As I stood proudly on land where freedom was supposedly declared, I realized that being free is a lived experience that some that use the word have actually never had. This is the devastating reality that lies starkly before me as I stand in a park supposedly for “freedom” while all around the rest of the island is enslavement-gated, mental and spiritual enslavement. Of all of the Sea Islands that continues to serve as an overwhelming example of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome which has increased the displacement and genocide of Gullah/Geechees, Hilton Head is it! Yet, millions of people continue to finance the genocide annually and those receiving blood money believe that it will make them free.
I have been going to Hilton Head Island for decades and I have witnessed the destructionment of it first hand. So, much so, that I coined the phrase “destructionment” in my first anthology, “The Legacy of Ibo Landing: Gullah Roots of African American Culture” to counteract the psychological methodology of marketing people’s destruction and the degradation of land as
a specified state of growth or advancement.
a new and refined product or idea.
Meeting after meeting along the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida, we hear destructioneers and their cohorts touting that we need to “advance” via their “ideas” about “growth” when in reality their ideas generally come from the time of the “gentry” which is a European construct that always leads to the colonization, loss of cultural traditions and death of other people and of Mother Earth. “Destructionment” made what was taking place on Hilton Head, Fripp and Harbor Islands in Beaufort County, SC more accurate than the chosen use of the word “development” which was the way to shake into people’s view a certain picture that was a snap shot of gated areas and golf courses with club houses designed to replicate the plantation big house sitting along the water’s edge even if it was on top of the burial areas of native Gullah/Geechees. Oops! The Hilton Head ones don’t want to be called “Gullah/Geechee.” They donned the title “native islander” not thinking about what that term has meant historically-the ones to assimilate and those that don’t get assimilated, we displace or destroy.
When you are a citizen of a nation, you have human rights and you are engaged in the process of your own self-determination and self-sufficiency, but self-determination also affords the right to choose what you want to do. Unfortunately, many “native islanders” of Hilton Head chose individuality and the assimilation of American society over being a citizen of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. As I reflect back on it, it appears that they couldn’t be drawn to a direction that would protect their land and invest in the sustainability of Gullah/Geechee cultural heritage due to the fact that this had long left their minds and communities. One need only go to www.SaintHelenaGullahGeechee.com to read the history of Hilton Head once the bridge came. However, when Mitchelville was built, there was an institutionalizing of dependency upon the ideas brought in by the Anglo society that was allowed to incubate in the isolation of the island before the bridge. The school that was established in the town named for an Anglo man, provided the same type of education that missionary schools such as Penn Center provided. These places did not celebrate African language, Gullah/Geechee spiritual practices nor traditions. They were designed by those of European ancestry to dictate to those of African and indigenous descent what they believed to be “proper” and that always meant to do away with the fact that GOD gave us a mother tongue called “Gullah” and a beautiful and powerfilled culture. The first way to defeat someone is to take their power.
Lately, a lot of talk about power and power structures for people of African descent is centered on the word “agency” without looking at the “agents” of destructionment that are within the group. People that continue to discount the leadership and wisdom within their own ranks aid and abet and often end up being the agents of the genocide of their own group. I often think of Rwanda and the genocide brought on because people that were blood related were divided by ethnic names and cultural nuances that are naturally a part of all nations. Propaganda was used as a tool to seed division so that those that should be working and standing together would turn on one another and eventually kill each other. Thus, I have worked for decades to stop people from allowing de buckra propaganda to continue to be perpetuated in the Gullah/Geechee Nation by way of people referring to themselves as “saltwater Geechee,” “Geechee Gullah,” “Geechie” (Ain no “I” een “Geechee” ef e da we!) and yes, “native islander.”
When I started the “Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition” in 1994, placing “Gullah/Geechee” together with a slash and not allowing a space between the words was intentionally designed to insure that there was no space between us. Being a mathematician, I also know that intention of ” -” and did not want anything else subtracted from us and would not use that symbol either. There is meaning and value in all symbols including placing a space between “Gullah” and “Geechee” or dropping one word and not using both in the historical chronological order of their existence in a united way. Using “Gullah/Geechee” was a new “development” given that this was the first time in world history and ourstory that anyone had ever put the two words together. The GullahGeechee Sea Island Coalition was the first organization to exist with the words Gullah/Geechee united and the first to ever place a website on the internet and begin a listserve focused on Gullah/Geechee culture and maintaining and reclaiming Gullah/Geechee land ownership.
the process of converting land to a new purpose by constructing buildings or making use of its resources OR
an area of land with new buildings on it.
are the totality of meanings of “development.” In fact, more oft than not, we have seen the word “development” along the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast actually be most akin to this Webster definition:
• the process of starting to experience or suffer from an ailment or feeling.
“Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” appeared to be compounded by the “Willie Lynch Syndrome” amongst the people of African descent on Hilton Head-both native islanders and those that moved in and thereby contribute to the displacement of Gullah/Geechee families. This ailment seems to only become more pronounced when one particular individual or their family cannot make money from the destructionment or there is a personal possibility of being displaced or losing more land via eminent domain or tax auction. Fighting to maintain land collectively and communally was not a concern as long as individuals coveted what the bridge brought-commercialism and capitalistic behavior. So, many sacrificed their family legacy of land ownership for money and now some of them have decided to finally speak out as families die out.
The most impactful words from people from Hilton Head in regard to this that I have ever heard came from Dr. Amir Jamal Toure’s “Gullah Observations” about the island of his families roots and how the stupidity and silence has lead to the displacement:
Well before Dr. Toure took to Facebook live to chastise his Hilton Head family and then later to chastise all Black folks in America that do not value land that their family has fought and worked diligently to own, he and I were featured in a VICE news piece that had millions of viewers the night that it aired and has gone viral on the internet garnering over 1 million more views since it was posted on YouTube. This powerful piece epitomizes being “thought-provoking,” but some people appear to have simply watched it and didn’t think of it as a call to action and collective work:
Therefore, Dr. Toure recently brought together leaders of the Gullah/Geechee Nation to discuss a topic that I spoke to Al Jazeera about many years ago-genocide. Due to the fact that the genocide is spoken of as “gentrification” in the Gullah/Geechee Nation, people do not look at the deaths of people. Instead, they solely focus on the displacement from land. They do not see that the displacement from land and disbursement of a people that live communally leads to the erosion / erasure / death of an ethnic group of people. Those that truly think and think deeply like Al Jazeera reporters could see the handwriting on the wall and know that is clearly reads “genocide” and I see “gentrified genocide” that makes those that receive a few dollars to get a house or change their house and get a car that they want ignore the fact that they are putting out family members as they sell off their inheritance.
Aaaah, but as some Hilton Head Island folks who now want to accept being called “Gullah/Geechee” are finally realizing, when you sell a part of the land to a destructioneer and you let one in, more are coming and they are coming for the rest of your land and community. This poignant and painful point was captured in the closing of this recent Al Jazeera story that I was consulted about during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and was just released yesterday:
This piece calls for people of conscience to stop contributing to the destructionment of cultural heritage communities and the genocide of Gullah/Geechees by buying into these gated areas and resorts on Hilton Head. I have said that for decades and got ostracized and prevented from presenting at events on Hilton Head or even serving on boards on that island. In fact, the night that the Town of Hilton Head asked me to come and finally receive the “Gullah/Geechee Nation Week Appreciation Proclamation” at a town council meeting (instead of them being the only town or county to simply mail it to me instead of presenting it to me officially), they announced the establishment of the “Gullah Geechee Task Force.” I stated on the record that I would be looking forward to coming over to work with that group in order to insure that the rights of my people were protected. I can tell you that I am still waiting to hear from the town or anyone on the task force. They were created to rubber stamp signs that say “Historic Gullah Neighborhood” which means that the history books show that Gullah “used to” live in that place for the most part. They also have had their members on news shows that support victimization of Gullah/Geechees and land displacement. How can you be a real estate broker that sells land and also fight for people to keep land? How can you have clean hands if you seek to have your organizations and institutions funded by those that have displaced your family members? The cognitive dissonance has polluted the minds and hearts of many individuals that are more American in their behavior and choices than they are Gullah/Geechee. Therefore, they are aiding and abetting the genocide of the other citizens of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and every dollar spent with them by the tourists that turn residents is funding the tools of cultural destructionment.
As much as I have focused on Hilton Head Island, this also applies to Myrtle Beach, Georgetown and numerous parts of Charleston County in South Carolina. I don’t have words enough to cover the entirety of the Gullah/Geechee Nation in this one piece, but there is plenty to digest on this and to learn from at www.GullahGeechee.tv and www.GullahGeecheeNation.com. I also encourage you to tune in to “Run Tell That” Part 1:
and join us for Part 2 in the discussion of Gullah/Geechee Genocide on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at 6 pm EST via “All Things Relevant” on Facebook and YouTube.
More than tuning in to watch as people and cultures die and Mother Earth is degraded, be an active participant in standing up with us against this. Make conscious decisions to financially support Gullah/Geechee owned businesses and the continued ownership of Gullah/Geechee property by native Gullah/Geechees. Go to www.GullahGeecheeLand.com to contribute to the Gullah/Geechee Land & Legacy Fund and to sign up to actively engage in insuring that Gullah/Geechee live on and are not destroyed by genocide cloaked and branded as simply “gentrification,” “development,” or “progress.”
Perpetuating victimhood and creating more victims insures there is no unity amongst a people so that they will contribute to the own ultimate assimilation and death instead of their own nation that stands on a foundation of self-determination. Dem chillun wha kin see doe, kno who webe-WEBE Gullah/Geechee Anointed People! As was seen on ABC, we will rise and we will be! We binya and ain gwine nowhey! We stand against genocidal gentrification and pridefully stand for the Gullah/Geechee Nation!