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Gullah Geechee

Jun 3 2013

by Melissa Lee

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Gullah what? You ask. Gullah Geechee. This is the formal way chosen by a group of African Americans to describe their language and culture. Actually, the Gullah are descendants of slaves who inhabited both the South Carolina and Georgia coasts. Geechee is the language they speak. Together, Gullah Geechee creates the thread that weaves the history of these people through the fabric of the South and its history.

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Saturday we attended the Sea Island Folk Festival where people gathered to celebrate their heritage, share their art, their food and their culture.

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The weather was slightly warm with a cool breeze making our time under the huge oak trees pleasant. The air was filled with the aroma of Southern barbeque, curry and other tasty treats.

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We tasted the delicious baked goods from Henrietta’s Art of Baking. Her Coconut Strips have been featured nationally and are the hallmark of her brand.

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Intricate works of art by Gene Threats that he creates with colored pencils fascinated me.

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Marjorie Washington, known as our “Maya Angelou” spoke of “The Weeping Time” with poignant eloquence. The Weeping Time occurred on the second and third days of March in 1865 when 436 slaves were torn from their families and taken to Savannah to be sold. Their owner, Pierce Mease Butler wracked up a high gambling debt and suffered great loss on the stock market. Thus the time of weeping when loved ones were separated from the land and the people they loved and sold to owners all over the South.

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Brightly colored clothing and crafts reflect the brave hearts and the determination of these people. Their lives have been a struggle and many have known defeat. The spirit of these people is as intense and dynamic as the colors woven into fabric for bags, belts and all sorts of wearable items.

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This folk festival is a tribute to the history and the legacy of a group of people who helped to form the South into a place that blends the culture of so many different races and religions. It preserves and shares the rich soul of the South, passing it down from generation to generation through food, song and dance. The thread continues, weaving its way through the hearts and minds of those who share in this yearly celebration. The Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters provided song and dance for all to enjoy. I listened and heard the deep spiritual content of the music and the sadness as well as joy it portrays. I’ll be returning and connecting with these people and the feeling of pride they share….memories of a very special Saturday remain.

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2 responses on “Gullah Geechee

  1. amberwilson

    Love learning about a place that has such distinct CULTURE! Thank you so much for sharing, Melissa!

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