The Gullah/Geechee community that has been self-sufficient and resilient in this area since the 1600s is now faced with an on-slaught of challenges to the continuation of their culture on their own land which has been passed down since the US Civil War. They are not only dealing with issues of economic inequity, but also environmental injustice which has and continues to cause displacement of Gullah/Geechee from the southeastern coast. For those that remain there, they are literally on the front shoreline of climate change and sea level rise.
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation who was homegrown on historic St. Helena and Polowana Islands, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation has embarked on her annual world tour themed “Healin’ de Land.”
Those tides are now called “king tides” throughout the Gullah/Geechee Nation and that king has dethrowned cotton. Aaah, but this king now has an elected Queen that is facing him and the other members of his climate changing and environmentally impacting family head on-Queen Quet!
When I started out doing this work over almost 4 decades ago, no one else used the term “Gullah/Geechee” and now it is a hashtag unto itself. I was led to put the two words together in order to unify my people who had been separated by those that truly sought to destroy our spirits and exploit our abilities in the process. The fortunate reality is that there are people around the world that now know of the existence of #GullahGeechee history, heritage, and culture. However, the unfortunate thing is that due to the saturation of the entertainment and tourist markets with storytelling and misleading representations via museums, replicated sites, non-Gullah/Geechee operated events, tourism agencies, and now even museums that seek to exploit grant money, the work that the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition and the leaders of the Gullah/Geechee Nation are doing has become that much more difficult.
Gullah/Geechee Nation Appreciation Week 2015 will be celebrated throughout the South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida portions of the Gullah/Geechee Nation’s coast July 25-August 2, 2015. Queen Quet states, “We gwine tru de coast fa keep de culcha!” The week will be a journey into the living traditions of native Gullah/Geechees as those that want to learn about this unique indigenous national linguistic and ethnic minority take Gullah/Geechee owned and operated tours to Gullah/Geechee businesses and historic sites .Everyone is invited to come out and enjoy the events that are highlights of this nine days of activities which will honor the lives and legacies of the Emanuel 9.
This July 2nd I see all of this and I see that GOD has shown me to continue to do the work to which and for which I am called because there is somebody somewhere to whom this work makes a difference and whose life will be better because they can truly be free because Denmark Vesey, Patrice Lumumba, Clementa C. Pinckney and I took this journey.
In the wake of the recent tragedy during which the Gullah/Geechee Nation lost nine of its citizens during what has been deemed the “Charleston Massacre,” they continue to walk on with the pride and dignity of their ancestors as they come out of a period of mourning into a time of celebration. What would be an annual time to celebrate Gullah/Geechee traditions and culture is now also a time to celebrate the lives of the Emanuel 9. The Gullah/Geechee Nation will have a series of events that will take place during the month of July in order to honor the legacies of these nine souls and to bring the Gullah/Geechee family together on the coast from Jacksonville, NC to Jacksonville, FL.
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) took the time to do an anniversary episode of “Gullah/Geechee Riddim Radio” to detail her journey becoming the first Gullah/Geechee in world history to speak before the United Nations on behalf of Gullah/Geechees.
#TeamSC came about because of the grassroots efforts of numerous groups that continue to stand together to #ProtectOurCoast and #StoptheDrill. They joined together on the coast to celebrate the passing of Bill HR 1941 to ban offshore drilling.
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) continued her journey throughout the Gullah/Geechee Nation’s coast. This time instead of picking up proclamations, she was once again standing up for the Gullah/Geechee Nation! She was on the frontlines in Mt. Pleasant with numerous grassroots organizers and elected officials making it clear once again that our coast intends to #StoptheDrill and #ProtectOurCoast!
Never once in South Carolina’s educational institutions were we told of the revolutionary spirits of the island of Barbados. We were never told of the uprising of 1675. Knowing this now makes me wonder if our family members rose up to fight for us that were taken from the island and placed on the Sea Islands and forced to build Charlestown which is now “Charleston, SC” where our ancestors blood, sweat, and tears flows beneath the cobblestones, asphalt, and concrete. I wondered what type of mindset would have been instilled in our family throughout the African Diaspora and the Gullah/Geechee Diaspora if we had known that there was no sweetness that they had found amidst all the sugar cane.
“Being a Queen a lot of times people only look at the clothing and they look at the pretty pictures…, but its work and responsibility… There is a lot of falsehood now..So, yes you can call yourself a Queen, but know that if you call yourself something and GOD gives it to you, you have responsibilities back to GOD.”
Although, Queen Quet and the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition (www.GullahGeechee.net) supported the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in order to assist Gullah/Geechee and African American families with an equitable way to deal with retaining land when some family members want to sell and the introduction of heirs property into the US Farm Bill was linked to the movement of this act, Gullah/Geechees are concerned about the USDA’s current plans regarding heirs property.
A 349 year journey culminated in a massive homecoming! Tenk GAWD fa we Bajan Famlee! Thousands of people tuned in online via Facebook and Gullah/Geechee TV (GGTV) to view my first steps onto the island of Barbados which were dance steps:
Mudda Sally gladdee mi bin dey dey wid she! Mi bin gladdee fa shum tuh!
Proudly the Tuk Band played to welcome the Gullah/Geechee Nation delegation officially back home. Prior to us getting to them, numerous people that were working on the plane and in the airport wanted to know if we were going to a wedding given that we were all dressed in my official color. However, Consul General Neval Greenidge quickly and proudly let the folks in Florida and aboard the airline know that these are special guests of the island of Barbados because they are the first official delegation of Gullah/Geechees to return to the island since their ancestors has been taken to the Carolinas to be enslaved there. Everyone that heard this smiled and nodded and wish us well on our journey. When we arrived at night fall to the sound of drums that could be heard before we got out of the door, we knew that the delay was not a denial. The journey was already blessed!
No doubt when our ancestors left this island, they didn’t leave with such fan fare. However, the Barbados Ministry of Tourism, Inc. (BTMI) and the Counsel General would have our return home be no other way. The journey of reconnection during the International Decade of People of African Descent would not be complete without the drums.
This journey also would not be complete without honoring our ancestors that suffered due to the crime against humanity that dispersed us all from Mother Africa onto these various islands of the world scattered throughout the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. So, we made a journey to the Newton Plantation which is still a sugar cane plantation. The entire Pan Africanist Community of Barbados was represented as we processed to the African Burial Ground that sits in the midst of a yet functioning field that has recently been harvested. The Crop Over Celebration was taking place, but the name didn’t totally resonate in my soul until we drove pass miles and miles of fields that had been harvested and I could see small plants yet making their way out of the ground to be ready for the next harvest.
The power of walking through the field to reach where the ancestors were laid to rest without any headstones to denote that there are there cannot be described in words. It has to be felt. I felt them walking with me as I proceeded onward toward where the drum was playing and the people had paused to take in the sacred space. In my spirit, the harvest was not ended because we had traveled all these miles to harvest the power and strength of our ancestors and replant those seeds of freedom in the mind and souls of our people yet toiling on this ancestral soil called “Barbados.”
As the family processed together up the hill at Newton there was a heavy weight that felt like we were carrying burdens and that many in the group were bound. Even as the libation ceremony went on, this energy wasn’t changing. There was tension and confusion and pain that was in the midst. This led the Spirit to have me ask the question,
“When the libation comes, will anyone call your name? Will anyone draw or pull up a picture of you and if they do, will they call you a freedom fighter or will they bury you here at the slave burial ground?”
This question was crucial because so many seem to still be bound by believing that which those that had enslaved us and had torn our family apart had taught them. It was now time for that to be buried and for our people to heal and be united and not divided by water nor island names. We are ONE!
I was led by the Spirit to conduct a healing ceremony and I laid hands on each person in the circle and gave each a personal message. I am thankful that many of them not only told me at the end of the evening that I was on point when it came to what I said, but many have written me since then to say the same. I am thankful to have been a vessel that could pour out healing and power where my ancestors had poured out blood, sweat and tears.
The circle that came together for healing in Barbados continued as the circle united at Mosquito Beach on Gullah/Geechee Famlee Day and we stood on land that our people still own and fight to maintain. Once again the Spirit led me to not only teach about the laws that were set against us gathering together and against us owning land, but also to make it abundantly clear that we cannot allow others to disrespect us. People believe that they can because
if we don’t respect us, other people won’t respect us!
Anyone that has his or her spirit in tact and properly aligned with GOD has to respect people that remain united in spite of all the things that have come to tear them apart and make them feel low. We have been able to hold up one another and remain united because for many of the Gullah/Geehee Bajan Famlee our circle remains unbroken! Tenk GAWD! Asé!
@ASALH is very pleased to feature this panel chaired by none other than Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and Founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, “Historical Effects of Migration on Gullah/Geechee Cultural Continuation.” Are you ready for #Charleston #ASALH2019 yet? Register today! https://asalh.org/conference/