On Being a Geechee with Gullah Roots

On Being a Geechee with Gullah Roots

I’m heading down to the South Carolina Low Country. This trip down there is something that I try to do every year because visiting the Low Country this time of year is a tradition that spans back to the early post-slavery days. Scores of South Carolinians and southerners who left the south during the great migration would find their way “back home” during this time of  year. In South Carolina, folk went back home to honor their loved ones who had passed some way and some how. This was the time of year that people would go and decorate the graves of their loved ones who had served in Wars . They would go to their graves and decorate them. My mother still remembers Decoration Day, a day to honor fallen heroes by decorating their graves with flowers and cards and objects of significance. This is the origins of Memorial Day, our national day which honors those who lost their lives in the wars. History has a strange way of making itself known without including the people who’ve made history happen. But that’s another essay.

Stay tuned while I take photos and share with you the offerings of my people whom I have always known as Gullahs even though someone, a Geechee, reminded me that I wasn’t fully Gullah my people were the rice planters or the Geechees. He was right. He said “When a Gullah person speaks to a white man, the white man can’t even understand what he’s saying. Gullahs lived on the islands, and they retained more of their African heritage than us.” See? He was Geechee too. “We are the children of the rice planters,” he said. “We have some Gullah in us,” he said. “But we are mixed people. True Gullahs look like the Africans.”

Okay. So I’m not entirely Gullah, but that does not take from the fact that I have Gullah roots. Nor does it preclude me from honoring those roots this time of year. I would tell the Geechee who forced me to understand the distincton betwee Gullah and Geechee to *eff off, but I need him in my life, so there.

If you’re in Beaufort, SC during the Original Gullah Festival, hit me up. I’m happy to share the Gullah-Geechee experience with you.

To find out more about the Original Gullah Festival, check out their website at http://theoriginalgullahfestival.org.


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