mother Laura Rhodes, Nanette Autry, Denise Jefferson, Gary Autry, Gloria Jean Thomas and Luvenia Simon. They work to insure that the native Gullah/Geechees of Florida are aware of their cultural heritage traditions including holding onto their land. They sponsor numerous meetings and spiritual gatherings annually including “Worship by the Sea.”

Geechee Kunda was founded by Jim and Pat Bacote who are natives of St. Simon’s Island and Riceboro, GA. Geechee Kunda is a cultural education facility that uses culture as a vehicle for mental empowerment, intellectual liberation, and spiritual healing.  They host “The Gathering” on the third Saturday in April and the “Sugar Cane Harvest” the Saturday after Thanksgiving annually. Tours of the museum are provided by appointment.

These organizations have collaborated on numerous efforts to save heirs property and to educate our people about their human rights, land rights, and water rights. They continue to lead the charge to insure that Gullah/Geechee culture continues to exist for the generations to come. The biggest challenge to their work has been the continue economic disenfranchisement that has been fueled by US government entities that are supported by federal grants receiving publicity and funding to assist in continuing to set tourist traps of staged activities labeled “Gullah Geechee.” These funds then to not make it back to the traditional Gullah/Geechee citizens so that they are empowered to continue to remain on their land and not simply become the subjects of thesis papers, Powerpoint presentations, books authored by people outside of their communities, or exhibitions.

The Gullah Society which focuses on preserving and honoring ancestral burial areas has recently joined the Gullah/Geechee Angel Network and the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition in their efforts.

All of these organizations and the Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank support the on-going work to protect traditional fishing rights that is led by the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association (www.GullahGeecheeFishing.net).

The Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association host the Gullah/Geechee Seafood Festival on even numbered years in order to raise awareness of the issues that they face while fighting to keep their traditions alive. This event is held in October on Hunting Island, SC.

We salute these self-funded and globally supported Gullah/Geechee organizations and institutions that are native owned and operated. Ef hunnuh wan kno who webe, den hunnuh hafa journee ya fa yeddi de TRUT frum we! WEBE Gullah/Geechee Anointed People and we #ProudlyAuthenticallyGullahGeechee!

www.GullahGeecheeNation.com

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