Holding onto Gullah/Geechee Culture as the Climate Changes the Coast

By Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com)

Hunnuh chillun probably ain nebba yeddi bout who webe.  WEBE Gullah/Geechee Anointed People pun disya island een de sea.  “Gullah” is the language of my community.  From it emerged a dialect called “Geechee.”  As much as many have never heard of these words or our language and culture, many citizens of the Gullah/Geechee Nation on the Sea Islands from Jacksonville, NC to Jacksonville, FL had never heard of “climate change,” “global warming,” or “sea level rise” and when we did, the terms in English had no bearing on the reality of what we live and did not coincide with our Mother Tongue.  To us, the seasons are what change, it is hot here a lot of the time, and the sea rises and falls a couple of times per day and we call it “changing tides.” So, I realized when I overstood the language being spoken by climate scientists that I had to translate this into the language of my people and change the tide of misinformation that they received about what was taking place around the world.  I quickly found out that I also had to change the face of the images projected of who were the ones that were concerned about the reality that was coming about due to climate change.

My people-Gullah/Geechee and Black folks in general-were not seen in the messaging and imagery of who was being impacted by outcomes of climate change.  Yet, I’ve found myself not only standing beneath the majestic oaks of the Sea Islands trying to find some coolness on 90 to 100 degree days, but also standing amidst the roots of the same types of trees along our shoreline where they have fallen due to days and days of torrential rains when there wasn’t even a hurricane nor tropical storm in sight.  

Yes, in sight.  Insight.  

Helping people become more insightful about their actions including excluding those of us on the front shorelines of this issue has become my reality.  Given that those that I have encountered on this journey into climate science have announced climate change as an existential threat to the very existence of human life in the world which has an anthropocene root, I have worked on my own cultural communities impacts on the earth and our waterways and sought ways to get people to depart from learned behaviors of the modern world that are wasteful and destructive and to live in balance with all living beings as our ancestors taught us to do.  If we nurture Mother Earth, she will continue to nurture us.  We da de land and de wata and de wata and de land da we.  

The land is our family and the waterways are our bloodline in the Gullah/Geechee Nation.  So, as I take a stand for the land, I am taking a stand for my ancestors, my kinspeople, and for the children yet to be born.  The waters of the Sea Islands have literally sustained my people physically and spiritually for generations and I want to insure that it is able to do so for future generations long after I am gone.  So, I intend to continue to work with those around the world to bring the Paris Agreement from being a document to being what we all live. I want all of us in the imagery of who fought this and got the victory.  I know that if we hold onto the coast, we will hold on to Gullah/Geechee culture and I work, live, and fight for that to be a reality.

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation is one of the global leaders that helped launch and is a leader of the “Climate Heritage Network.” 

She continues to fight for climate action.  In order to enhance her skills for the fight, she recently became a “Climate Reality Leader” and will join the global coalition of 21,000 leaders that will continue to advocate for science based climate action.

2 Comments

  1. marvia robertson

    I am so proud big my people. You guys have held onto your roots, not like the rest of us in this United States. I would love to visit you guys. I am very interested in way you live and hold on. I wish I lived there. I hope one day soon I’ll be able to visit, and probably won’t wanna leave. Much love 😍

    • Peace Marvia!

      Unfortunately, a lot of folks don’t leave once they come and that causes displacement. So, hang out with us at events after the coronavirus gets under control, but don’t move. 🙂

      Stay safe and healthy!

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