by G. Brown
If you ever head down the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia or Florida you’re bound to run into the
islanders who speak with a vernacular so unique it’s made them famous. These coastal lands are the home to the Gullah/ Geechee people who speak a blend of their ancestral West and Central African and English that’s also known as Sea Island Creole. For many, it takes a bit getting used to the language before understanding it. But you don’t have to know Geechee to understand how they’re being robbed of their lands along the Sea Coast.
Their homes are modest shacks and mobile homes in rural areas, but the land they live on is prime real estate for gentrifiers and real estate developers who want that property.
Atlanta Black Star.com interviewed a Gullah matriarch known as Queen Quet who says one of their most recent battles came against Revelry Brewing Co. which began selling “Gullah Creme Ale” beer after the company claimed it got permission to use the name. Queen Quet and many of the Gullah/Geechee nation knew nothing of the agreement. Turns out a man affiliated with the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor entered the agreement with the company even though he is not Gullah/Geechee, nor apparently are most of the members of the committee. He saw an opportunity and seized it. The beer company apologized after the issue hit mainstream media, but did not change the name of the product.
The Gullah/Geechee nation is used to being ignored, violated, trampled on and abused. Even though most of the Gullah/Geechee property owners inherited the land from generations, few have deeds or wills to prove it. And many could only stand by as the land they call home is auctioned off for a few hundred dollars even though is it worth millions.
It’s heartbreaking to watch such a blatant disrespect and decimation of a culture. But to resort developers and greedy men with visions of dollars signs, the people are less valuable than the dirt their homes sit on. While other cultures like Native Americans at least have some protection for their tribes and descendants, few seem to care about preserving or fighting for the African American culture of the Gullah/Geechee. Their ancestors were ripped from their native lands and brought here as slaves… now, the descendants are being ripped from their lands again with political games like forcing them to pay sewage fees many can’t afford when their homes are hooked to fully functioning septic tanks. It’s injustice repeating itself for these African descendants. While greedy governments and men try to come up with sneaky, crafty laws and games to get them off their land, the Gullah/Geechee are determined to stay. Queen Quet sums up their determination in one quote; “We da binya an ain da gwine nowhey!”
Here the Atlanta Blackstar’s amazing video on what is happening to the Gullah/Geechee. If you want to find out more and discover how to help contact the Gullah/Geechee Corridor at 843.818.4587 (office) or click on this link to go website at www.gullahgeecheecorridor.org where you can make a donation.