As everyone that has encountered me is well aware of, I greet people with “Peace.” In the midst of the global panic due to the pandemic, I have watched that word evolve in my existence and surround me and keep me within that peace. Yes, “Peace be still.” I continue to speak and live that statement unlike those that I see encroaching on the peace of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
As everyone that Googles me finds out, I have spent four decades of my life fighting for Gullah/Geechee cultural continuation and land ownership. I encourage native Gullah/Geechees to be good stewards that hold onto our cultural traditions in order to maintain not only our cultural heritage, but our quality of life. That quality of life not only includes keeping our environment healthy, but being able to socially engage with one another in person which uplifts and enriches our spirits and allows us to share island stories and family histories while passing down traditions.
Those that support me in this work are the folks that I often laugh with about how we can be under a tent or a tree at an event crakin we teet wid one nudda and ting and here comes someone that is not Gullah/Geechee rudely invading our personal space without even a greeting of “Hi” or asking “Can I join you?” As a result, my security has had to escort people away and our Minister of Protocol or Minister of Information has had to find out what the person wants and to attempt to provide them with the proper protocol. Some of the people who were raised with manners apologize and are happy to learn that there are protocols for approach and some will even ask why my greetings is what it is and why I do NOT shake hands. (I pray that the world keeps with that after this is all over so that I don’t have to field that question anymore.) Most of the time, the person simply had no social skills that indicated to her that she was rude (men usually don’t try to pull up a seat, they usually get stopped for trying to walk all the way up to me to try and shake my hand and get offended when told that you don’t shake the Queen’s hand). Those folks just feel that they are going to get the Gullah/Geechee Safari opportunity that they came for by running into the midst of a circle of us without an invitation to be part of a private conversation. Some have even turned on recording devices and ran over because they heard our language drifting toward them in the wind and when we stopped talking, they leaned their heads sideways and stood in silence until I said, “You need to turn that off.” Once again, they get offended for invading the privacy of our sacred and private times of connections with one another.
Well, given all that I have already dealt with for 20 years as Queen, I sat back and waited to see how those of other cultures would end up putting our folks at risk during the pandemic. I KNEW it was coming! I knew it wouldn’t be Gullah/Geechee folks that were going to be the major issue and I was right! I sat back and wondered about the misdirected attempt to contain the virus by disallowing international flights, but allowing intercontinental flights from hot spots to other states. I thought about the grounding of flights while folks still own cars and the interstate highway is still open. I thought about how hard-headed people are and the selfishness in the world. Then I logged on to social media and saw it all unfolding.
As soon as images about Florida beaches went viral, folks found out that our state parks in South Carolina that had beaches were opened and they not only drove in from hot spots, but flew down. I went out to do a site check and didn’t encounter one Gullah/Geechee, but instead numerous state license plates and conversations by people stating where they had come from to the coast. Oh, yes, these conversations were being held face-to-face without 3 good feet between these folks. I was not surprised given how many times in my life I have had to tell folks to step back and stop invading my personal space especially when I worked in corporate environments and go to meetings in such settings. So, I kept my distance and shook my head. As I traveled back to my compound, I could see the handwriting in the sand of the coming issues of the pandemic in our county which had zero cases at that point.
Well, sure enough, one week later, there are announcements of numerous cases of folks testing positive and there are protest along our coast ironically by Anglo folks that have moved here themselves that now want to stop the tourists from getting to the beaches that they have built houses, resorts, and restaurants on. I have heard town council meetings from Hilton Head Island where a councilwoman stated “It’s not fair” in reference to people not having passes to get to the beach. Once again, I shook my head. It is a wonder that I do not have to wear a neck brace due to all the madness that I am hearing and seeing. It was fair to gate out native Gullah/Geechees and when we said that this was spatial segregation and racism, that wasn’t anything worthy of discussing, but now that people are not even supposed to be out and about, fairness of waterway access is a discussion! WOW!
Well, speaking of waterway access, I went out on Sunday for essentials for the family compound to only find that the Beaufort River had more boats in it than I had ever seen in my life. Even the Water Festival doesn’t have this amount of people riding up and down the river with loads of friends in the boats! I said out loud, “Here we go! This is another problem!” There is no social distancing in those boats. These people have come from elsewhere here instead of staying where they were simply because could afford to get in a boat and travel. Now, what is this going to cause?”
I got the answer to my question yesterday and my peace was then disrupted! Governor McMaster of South Carolina made a blanket closure of beaches and all public docks and ramps because of people being disobedient to instructions. Once again, it only takes someone coming to one of my interactive sessions or volunteering with a group that I am leading for you to know that I believe in folks following instructions. “Obedience is greater than sacrifice.” So, if you want to sacrifice yourself to the study of the coronavirus and how people succumb to it, do not do it at our expense. We prefer that you are obedient to the social distancing and sheltering in place order where you actually live as your primary residence, pay taxes and receive snail mail.
This latest order from the governor now brings me from my sacred peace back into the world of politics because I cannot have Gullah/Geechee families fined nor jailed for going out getting food to sustain themselves while this lockdown of the world takes place. We cannot afford to have anything escalate and become an incident between law enforcement and us because they are preventing our traditional practices. Folks went to the store and we went to the field and to the creek. Now, due to non-Gullah/Geechee others that went out to frolick, they are again causing harm to our cultural sustainability and continuation and that is NOT acceptable! We were already fighting to keep our traditional fishing methods going without being fined and jailed for “fishing while Black” and now this!
I continue to pray that in the midst of all of this, people will learn basic human respect. I pray that people who come from cultures of invasion will learn to respect boundaries for the health and safety of the world. I pray that the peace of the Gullah/Geechee Nation will be restored.
Part of the peace that balanced out the madness that I observe from others is seeing the reports of how the ozone layer is healing. I see that as a true blessing given all the work that global climate actors have been doing to encourage people to go green and alter their lifestyles in ways that will reduce the pollution that we emit into the air and the water. Folks swore up and down that they couldn’t ride together to places, but now that folks tell them to ride alone and stay away from others they are car and boat pooling! So, it seems that just being told not to do something like go outside caused folks to go out and now enjoy outdoors with their children and grandchildren instead of staying in and running up the electric bills and stressing the electrical grids. I pray that this social distancing that has actually brought folks literally and figuratively home to be with their family members helps Gullah/Geechees to appreciate all the more the traditional ways that we played outdoors and that we pass that down to the children while they are home.
That we appreciate the cousins that we wish we could gather for a small fish fry of 50-75 of us right now. That we appreciate the value in working outdoors and planting in the field and how that sunshine and bending adds to your health and quality of life.
I pray that my “Queen’s Chronicles” can soon return to simple reflections of journeys to communities where I get to share not only the legacy of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, but share in the lessons from folks that I get to learn from as I visit them where they are. Those journeys are not to bring destructionment or illness to others by disturbing their peace. They are all about touching one another emotionally and spiritually and spreading love and upliftment to all. Maybe we need to tell folks not to do that and then they will disobey that order too. SMH as I send out love and peace from the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast to all of you.