25 years ago in a vision my ancestors said to me, “Hunnuh mus tek cyare de root fa heal de tree.” That became not only the slogan for the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition which GOD directed me to be the founder of, this also became my daily mission.
This mission has had many highs and successes, but it has also become painful to see people exploit this phrase and incorrectly state that it is a “Gullah/Geechee proverb” instead of finding out the truth about how it starting being used globally. I can recall when Dr. Y N Kly of the “International Human Rights Association for American Minorities” let me know how people at the United Nations had become inspired by me writing this and saying this in those international halls. I recall how Superintendent Robin White of the National Park Service contacted me to inform me that she quoted me saying this and Native Americans began chanting it. She quickly had to make sure that they realized the source of it. These folks both realized the value of truth and accuracy in representing the Gullah/Geechee story after decades of seeing people attempt our erasure and exploit our cultural traditions. I appreciate them both for standing up to insure that on their watch, the truth would be told and not a revision of the narrative as I have recently come to see online in postings.
I have dedicated over 4 decades of my life to insuring that the Gullah/Geechee community and the environment from which my culture stems is healed and protected for future generations. So, it pains my soul along the way as people contribute to narratives of untruths and inaccuracies. which are exploitive and ultimately lead to erasure and erodes the culture. This erosion contributes to cultural degradation and turns things of power into being trite and insignificant. My culture and my coast is too important not only to native Gullah/Geechees, but to the world for me to sit idle and allow that. So, I give thanks to GOD for giving me purpose and voice to speak out about injustices such as these and fa gee me de tool fa tek cyare de root fa heal de tree and heal we.
Healing is an active process. Repeating what someone else says is not going to bring about the healing that is needed to insure the continuation of the cultural heritage and traditions of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. First and foremost, those that live the traditions must continue to do so and to pass them on. Second, they must own and have the land on which to pass down these traditions.
As the climate changes, the ocean acidifies, the sea levels rise, and the hurricanes and tropical storms become more intense and are more frequent, having the land becomes an even more daunting task than protecting your own vision and words from being exploited and capitalized on by others. Yet, I stand as a living testimony to the fact that when GOD gives you a purpose, GOD will equip you to carry out the mission that is connected to that purpose.
As I celebrate 21 years as the head pun de bodee fa de Gullah/Geechee Nation and approach the 25th anniversary of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, which was the first organization to ever exist in the world with the words “Gullah/Geechee” put together, I give thanks for vision and purpose in spite of how much effort and energy they may take. I also give thanks for those that celebrate this journey with me consistently and those coming to help achieve the goal of healing the environment of my Sea Island community.
Within the past month, I have been asked to be a part of numerous national and international initiatives that focus on climate action via resiliency. Some of that work was captured in two articles that have gone viral:
These came out as I embarked on leading a resiliency plan for my beloved St. Helena Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation. In the midst of the myriad of meetings, I give thanks for how GOD is orchestrating the implementation of these plans that will be modeled along the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast in order to insure the continuation of the existence of the Sea Islands. As the Sea islands are sustained, I continue to fight to insure that on them, Gullah/Geechee culture is continued. The problems that are at the root continue to surface as we dig, but as a woman of faith, I am assured that we binya and ain gwine nowhey tall tall!
As I proceed out and about the island to assess the coastline, I am often taken back to the night that I was awakened from the deep conversation with the ancestors. I often sit amidst the roots of trees on the shoreline that exemplify their strength and symbolize who webe as Gullah/Geechee. As I touch these roots, they touch me and we reach back generations in order to protect the future of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
Hunnuh chillun, disya ting ain bout juss wod and ting wha hunnuh yeddi. Disya spiritual and ebeeting ain gwine be fa hunnuh shum. Disya fa dem wha GAWD bless wid de spirit da duh see. Den hunnuh gwine hab de hand fa tek cyare de root fa heal de tree. Hunnuh betta mind ef hunnuh da tro round disya wod and ting lightlee! Disya ain pley pley! WEBE anointed Gullah/Geechee!
Tenk GAWD fa hep we hol pun de land and pun who webe!