Protecting St. Helena Island’s Gullah/Geechee Serenity by Queen Quet
by Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com)
1999 was life changing not simply because I and other people wanted to join Prince and party into the 2000s, but because that was the year that I learned how true the statement, “All politics are local.” meant. To get local political actions taken in a way that would benefit my people, I flew to another part of the world in 1999 and gave a speech entitled, “Yeddi We!” Fast forward to the eve of the anniversary of the historic day that I sat down before the world at the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva, Switzerland and I found myself back home on my beloved St. Helena Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation before a mass of people getting them to do just that-“yeddi we!”
As I prepared to celebrate the anniversary of becoming the first native Gullah/Geechee in world history to speak before the United Nations on behalf of Gullah/Geechee human rights, I was summoned to open the “Protect St. Helena Island Rally.” I made sure to clear my schedule (which wasn’t an easy feat) in order to stand up to protect the Gullah/Geechee serenity of my home island which has been deemed the epicenter of Gullah/Geechee culture.
When I wrote “St. Helena’s Serenity,” it became the first volume in my Gullah/Geechee history series entitled “Gullah/Geechee: Africa’s Seeds in the Winds of the Diaspora.” Since the writing of this first history book, I have seen the unfortunate increase in the Gullah/Geechee Diaspora. Many of our people have been scattered from their homeland along the Intercoastal Waterway and upon the Sea Islands between Jacksonville, NC and Jacksonville, FL due to the building of golf courses and their accompanying gated planned unit development areas and the commercial sprawl and road widenings that follow once these things arrive.
With the coming of this destructionment there is not only environmental degradation, but higher land taxes and cultural degradation and erasure. I went before the world in 1999 to sound the alarm about this attempted genocide of native Gullah/Geechees and I have not stopped going to the world to keep them aware of our on-going need for their support to protect our cultural heritage and continue our cultural traditions in our homeland. I knew that my living was not in vain and that people had heard and continue to hear us when I saw the outpouring of the crowd that were Gullah/Geechee and non-Gullah/Geechee that showed up at at the Protect St. Helena Rally to help us fight to keep the St. Helena Island Cultural Protection Overlay District zoning law in place and to strengthen it so that it will continue to exist for centuries to come as will Gullah/Geechee culture.
I was asked to open the rally by providing the history of the Cultural Protection Overlay District zoning in Beaufort County, SC which is unique to historic St. Helena Island. This law disallows golf courses, gated areas and franchise style buildings from being built on St. Helena Island because these things are incompatible with the continuation of traditional Gullah/Geechee culture. One need only go as close as Hilton Head Island in the same county to see that actual Gullah/Geechee communities have been replaced with signs that say “Historic Gullah Neighborhood” which translates “Gullah/Geechees used to live here.” because of the proliferation of these things. Seeing this onslaught of destructionment, natives of St. Helena Island got together with others that loved our traditions and wrote what Beaufort County Council voted into law as an ordinance to protect the Gullah culture of St. Helena which is a rural Sea Island with a contiguous Gullah/Geechee community throughout the island. In 1999, the St. Helena Island Cultural Protection Overlay District became the law of the land and it has been upheld each time that Beaufort County has had to do a new comprehensive plan. The 2040 Comprehensive Plan has gone the distance in putting in writing the counties plans to protect the cultural and environmental resources of the island by creating a specific section of the plan entitled “Spotlight on St. Helena.”
There is no greater cultural resource than the Gullah/Geechee people themselves! Our culture is inextricably tied to the land and the waterways that surround our island. Therefore, we do not want the serenity of St. Helena disturbed. However, it has been since the Holy Days season that began in November 2022 when the public was alerted to a destructioneer from the north that has set his sites on Pine Island and St. Helenaville which are part of St. Helena Island proper. These are historic locations that have been used as spaces for fishing and hunting for decades. St. Helena Islanders are fighting to keep it that way! Therefore, over 400 folks showed up to the Protect St. Helena Rally.
Our local politics is causing me to again call on the global community to “Yeddi WE!” I want to walk in the door of Beaufort County Council Chambers at 100 Ribaut Road on Monday, April 10, 2023 with 10,000 signatures on our petition to protect the St. Helena Island Cultural Protection Overlay District: https://www.change.org/GullahGeecheeCulturalProtectionOverlay
I would love to be flanked by 10,000 folks that will come to Beaufort, SC and join us in that building at 3 pm to stand up for and with the Gullah/Geechee Nation on this issue as well! I rest assured that more than 10,000 ancestral spirits will walk into the room with me as they did at the rally and they did in Switzerland. Their blood, sweat and tears is in St. Helena Island sand and we cannot allow others to simply build over it, play on it and disregard it! Disya ain gwine likka disya tall tall!
As I left the Protect St. Helena Island Rally and proceeded to reconnect with the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition‘s supporters and collaborative partners that came to the island for the annual Coastal Cultures Conference, I felt Tunis Campbell there in the circle with us appreciating folks fighting to maintain a Black cultural heritage community on the Sea Islands as he had fought to do. I felt human rights attorney, Dr. Y N Kly smiling from the ancestral realm to see the movement for Gullah/Geechee human rights and land rights not only continuing, but progressing. My soul was invigorated and rejuvenated because I knew that my living and work were not in vain. So, I am living to fight on just a little while longer. St. Helena Island and de Gullah/Geechee Famlee gwine be alright!
Support the movement to protect historic St. Helena Island!
Sign and share the petition to keep intact the Cultural Protection Overlay District:
Read and share www.SaintHelenaGullahGeechee.com and www.ProtectStHelena.com.
Sign up to be part of the efforts of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition at www.GullahGeecheeLand.com
Donate to the Gullah/Geechee Land & Legacy Fund via CashApp $GullahGeecheeNation or GoFundMe
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- Tagged: Beaufort County, Black land ownership, cultural heritage, Geechee, Gullah, Gullah/Geechee Nation, Hilton Head, human rights, land rights, petition, Pine Island, Queen Quet, rally, SC, Sea Islands, South Carolina, St. Helena Island, St. Helenaville