The U.S. travel and tourism industry generates approximately $2.1 trillion per year. So, it is no surprise that there is actually a “Tourism Week” celebrated. In South Carolina, Gullah/Geechee culture is often highlighted at the I-95 North Visitors Center in Hardeeville, SC. However, in most cases, Gullah/Geechee culture is not highlighted, it is hijacked!
The massive amount of tourists that come to the Gullah/Geechee Nation annually believe that by driving through and taking photos and then staying in a hotel or camp ground over night, they have supported the Gullah/Geechee people. They even end up often duped into spending funds at “historic sites” and plantations that have Gullah/Geechee listed on their websites and shots of sweetgrass baskets on their brochures to only find out that there are no Gullah/Geechee people that own that site. There may be one Gullah/Geechee person or a few that work there, but beyond their salaries, there is no economic support going to the citizens of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
Some stumbled upon it as they arrived on the Sea Islands for recreational activities along the beaches and through the forested areas. They wondered why the people spoke as they did and wondered how they created the crafts that they made. This “discovery” led to scores of people of African descent contributing to the misrepresentation and exploitation of the culture due to the fact that they as others of different races and cultures had been miseducated about what Gullah/Geechee culture actually is and from whence it came.
Due to the consistent influx of tourists to the Gullah/Geechee Nation, a number of “staged” engagements now take place which insure that they do not involve Gullah/Geechee that live the traditions and speak out about land issues and human rights. However, without the land, there will be no culture.