Every year on September 9th, I take the time to honor Cato and our Angolan ancestors that stood up to fight their way to freedom in 1739. The battle that they strategized to lead is called “Cato’s Rebellion” or the “Stono Rebellion” which launched the Gullah Wars. Dr. Y N Kly wanted to correct the historical record that referred to the battles that were primarily led by our African ancestors from what is now the Gullah/Geechee Nation. Therefore, his chapter in my first anthology, “The Legacy of Ibo Landing: Gullah Roots of African American Culture” is aptly entitled “The Gullah Wars” and not the “Seminole Wars.” The coining of the phrase “The Gullah Wars” not only enlightened people nationally and internationally about the falsehood of a narrative that relegated Gullah/Geechee culture to that of the past depicting our ancestors as simple field hands or to the tourism presentation of simply being entertainers and working in kitchens. Since the release of the anthology, I have found myself engaged in multiple actions concerning the location of where the Stono Rebellion took place and another is taking place now that we have to sound the drums and make people aware of and not allow it to get buried in the narrative crafted by those who bring destruction to our natural environment and the cultural heritage of Gullah/Geechees.
As I recently passed the Stono Rebellion Marker and vividly recalled the day that we unveiled it, I also felt a sense of concern as we proceeded southward on the King’s Highway. On the anniversary of the Stono Rebellion this week, I got the confirmation for my concern when I was informed that next Thursday, September 16th at 6pm, the Town of Ravenel’s Planning Commission will be holding a public hearing to consider the annexation and rezoning of two tracts of land adjacent Caw Caw County Park.
Caw Caw is a place that I will never forget since this 3,000 acres site that was once a Carolina Gold rice plantation was the first place where I ever saw a mother alligator with her multiple newborns enjoying the wetlands and I thought of how truly dangerous this place and space had to be for my ancestors as they cleared the land and toiled the fields. Unfortunately, the dangers of destructionment are what we have to continue to toil against in order to continue to protect these vital land masses that tell our story and assist us with keeping an ecological balance by protecting valuable wetlands and areas for wildlife. The more of these way have, the better for our human health and the sustainability of the Lowcountry.
Many people visit this area to attend the annual “First Flush Festival” held at the only tea farm in North America. The tea farm has been a sponsor of the “Gullah/Geechee Nation International Music & Movement Festival™” in the past. The folks from the farm came out from Wadamalaw to downtown Charleston to bring us large bags filled with tea bags for everyone and I have had a loyalty to purchasing tea grown here in the Gullah/Geechee Nation ever since. The roots of this tea stems from the location that is now being threatened by destructionment plans via an annexation. The Town of Ravenel is set to discuss the property that was where tea bushes from the original Pinehurst Tea Plantation were planted before moving to the present location on Wadmalaw in the 1960s.
McLeod Timber Company has petitioned the Town of Ravenel to annex and rezone two tracts. One is a 163 acre-tract that is already in the Town and zoned Agricultural Residential which limits building to one house per acre. The other tract is 2,889 acres currently in unincorporated Charleston County and zoned Resource Management which limits its density to one house per 25 acres. Combined, the current as-of-right zoning allows for 279 units.
McLeod Timber Company is requesting the rezoning of both 163-acre property and the 233 acres of the larger property to be rezoned Planned Development to allow for a mixed-use development with up to 400 houses and commercial uses. They want the remaining 2,656 acres to be rezoned Agricultural Residential which would increase the allowed number of residential units from currently 116 units to 2,656 units. Combined that would allow up to 3,056 potential houses!
In addition to the increase in density, this would also push Ravenel’s municipal boundary north nearly to County Line Road, adjacent the controversial Poplar Grove. In 2003, destructioneers sought approval to build 5,000 homes on that property and it was cut down to 400 in 2004 when many in the conservation movement stood together against the proposal. Ultimately, a conservation easement was purchased in that case. However, in 2013 the destructioneer tried again to annex the remaining property into the Town of Hollywood to upzone the remaining 750 undeveloped acres by 175%, which was also thwarted by broad public opposition. Now, there is an attempt to annex which is usually a tactic used along the coast when folks seek to upzone and bring in massive destructionment projects. If the annexation and upzoning were to pass, more than 3,000 homes could be built on the headwaters of Rantowles Creek—which flows into the Stono River which is the location for which the Stono Rebellion is named. Currently, there are fewer than 300 homes are allowed there. In order to keep this overbuilding from happening in this environmentally sensitive and historic areas, we must be like Cato and the Angolan men and continue to fight back along the Carolina coast. We have to work and march together for liberty! We need to take a stand to protect the land! Disya da de Gullah War 2021! Disya ting ain dun dun!
I pray that you will take the time to write in, call in, zoom in and speak out against the annexation of this property! Tell the Planning and Zoning Commission to the deny the requests!
The Town of Ravenel Planning and Zoning Commission meets on
Thursday, September 16 at 6 p.m. at the Ravenel Town Hall, 5962 Highway 165, Ravenel, SC