Geechee Gal Griot

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We FLY Podcast Ep. 1: Family First

“The opposite of war is not peace. It’s creation.”

We FLY Podcast Ep. 1: Family First parts 1&2

We FLY Podcast: Black aerodynamic messages designed to keep your spirits soaring high.

“They say the people could fly. Say that long ago in Africa, some of the people knew magic.”- Virginia Hamilton

We FLY seeks to explore creative possibilities, promote holistic healing, and to celebrate, affirm and support the lives and souls of Black folks. Our desire is to love and liberate ourselves. And Re-Member our MAGIC.

Episode 1: Family First

Happy New Year, Family! My boyfriend and I have combined forces to bring you We FLY.

We chose to begin this new podcast with a series: Black Mental Health Matters: A Holistic Approach. We wanted to do our part in combatting the present foolery. Prioritizing our mental health felt like a good place to start. In this episode we speak with both of our families about their ideas on mental health, self-care, and hopes for the future. The conversations were so unique and enlightening we had to break the episode into 2 parts! Part 1 features my family in Georgetown, SC and Part 2 features Jaha’s family in Daytona Beach, FL. It was a joy to listen and learn. It is our hope that you’ll feel like you’re in these living rooms with us–that our families feel like your families. Check out the links below which our mentioned in this episode. And look out for next month’s!


100PcentDarkMatter clothing line

Jaha/Idlewild’s poetry album

Simeon’s IG

Natalie/GullahMama’s IG

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Geechee Gals Gettin’ It – pt. 5

The Gullah Geechee culture is not only rich in history. The gifts our ancestors gave are infinite and inspire us daily but it doesn’t just stop there. No, Gullah Geechee is a living, breathing culture. What we do today continues to shape our community and narrative. From healing work, to activism, music, entrepreneurship, preservation, counseling, parenting, natural hair care and more, Gullah Geechee women continue to “Reach back and get it” and then put their thing down, flip it and reverse it 🙂 

This is the final entry in this 5-part series highlighting proud Gullah Geechee women who are honoring the entrepreneurial and revolutionary spirits of those who came before us.

Each woman was asked a series of questions ranging from how long they’ve identified as Gullah Geechee to what they believe will be key in preserving and celebrating the culture and community.

In their own words…


Deronda C. Washington, Geechee Gal

ggderonda2I am Charleston, SC born and RAISED!

In grade school I was truly embarrassed to be referred to as Geechee. I thought it had negative connotations–people who left verbs out of their sentences and had little-to-no education. It wasn’t until college that I felt so much pride in the Gullah Geechee cultural identity.

Gullah Geechee is a way of life. It’s the foods we eat.The words we say. The rich heritage of the islands. I love being able to sit in a room, conversing with other Gullah Geechee people and knowing others in the room have no idea what we are saying!! Lol

My passion continues to lie with women and children. I love empowering them to be the best THEM they can be. Because my husband and I recently experienced fertility issues, I want to be a voice for African American women dealing with infertility. There are few resources available to help African American women get through this–especially with the culture we are in.

I feel like I’m always juggling hats. I’m a wife, daughter, sister, friend, First Lady of a congregation, educator, business owner and mother. Ironically, I’m a different person in each of these roles because of the unique needs of everyone I serve. ggderondafamGod continues to call me to be a transparent voice for Him. I remember once saying that I was done with God putting me through trials. However, I now know that it wasn’t about me. He was giving me a testimony to help others.

98% of my clients are African American. I believe that I am always able to meet the needs of our clients because I understand their needs better than some of our “competition.”

It is crucial to make as many lasting impressions and connections through networking as possible. People may not immediately use your services, but they will remember your presence and how confident you were.

We must celebrate through acknowledging our Gullah Geechee culture as well as ensuring it’s longevity for people to have a sense of pride versus shame.

You can read Deronda’s blog, The Other Side of the Blessing & support her work at Legacy Graphic Tees !

Cheveze Daniel, Geechee Gal


I am from Greer, SC. I grew up in Lyman, SC and moved to Charleston in 2011. I don’t consider myself Gullah because I’m still learning about what that means. I will say that I enjoy all of the knowledge I’ve been receiving about the Gullah Geechee way of life since I’ve been in The Lowcountry.

I don’t think I’ll ever claim to be Gullah Geechee simply because I respect the culture too much. When I first got to Charleston, what stood out to me the most was the dialect, and the ways Gullah Geechee people interacted with one another. To me, being Gullah Geechee  literally means being the last bit of African men/women this country will know. That can’t be adopted.

I’m passionate about expression. People who know me label me an artist, a hair stylist, and a creator. Those who don’t know me label me as what they see most: a hairstylist or an artist. I identify as an open expressionist. Thankfully, I’ve found a way to sustain a living based off of my means of expression so I’m able to do it all the time. Expression is my passion.

I’m an all-natural hair stylist. I service all African textured hair & hairstyles–no chemicals or heat. I’m ultimately a visual artist. I draw/paint original artwork on canvas. I mostly use acrylic paint but I’m slowly going back into graphite. I’ve learned that I shade better using graphite mediums. I take photos; I’m a canon shooter. I’m also a wire wrapping jewelry-maker. I create unique pieces using brass, crystals and seashells from Folly Beach and Isle of Palms. I started wire wrapping once I began learning more about the city of Charleston and how sacred this land is to the melanated people. It shocked me that I’m from only two hours up the interstate, yet was never exposed to all of the history here. I started making the jewelry because I wanted to acknowledge all that I’d learned and share that acknowledgement with others. I create this jewelry to honor all of my ancestors across the shores of South Carolina. I added crystals once I became aware that all minerals have their own beneficial properties.

My culture plays a role in my entrepreneurship as a hairstylist in more ways than one. I service ggcheveze3African people with natural hair and I use all herbal products–handmade by myself or other Black herbalist. As an artist, I depict Black cultural experiences only. From women doing each other’s hair, reading or cooking, to men doing their daughters’ hair and meditating. Black culture is all I draw.

The best advice I have for Black women entrepreneurs is the best advice that I was ever given.  First: Always have an ear. Listen to everything. There may be many odds against you; you’re black, you’re young, you’re a woman. Always be aware of who you’re around and who you have your business around. Be picky. Be strategic. Trust yourself. It’s always gonna be scary if you’re actually growing. Second: Don’t be discouraged by being “the ant in the room,” i.e. we tend to do well when we’re in a room around familiar faces, familiar energy and when we feel invited, wanted and known.  In order to grow, you must acknowledge those who have more knowledge than you or are further in their career than you are without feeling ggchevezelike anything is being taken from you. When around those who are “bigger” than you, admire who they are but don’t feel insignificant. Secondly: Know how to be just as substantial in a room full of people who are “bigger” than you. Make sure you’re still listening. Absorb knowledge but don’t be a leach. One day you’ll be standing in that SAME room with those SAME people and you’ll be one of them. This means you’ve absorbed. Most importantly, you’ve GROWN. Don’t ever be afraid to feel out of place–to be the ant. Actually, that may be the best advice in anything. I keep that close to me.

I feel like there has to be a way to inform people of the culture and why preserving this culture is important. How you and your loved ones will benefit from this culture, you know? Lastly, there needs to be a monitoring system to make sure that people are actually applying what they’ve learned about their culture to their everyday lives without feeling controlled or any one person being controlling. I believe this is the foundation for  the many steps it takes to celebrate the traditions of any culture.

Visit Natural Hair Destiny to book an appointment with Cheveze!

Thank you for following/sharing this special series and celebrating these incredible Gullah Geechee women!

Stay tuned for more stories and projects as we continue to define, for ourselves, what it means to be Gullah Geechee and Proud!

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Personal Reflections and Issa Rae’s “Insecure” from a Forever Awkward, Formerly Insecure Black Girl

Reader Discretion Advised:
It isn’t every day that I turn on the TV and see myself. Admittedly and thankfully, it is happening way more often now. I imagine this is what many other people experience on a regular basis. So frequently they watch their stories being told that seeing their own reflection is taken for granted. Representation is taken for granted. What a concept. I still value it, though. I relish in it. It is fortifying to feel seen. And season 1 of Insecure on HBO has felt like a personal gift 8 episodes in a row. Seeing my lived experiences expressed with language that I use over a soundtrack of music I love, has allowed me to reflect on my own stories.
After the season finale, I wasn’t left with any hard feelings for any of the characters. (This is apparently an uncommon opinion. I’ve seen people hoping Tasha gets pregnant and Lawrence gets hit by a car. LOL) There were no hard feelings because I recognized each and every one of them. I have been some of them.
This is a raw, explicit, extended stream of consciousness about MY life, MY growth and MY embrace of personal responsibility. This isn’t a review of the series. This is a personal reflection of my own experiences–many of which I saw depicted throughout this season. The familiarity I had with the cast and stories of Insecure gave me courage. It is with love and a desire for freedom that I share these words.

I remember the first time I watched Issa Rae’s Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl on YouTube. It was 2012. I had recently graduated from college after completing my 5th year/victory lap. I had insomnia–which was normal for me at that time. I was living in the way too expensive 3 bedroom house/apartment in Charleston, SC’s rapidly gentrifying East Side community. I was filled with angst and despair–also normal for me at that time. I had taken myself off of antidepressants the previous year. I’d been prescribed Zoloft–and the only obvious effects, side/front or otherwise, were scary, vivid dreams I’d always remember the next morning, and apathy. Gray, monotone, super-hard-to-care-about-school-assignments apathy. As I said, I’d finally graduated; and besides the joy and pride my friends and family expressed over my completion, I just felt like a 22-year-old failure at life. Lame. I felt really lame and sorry for myself. I had no job. I had no man. I had to move back with my parents. Couldn’t find a job. Didn’t have a man. Repeat. Repeat. So, that night in 2012, as I lay on my twin-sized mattress that was on the floor because the bed frame I’d ordered from Overstock a year prior was actually delivered to me broken and it had finally given up, saying you and your friend Dennis really tried it with this heavy duty gray tape, I don’t know what drew me to Issa Rae. I just remember laughing and crying until the sun came up at this beautiful brown girl with natural hair who was awkward AF just like me. With the sarcasm, wit and uncomfortable interactions with men just like me. My favorite episode to date is Season 1 Ep. 8. Jay (Issa’s character in the youtube series) is in a board meeting and her newly sanctified, former heaux colleague “Sister Mary Clarence” parodies the scene from Sister Act 2, leading everyone in the meeting to start beating on the table singing, “If you wanna be somebody, if you wanna go somewhere…” (6:17-7:18)  LMAO So good.
In short, this web series felt like a ray of sunshine and affirmations in a time when I felt like  a depressed failure with notches on her bedpost and a GIGANTIC bachelor’s degree and seemingly nothing to show for either. I was delighted to see myself represented on screen, my awkwardness validated. I immediately shared it with all my friends. “She’s me, y’all!” During that time I was involved (read: begging this man to make me his girlfriend so I could fully commit to wasting my time, energy and emotions) with a guy pretty similar to Daniel, a character from the HBO series Insecure.
Now, I’d like to say “fast-forward 4 years”–because the next 4 years truly did fly by in hindsight. However, “fly by” seems like an inaccurate description because those years were filled with pain, growth, tears, self-medicating, and hard, self-reflective work. I’ll get to that.
It is only fitting that I viewed Insecure, Issa’s bombass, sweat and tear filled, hard fought for, well damn deserved HBO Glo Up as this New Sara I am now. I like this Sara the most. So bear with me: these reflections are coming after watching all of season 1 twice. Once by myself, and a second time with my boyfriend. I was a bit surprised to read the reviews and responses shared on my various social media timelines. I see a lot of #TeamIssa or #TeamLawrence. A lot of familiar hurts and bruised egos and triggers.** Throughout the season I remained on #TeamDamnWeReallyAreBrokenAF, #TeamWeAllNeedHelp and #TeamHealing.
“Quick” synopsis for anyone who hasn’t watched the series. If you haven’t, you really should get your life and revel in this 5 Star quality #BlackGirlMagic. SPOILERS to follow:
Insecure is about best friends Issa and Molly–two beautiful, Black twenty-somethings navigating life and love in a world where black women are regularly told we’re too everything but right/enough. Issa has been in a stagnant relationship with her boyfriend Lawrence for 5 years. For the latter majority of said years she has been supporting both of them because Lawrence has lost his confidence, mojo and desire to get a haircut. He’s depressed. Now he sits at home playing video games and coasting on unemployment checks. Issa is disenchanted and disappointed with his complacency and equally annoyed with her job. She’s the youth-liason for a white-owned non-profit called “We Got Y’all” for “at-risk” black and brown kids. She is the sole black employee in an organization full of light, white people who consult her for the definition of “on fleek” but otherwise think very little of her insight, intelligence and contributions. In the season opener we’re also introduced to Daniel–Issa’s former friend-with-benefits from high school who has always been her “what-if” guy. Daniel has a haircut and great teeth. He also makes beats. From the beginning he let’s her know he’s only interested in fucking. This is made clear by him supplying alcohol and gassing her creative fantasies up at every encounter, and blatantly stating, after their first passionate kiss in the car, that he’s “not looking for a relationship right now.” Things are very rocky between Issa and Lawrence during this time and it is immediately clear to me, from the first time Daniel pops up in her Facebook inbox, when he sent her the entitled “I wanna see you right now” text and when he got in her car bearing Arbor Mist (like it was some great treat) that Issa was going to fuck Daniel. It was set up. That’s how that goes. They both wanted to. Just like I knew that Tasha, the flirtatious, voluptuous bank-teller with the cute smile who is seemingly so impressed by the consistency with which Lawrence cashes his unemployment checks is going to have sex with Lawrence at some point. It was set up. That’s the way that goes. It was only a matter of time/a few episodes for both encounters to take place.
Molly, Issa’s best friend, is a gorgeous, successful lawyer. She owns nice things. She loves her sorority. White people love her. Black people love her. And yet, she can’t seem to find a man (worth keeping.) She tries sex on the first date. No sex until later. She tries free dating apps and exclusive, waitlist dating apps. Black guys. Arab guys. She’s a mess. The guys are either too clingy, not interested enough or only interested in sex. She is often told she is way too clingy as well. To add insult to the all too familiar injury, Molly’s non-black co-worker gets engaged to her black boyfriend–sending Molly deeper into the “what is wrong with me? I have all the things–why can’t I find a man? What’s she got that I don’t have? Don’t I deserve love and marriage?” abyss. At one point we see Molly get with a seemingly great guy, Jared. He’s cute, respectful, hardworking. He’s genuine, comfortable with who he is, and straightforward about his attraction to her. (It sorta looks like even their relationship may be reduced to really amazing, consistent sex). However, she becomes disillusioned when, during a night of swapping past freaky sexual encounters, Jared reveals that years ago he and a male friend were drunk and the friend gave him head. He shares this story comfortably, obviously not carrying any shame or baggage–GOOD FOR HIM! And he admits that during and immediately after the encounter, he was positive that he isn’t interested in any kind of sex with men. Molly can’t get over this, though. Her girlfriends, particularly her soror (the only character I really could’ve done without) affirm her double standards. “He’s gay, girl.” End of discussion. Molly ends things, for the 2nd time, with the honest, genuine, hardworking, handsome guy with the great sex who really liked her.
I’m not going to try and summarize every single episode. You should definitely watch it. I just needed to set the stage. I  fully identified with so many of the characters. Their insecurities, false-sense of self, loss in confidence, disillusionment, self-sabotage. I loved the ease and deep sister-love Issa and Molly shared. They were always there to pick each other up after heartbreak, one-night-stands, co-workers that had them fucked up. Neither woman, however, could really be honest with themselves. This, folks, makes it terribly difficult to be honest with other people. They were both unhappy with some or many parts of of their lives, but weren’t willing to sit still long enough to identify and articulate those things. In many ways, even their love for each other enabled the other. Issa was frustrated with her job. She was also carrying the the bulk of the financial responsibility in her relationship and was beyond disappointed with how complacent Lawrence had become. Unless the conversation happened before the season started, though, she never actually expressed these things to her boyfriend of 4-5 years. At all. And he was definitely trippin’. No qualms about that. He wasn’t handling his business, carrying his weight or EVEN GETTING HAIRCUTS. He messed up her birthday and then joked about Molly having impossible standards for men. This prompted Issa to say, passive aggressively, “Yea. I guess she should have just lowered her standards like I did”, and leave the house with no further explanation. Issa nor Lawrence were bringing their best selves to the table. I don’t think they knew who/what their best selves were. They weren’t self-reflective. They weren’t good communicators. They weren’t holding themselves or each other accountable.
Molly also couldn’t articulate exactly what she wanted. She slept with men–or not. Never feeling amazing about either choice she made. She obviously wanted love but couldn’t really show it to herself. She was beyond self-sabotaging. I CAN RELATE. She was also, apparently, vehemently opposed to therapy. This is a revelation the audience gets right before, in a haze of pent up angst, disappointment, embarrassment and avoiding confrontation, the best friends finally angrily tell each other, “You’re fucking up! Why can’t you handle your own shit?!” This was probably the most triggering part for me. I’ve always hated confrontation with ANYONE and for years, I’d choose to be silently unhappy versus having an uncomfortable conversation. This is never healthy. This blow up looks like the most honest the two have been with each other about their perceptions of how the other is living. The conversation is foul, hurtful, poorly executed and reactionary–but it’s the first time they appear to hold each other accountable. In the end, Issa cheats on Lawrence with Daniel. Surprise, surprise, there’s alcohol, beats and slick words involved. Lawrence FINALLY gets a haircut, an hourly job and then successfully interviews for a position in his field. He’s trying. He’s “in this,” he keeps saying. Issa “realizes” she really loves him and is also “in this.” She serves him real pig bacon for breakfast. But of course, Lawrence finds out Issa cheated. He is humiliated. He angrily and promptly ends the relationship and in the final scene [SINGLE] Lawrence fucks Tasha the bank-teller, whose been checking for him and encouraging him since Ep.1. Molly and Issa acknowledge that they both really need help and at least they’ll always have each other.
So. This new Sara, aka the most whole Sara I’ve ever been, can recognize when I’ve been Issa, Molly and Tasha. I currently identify most with Crystal. We only meet her once but she is going on and on about how she was a mess in college but she is healing, in therapy and happy to shout about it in the streets. “I’m getting help, girl. Therapy. THER-A-PY! I’m getting it! Have you heard about it? We need help, girl! We all need help! I feel so zen!” LOL That’s definitely me. I was in a relationship with a liar for 9 months. This was a man who told me from jump, in so many words, “I’m a liar and I don’t stay in relationships for longer than 9 months.” So pressed to prove to him and myself that I-really-can-be-an-amazing-girlfriend-just-give-me-a-chance-to-fully-waste-my-time, I ignored homey’s honest admission. Yes. He’s a liar and a cheater but he won’t lie or cheat on me. Sure he doesn’t stay in relationships for longer than 9 months but we’re in it to win it. Just watch me give my all. We weren’t “in it to win it” of course. And as we crashed and burned in month 9, I entered my Molly stage. The I’ll fuck whoever I want when I want. I’m fucking them, they’re not fucking me. Didn’t I tell you that I was a savage? stage. It was all fun and games. (It wasn’t that fun) I was self-medicating, HEAVILY, and messing with men who didn’t respect me, or even think much of me. I was a witty converser who cared about the kids and Black culture with really bomb head. I remember lamenting to my homegirls that I couldn’t understand how I, the shy little girl from Gullah Gullah Island, with no daddy-issues, who was a favorite RA and president of BSU, had become the girl who men would fuck but not take home? Texting my sistercousin like “Wale’s song ‘Bad’ is the story of my life. sad face”. And how did shit get like this? I was Tasha, waiting in the wings for some dude who looked good on the outside only…Looked Good On The Outside ONLY. I fucked quite a few Daniels. I held down a few Lawrences. I did the whole But I wrote him a letter EVERY DAY of basic training and talked to him until 5am my first year of school when he was stationed in Japan. But I encouraged his rap ambitions and told him he was smart enough for college and bought him school supplies and a comforter for his freshman year. But I listened to his goals and ideas for opening his non-profit (and his rap ambitions) and did his hair every time he asked. Allowed myself to feel shamed by the bullshit double-standard “how you gonna fuck with another dude when I told you I liked you but only wanted to hook up after midnight and make sure nobody saw us?”  L O L
This Sara I am now knows deeply that many things about these men were foul. They were disrespectful, dishonest, complacent, entitled…BROKEN. Exactly who they’d said they were. Should those men be held accountable and responsible  for their bullshit? AbsoFUCKINGlutely. Were they mirroring my own I ain’t shit sense of self? Right again. Did I consciously choose to put up with/share my time, energy, emotions and body with these men who were exactly who they told/showed me they were? Damn skippy. I did. I chose. I didn’t feel like I deserved any better. After my 9 month relationship ended with the lying liar who lied(s) (idk), I convinced myself that this breakup meant my 100% wasn’t worth anything. I wasn’t shit. I didn’t deserve shit. (Shoutout to my daddy for taking me to Ruby Tuesday’s after that breakup and listening to me sob and buying me a turkey burger that I was too devastated to eat.)
The strongly-worded, pained reviews I’ve seen after the season finale make sense. The familiar desire to receive a Purple Heart for putting up with some real outlandish, off-the-wall bullshit that we didn’t have to put up with. As synchronicity  would have it, Feminista Jones just posted an excellent video refuting the tired claim that Black feminists destroyed the “Black Family.” She drops GEMS on GEMS and FACTS on FACTS. Two in particular are relevant to me in this case. One point she makes is about a generation of men who believe manhood is about having (possessing) a wife and children and providing for them–many of these men then had multiple families. Some across the country. Some in the same town. And the wives of these men generally stayed because men will be men and it’s better to have a man than not and we can’t expect any better. This speaks to the conversation Lawrence’s boys are having in the strip club. “Bitches today ain’t like what they used to be. Back in the day my grandaddy cheated all the time and Grandma wasn’t out here acting up. She was still ride or die.”…Yes. Because that is the type of love we should all aspire to. The video also speaks to the false and toxic belief that “a real man” always has his shit together. ALWAYS. If he doesn’t, he is a failure and not a real man.
I know shows and movies can’t actually work if all of the characters are honest with themselves and each other, say what they mean/feel, communicate effectively, and heavily prioritize therapy/healing/self-reflection/accountability. But I wasn’t angry with any of the characters in Insecure because it was obvious to me that not one of them was coming from a healthy place. A place of wholeness.
Casual sex is awesome if everyone’s consenting and that’s what you want to do. Expecting sex of any kind to heal a void inside of you doesn’t work. Weed and alcohol can be really fun/relaxing if that’s your whole thang. lol. Relying on either to cope with day to day life really ins’t a good long-term plan. Affirming your homegirls and letting them know that they’re the shit is…NECESSARY. Keep doing that shit. Not being honest with your sisters about the self-sabotage you’re witnessing and refusing to be held accountable for your own shit–that’s not healthy. Shaming anyone’s honest sexual exploration/sexual fluidity is WACK. Really, Really played out. Lashing out at our reflections is a damaging waste of time. Assuming the next person has it all together because of how they look on social media/the finesse with which they cash their unemployment checks is unwise. Getting your shit together for anyone besides yourself [FIRST] rarely fares well. Thinking someone is going to be different than exactly who they said/showed you they were is a set up for failure. Having expectations for someone and not communicating what those expectations are isn’t fair and doesn’t work. Coasting, becoming complacent, taking loved ones’ time, energy and compassion for granted and not being honest about insecurities and fears breeds resentment. Putting up with toxic bullshit from ANYONE expecting to get the glory or the faithful servant award in the end is…time consuming at best. Unfair, ludicrous and illogical double standards for different genders are wack wack wack.
I am reflecting on all of these things in love–after 4 years of hard, painful reflection, lifestyle changes, giving up pig bacon and re-establishing my love for pig bacon, losing over 70 lbs, finding an effective antidepressant/anxiety medicine that cleans out the static in my brain, embracing a meditation style that works for me, replacing one vice with another vice and learning that the last vice might be making me sick, two EXTREMELY stressful jobs, HELLA therapy, speaking to God in public, deciding I will not carry any shame for my past because I’m amazing, meeting a WHOLE man who my family, friends and most importantly I recognize is the dopest and most beautiful reflection, witnessing my web of sisterhood strengthen and expand-finding safety in our shared traumas, triumphs and flawless lipstick selfies, falling down, getting back up, accepting that I’m gonna fall down again but I can ALWAYS get back up, getting comfortable talking to sisters and elders about sex, nights of insomnia, suicidal thoughts, recognizing that stress will actually , literally kill me, and acknowledging on 11/9/16, that my wellbeing, my healing, my self-love, survival, joy and liberation are no one’s responsibility  but mine.
That was a lot…
In closing, Issa Rae, I am so freaking proud of and grateful for you. You dreamed it. You worked hard. You made it happen. You have men and women in heated discussion about our reflections. I can’t wait for season 2! You affirmed my truth, my awkwardness and my writing style.
Also, shoutout to every single Black and Brown content creator who knows that the opposite of war is not peace. It’s creation. Thank you for blessing us with beyond incredible music, poetry, t-shirts, fashion designs, hairstyles, theater, web series, podcasts, movies, television, photographs, literature, blogs, artwork, etc. all year long. We need it. And shout out to me. I’m proud of me. #Teamhealing is undefeated.
Photographer: RJ Eldridge
**The last time I was really triggered by TV, it was the episode of Scandal when Fitz and Liv had sex in some electrical closet and then Fitz degrades Liv, saying it’s not his fault he can’t control his erection around her. In that moment, I wanted to fight my daddy (who has been married to my mama for 31 years) I wanted to fight my brother, any man I’d ever met actually. So I more than Get It.




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Geechee Gals Gettin’ It – pt. 4

The Gullah Geechee culture is not only rich in history. The gifts our ancestors gave are infinite and inspire us daily but it doesn’t just stop there. No, Gullah Geechee is a living, breathing culture. What we do today continues to shape our community and narrative. From healing work, to activism, music, entrepreneurship, preservation, counseling, parenting, natural hair care and more, Gullah Geechee women continue to “Reach back and get it” and then put their thing down, flip it and reverse it. 🙂

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing a short series highlighting 14 proud Gullah Geechee women who are honoring the entrepreneurial and revolutionary spirits of those who came before us.

Each woman was asked a series of questions ranging from how long they’ve identified as Gullah Geechee to what they believe will be key in preserving and celebrating the culture and community.

In their own words…

Shaniqua Davenport Coaxum, Geechee Gal

I was born in Fort Jackson, SC (military) but raised in Beaufort, SC by way of Burton, SC ggshaniqua3and later St. Helena Island. Honestly, I started to identify as Gullah Geechee at the age of 8, when my mother moved our family across the bridge from Burton to St. Helena Island, SC. My siblings and I went to Penn Center‘s Afterschool Program for Cultural Enrichment for years. I attended until 9th grade.  I started to to claim the culture because I knew we were unique as far as traditions, work ethic, the way we ate and cooked–but I really didn’t understand until I got older.

To me Gullah Geechee is a unique culture and way of life; speaking, cooking, eating, and work ethic.

I am passionate about my business and and about educating my clients. Not only do I teach them how to care for their hair; but I educate them about our culture and who we are. So many of them have never heard the words “Gullah Geechee” but will go to Charleston or Hilton Head to eat and enjoy our cultural dishes without knowing anything about the origin.

ggshaniquaI am a licensed cosmetologist and owner of Naturelle Beaute’ by Shaniqua in Charlotte, NC. I believe that I’ve been called to counsel and educate, and I do this whenever I stand behind my chair. I am also a wife and an expectant mother!

The work ethic and entrepreneurial skills of my ancestors definitely plays a role in how I handle business. My advice to other women is to stay true to yourself and your brand. Never compete with the next business owner–what’s yours is yours. Customers will come and come and go but loyal clients will be there until the end.

I think to preserve the culture we  need to create a group of people who are passionate about the Gullah Geechee culture and community. We should utilize technology and social media. This would bring awareness and eventually help our culture evolve beyond the corridor. Many of us natives no longer live in The Lowcountry but love sharing and celebrating our Gullah Geechee traditions in our various cities.

Check out Shaniqua’s work: Naturelle Beaute’ by Shaniqua !

Tamika Middleton, Geechee Gal

I’m from St. Helena Island, Seaside to be exact 🙂 I have always identified as Gullah ggtamika3Geechee. I think maybe it was growing up on St. Helena, spending so much time at Penn Center, having your parents (Ron and Natalie Daise) come do presentations at St. Helena Elementary. I was always clear that I was Gullah Geechee, and that it meant something (even if I didn’t always think that “something” was positive).

Gullah Geechee means ancestral legacy and connection. It means standing in a lineage of resistance and resilience; Gullah Geechee means an indomitable people with an indomitable spirit. It means good food, and family, and Blackness, and land, and culture. Gullah Geechee is self and home.

I am passionate about Black people, and specifically Black women and children. I am passionate about preserving Black legacies of healing and resistance. I am passionate about liberation, and about us all acknowledging how necessary Black liberation is to all liberation.

I wear a lot of hats! I am the Organizing Director for the Atlanta chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. I am a doula and an apprentice midwife. I am a nonprofit consultant, though I like to think of myself as a social movements consultant, because I prefer to consult with organizations that are doing really important work towards liberation. I am an organizer to my core, through and through. I know my purpose is tied into that, because no matter how often I try to step away, I find myself doing it, instinctually. I know I’ve been called to be a healer–specifically in the Gullah Geechee tradition. My ancestors told me this in a dream. So we’ll see where that leads me. Along those lines, I coordinate an organization called Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective, and we provide a space to talk about the necessity of healing and wellness as a part of social movement work and for addressing collective trauma. I’m a wife and a mama. I’m an unschooler, and I do a lot of thinking, talking, writing, building around self-directed education, and alternative educational models as libratory praxis. I’m working with a dope group of folks on opening the Anna Julia Cooper Learning and Liberation Center in the spring of 2017. I write sometimes, too, when I can get out of my own way. I have a novel in me somewhere. And I perform with a bomb ass Black women performance group called NALO Arts Collective.

ggtamikaI think all of this makes me terribly unsuited for capitalism! lol. Anything I do to earn money is always in the service of Black people. And I tend to lean more toward bartering, sliding scale services, that sort of model. I operate in a way that’s a bit Marxist, in that “to each according to his need, from each according to his ability” sort of way, such that I rarely turn anyone away for doula services or consulting services; I always try to find a way to offer them something, or find someone who can provide them what they need. It’s not the best way to run a business in a capitalistic society, but I always find that my needs are met, because my work is also a way I build community.

I think the advice I would have for other entrepreneurs is to stay true to yourself, stay true to your mission, and stay grounded and connected. It’s the only way to move through the world. And also, find yourself some dope Black women to keep you up. At the same time, for Black women, especially, don’t let people feel entitled to your labor. Despite the fact that I try to show up to the best of my ability, and most folks really appreciate that, there will always be folks who don’t appreciate it, because they feel entitled to it. To paraphrase Zora Neale Hurston, Black women are the mules of the world. People will take your work, eat off of it, THRIVE off of it, and render you invisible. DON’T LET THEM.

How to preserve and celebrate the culture? I think the answer to that question lies in that word “evolution”. There are people who want to make us into ghosts. The world would see Gullah Geechee Culture as a dead or static culture. But we are here. And we are alive. And WE ARE THE CULTURE (despite what some folks would have you think). We have to remember that we are the culture, and the culture is what, who, where we are. We are the ancestors; they are us. We honor the ancestors, the traditions, but we acknowledge that the traditions are alive. We talk to the ones that come after us. My kids are born and raisedggtamika2 in Atlanta, but they will never not know they are Gullah Geechee. So we connect with each other, we build with each other, we commune with each other, we learn the traditions, we pass them on, and we talk about who we are today. There’s a DOPE thread of Gullah Geechee hip hop artists and musicians on Facebook. How do we inherently make hip hop something different because of who we are? As we leave the Corridor, what is it that we take with us? Who have we become? I have an interview project in my head to talk to Gullah Geechee folks under 45. Because really, no-one talks to us, except to put us on display, to have us perform. No-one talks to us as though we are actual, living, breathing, loving people. So I’d like to do that.

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Geechee Gals Gettin’ It – pt. 3

The Gullah Geechee culture is not only rich in history. The gifts our ancestors gave are infinite and inspire us daily but it doesn’t just stop there. No, Gullah Geechee is a living, breathing culture. What we do today continues to shape our community and narrative. From healing work, to activism, music, entrepreneurship, preservation, counseling, parenting, natural hair care and more, Gullah Geechee women continue to “Reach back and get it” and then put their thing down, flip it and reverse it. 🙂
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing a short series highlighting 14 proud Gullah Geechee women who are honoring the entrepreneurial and revolutionary spirits of those who came before us.
Each woman was asked a series of questions ranging from how long they’ve identified as Gullah Geechee to what they believe will be key in preserving and celebrating the culture and community.
In their own words…

Kyndra Joi, Geechee Gal
ggkyndra1A Village raised me! Huger Street, Eastside, West Ashley, Silver hill and George Legare aka George lagree. My childhood was full of Geechee wonder, surrounded by my elders, spirituality and culture! And I didn’t even know it! With all of this combined, I am and still evolving to be the best me and a stronger Gullah Warrior Ooman.
Growing up in Charleston, we were called Geechee all of our lives. However, understanding what that meant was something different. It was only when music called me back to my true identity. I began singing with Ann Caldwell and the Magnolia singers in high school where I sang the bassline. I learned more about the culture, the language and realized what I had been speaking all along wasn’t “bad English”, it was Gullah. Since 1996 when I realized the uniqueness of my sound, my voice and my spirit, I have been nothing but a Proud Gullah Girl. Now I have my famlee interested in our history and culture and in turn, we have become a closer unit. #KnowThyself
Once you understand the history of our Gullah Geechee ancestors, their intuition, their genius to adapt, cultivate and thrive, a sense of pride swells within you. To have an identity, language and culture so unique and so similar to our Afrikan brothers and sisters, it just fills my spirit. When I went to Senegal, Ghana and Cote de voire and ate the same meals that my famlee eats on a daily basis, it just blew my mind. I am a direct descendant of the coast of West Afrika. I am a Gullah Warrior Woman. I am proud to speak my language, tell our story and pass on traditions so our ancestors nor our Gullah Geechee culture will never be forgotten. I am because They are!
My life now was shaped and molded by how I was raised in Charleston. Growing up, I was passionate about my famlee, music, history and community. When I realized that my community was what I read and studied in books i.e. underground railroads and slave markets, my life changed. When I realized that women caring and treating each other respectfully and children minding their elders became a rarity when I left home for college, my life changed again! My passion now is Lighting the Village. I develop curriculums and facilitate wellness workshops for communities and organizations that cultivate wholeness within mind, body and spirit; individually and collectively! I share my culture, my memories, my joys and my pains in my workshops and allow what the ancestors left for me in my village to shine through to give light to multiple generations.
I recently told one of the women from my church who helped  raise me that they all should be locked up because the way they raised us was illegal. Lol! She laughed. I continued to tell her that the rest of the world doesn’t operate like this and they set us up! Lol! To be able to share that same intentional love with others that I experienced growing up and all throughout high school is the Lighting of the Village I am speaking of. This is my passion!
ggkyndra3My closet is full of hats! First Tier; I am Recording Artist, Kyndra Joi, where my music is affectionately known as “Gullah Soul”. I have taken a brief hiatus from the recording scene to do more cultural music and music collaborations. I am the Founder and Director of my nonprofit, I Am My Sister. This nonprofit assists women of color in cultivating wholeness and obtaining balance within self-first through wellness workshops and mentorship. This organization is dear to my heart because the ultimate goal is to assist women in freeing themselves from that mental and societal bondage that has been placed on them. When we are free, we are able to stand upright in our places and the be the strength and protectors of our communities and families that we have been created to be.
Next, my second business is called, Light the Village, LLC. This organization facilitates wellness workshops catered to your organizational needs in regards to mental health from a holistic perspective, Cultural Seminars (Gullah Geechee workshops) and Speaking Engagements. This is the opportunity I get to facilitate Gullah Geechee Seminars on music, women, history and culture.
I am a LMSW (licensed master social worker), Certified Belief Therapist, Herbalist, Curriculum developer, Sister, Daughter, Friend and Mentor.
With all that being said, I truly believe that my calling is teaching in love. I assist in teaching women and children how to cultivate wholeness within themselves. With my own experience and working in the social work/clinical field for 16 years, persons who have a sense of identity are less likely to participate in a negligent activity. They find a sense of pride and purpose and operate within that realm. Imagine if all of our communities were to operate in this realm!! The thought blows my mind.
My culture plays a big role in my entrepreneurship because it keeps me in the perspective that I am making strides and moves for the next generation. With this mindset, it’s never about just me. Its about how we can get communities of color to sustain themselves, how can we insert the feminine energy back into our current realm, how can we get children to actually know who they are, who their ancestors are and show respect within that.
With my nonprofit, I have had the opportunities to do bigger community events and involve everyone in the famlee within these neighborhoods programs. My perspective is this: if our ancestors and elders didn’t do it for us, where would we be? Now I am in the position to make things happen and create opportunities for women and children to know who they are and how to operate freely within that. I know that I can do this solely on what was instilled in me, the role models that were before me daily and the village that said, We are a Famlee, despite not being related by blood.   I know whose shoulders I stand on and I do not take the responsibility lightly. When they see me coming they say, there goes that Gullah Gal and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
ggkyndra2My advice that I give to the Queens is just do it! There are always going to be the what if’s, the naysayers, the financial concerns, but just do it. Develop your plan, get a team of at least 2 people and make it do what it do. Ask questions, find a mentor, have a steady self-care plan and then go at it again! Just imagine, if our ancestors didn’t do it, where would be? We are responsible for the generation behind us. They are because We Are!
 I feel that our generation has no choice but to preserve our culture and pass the tradition. For those of us who understand the importance of our existence, we should have famlee circles to create an open space for us to talk about our culture and be free to ask questions; especially since it’s not taught in our schools. However, on the community level, I have collaborated with others who want to know more about the culture and created programming from levels of music, culinary and education to share with the masses. On the individual level, I just finished writing a children’s book, “Princess Kai, Tales of a Gullah Girl.” I develop programming where I go into schools, libraries and organizations to facilitate workshops and creative cultural programming. It is my personal responsibility to educate communities and nurture the culture that gave me my identity. Celebrate the culture daily wherever you go. If you don’t live in the Gullah Geechee corridor, rep it wherever you are! For many years, people were ashamed to be associated as Gullah Geechee because many believed it had a negative connotation. Now everywhere I go people are asking, where are you from? I tell them with all my 32’s showing, “I from Charleston, Imma a Gullah Gal” which often then sparks a conversation.
 My vision is to create a conglomerate within Gullah business owners so that we wherever we are, we can be represented all over the world. It can be a like a tourist, culinary, education, music, dance and community company where all the money would remain in the communities to rebuild, educate and preserve Gullah Geechee culture. We must start teaching our children who they are because if not, our culture will fade.
Connect with Kyndra!
Invite Kyndra to do a Wellness Workshop or Gullah Geechee Seminar
Wanna be a part or learn more about her nonprofit, I Am My Sister?  Check out
Website: I Am My Sister


Geechee Gals Gettin’ It – pt. 2

The Gullah Geechee culture is not only rich in history. The gifts our ancestors gave are infinite and inspire us daily but it doesn’t just stop there. No, Gullah Geechee is a living, breathing culture. What we do today continues to shape our community and narrative. From healing work, to activism, music, entrepreneurship, preservation, counseling, parenting, natural hair care and more, Gullah Geechee women continue to “Reach back and get it” and then put their thing down, flip it and reverse it.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing a short series highlighting 14 proud Gullah Geechee women who are honoring the entrepreneurial and revolutionary spirits of those who came before us.

Each woman was asked a series of questions ranging from how long they’ve identified as Gullah Geechee to what they believe will be key in preserving and celebrating the culture and community.

In their own words…

Grace T. Walker-Harrison, Geechee Gal

gggraceI was born in New Haven, CT. At 5-years-old I moved to Summerville, SC, where my grandparents lived. I lived there until I was 12 and then I was sent back to Connecticut. I graduated from high school in ’96 and by 1999 I was ready for change. Jacksonville, FL was my next destination. In 2012 I finally decided to move back to SC. I’ve grown up exposed to the city-life as well as the country-living. Moving so often didn’t provide much stability. Because of this, it was easy learning to live without becoming psychologically attached to locations or people.

I’ve been exposed to so many things in just a short period of time, it’s hard to narrow my passions down to one or two. So far I absolutely love African Dance and everything that comes under that umbrella. My body automatically responds to the music without a thought. I’m passionate about Gullah Geechee culture. Learning my history is amazing and it constantly leaves me in awe.

I am a mother of two active teenage girls, a wife, a full-time employee, an African dancer, business owner, and I assist with Gullah Geechee Angel Network events. Organization and balance is key for me. There are times when I may take a day or weekend to do absolutely nothing. I use that time to take care of me and rejuvenate my mind. Restgracedaughter2 my body. Spend time with my home. How to help the evolving culture? For the adults: staying involved, assisting in the area that appears to struggle. Getting our youth involved so that they understand and are aware of their identity within their culture. It’s through the youthful energy that the positive evolution of the culture will expand in areas like education, social media advertisement, cultural and community projects. We must advertise and exemplify the phrase “Do Your Part!”

The desire to see if I could be successful at something that I was 100% responsible for is what motivated me to start my own business. I tell my children regularly that they can do anything they put their minds to.  What was stopping me from being a successful, independent business-owner myself? Once I began learning more about my culture, I recognized that there wasn’t an immediate source for many of the cultural items that I had grown to admire (attire, accessories, fabrics, etc.) Wearing various hats can be draining, confusing, and overwhelming at times. Honestly, being a parent has given me the strength and confidence to know that any goal I set can be accomplished. Parenting is my priority and because I’ve mastered raising 2 positive, smart, respectful humans, I’d say I’m working on my PhD in parenting at the moment.

graceggI believe my purpose now is to assist our elders with the work that needs to be completed so that our culture doesn’t become dormant. I do so by showing them how to use technology, typing paperwork, making calls, being an educated face and voice for their affairs and making sure that their needs are met.

My advice for entrepreneurs is to remain patient and prepare to struggle. IF your product is not a direct daily need, be prepared to have slow seasons. Keep into consideration that your based clients may very well be on fixed/ minimal income. Stay persistent. Remaining obedient and involved will continuously play a vital role in not only the growth of your business, but for the evolution of the culture as well.

Grace is the owner of Cultural Essence & Fashions . Check out her great designs, jewelry, natural oils and more. You can reach out to her at

Erica Alcox, Geechee Gal

I’m from North Charleston, SC and I’ve been Gullah Geechee aware my whole life. Myggerica knowing came from my mother making sure I knew where I came from. She would tell me about where she was born (Cherokee Plantation in Yemassee, SC) and how everyone took care of each other. My grandfather would also tell us stories. To hear him speak guaranteed you would be aware of the culture. I was and still am proud of such a rich heritage. It means being resilient and proud. Embracing that which is unique and embedded in you that no one else can imitate. We are an original and wise people who prosper from our natural abilities as long as we respect those abilities.

I’m passionate about education and achievement. Knowing that my grandmother graduated from high school the year I was born made me understand the importance of learning. Too much has been sacrificed to provide our generation with the luxuries we enjoy with just a click of a button. There is NO excuse for not cultivating our greatness. Being mediocre and shallow in anything we do is blatant disrespect to our ancestors and our elders.

My calling, business, and purpose are all aligned with my passion for education and achievement. I am an educator in unconventional settings where I coach classroom teachers on classroom management and unique strategies for instruction to better serve our youth. I also provide consultations for small businesses looking to fine tune their marketing strategies and streamline their product development. I look at what they have and help them to get more impact for stronger results. I also blog about life in general as a mother, caregiver, and entrepreneur while maintaining my identity as a woman. My experience playing all 4 roles provides me the opportunity to be that motivational speaker who captures your attention and leaves a permanent reminder to disrupt the status quo.

My blog is called “The Okra Soup Truth” where I give the uncomfortable but necessary truth that we tend to run away from– but only helps us to be better. Just like when you first see okra and aren’t too sure you can deal with the slime; you become a fan of it when you taste it in a delicious pot of okra soup. That “slime” gives the pot that flavor!…and yes I can cook!

ggerica2Traditions are meant to form a foundation for us to build the future, not to keep us stuck. We can respect our roots while we continue to grow the rest of the fruit. It’s our job to continue to educate our children about who we are and to celebrate this heritage in our daily lives. Never be ashamed of our story. This is why I created Geechie Gurl. I didn’t feel like the popular Carolina brands represented me, so I built something that did. Continue to tell our story and honor that story in our daily lives. I tell stories through my blog about today’s events but I also infuse my Lowcountry upbringing in how I say what I say and do what I do. “It’s not just an accent…it’s an ATTITUDE!” That’s my favorite t-shirt in my product line.

My advice for other business owners is to support one another. Today we tend to operate in cliques. Whether we want to admit it or not, that’s what we tend to do. I understand having  our select people that we truly vibe with; however, withholding information and opportunities from someone who you’ve witnessed genuinely working towards a goal is a negative reality I’ve witnessed and experienced. This is detrimental to our future as a demographic. It’s ok to be independent. I find, though, that sometimes we confuse that thin line between independence and selfishness. Even though we still have work to do in that department, I can tell we are doing better. I would also say be unapologetic in your approach to your goals. People will label us “angry” when in actuality we are DETERMINED and CONFIDENT. It’s not our job to ask for permission to be great and accepted. 

You can see Erica’s blog and the other great services she offers at Okra Soup Truth. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @geechiegurltm & Facebook at Geechie Gurl

Look out for the next features and commit to finding some joy this week!




Geechee Gals Gettin’ It – pt. 1

The Gullah Geechee culture is not only rich in history. The gifts our ancestors gave are infinite and inspire us daily but it doesn’t just stop there. No, Gullah Geechee is a living, breathing culture. What we do today continues to shape our community and narrative. From healing work, to activism, music, entrepreneurship, preservation, counseling, parenting, natural haircare and more, Gullah Geechee women continue to “Reach back and get it” and then put their thing down, flip it and reverse it.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing a short series highlighting some proud Gullah Geechee women who are honoring the entrepreneurial and revolutionary spirits of those who came before us.

Each woman was asked a series of questions ranging from what they’re passionate about to how long they’ve identified as Gullah Geechee to what they believe is necessary to preserve and celebrate the culture and community.

In their own words…

Joselyn Holmes, Geechee Gal

I am from St. Helena Island, SC. I grew up on Seaside and currently live in Cedar Grove of St. Helena Island.

I didn’t start identifying as Gullah Geechee until I was at least 5 or 6 years old. I just remember growing up laughing at the way my grandparents talked. Little did I know it was sticking. I was picking up on everything they said and did. My first time in a field was ggjoselyn2because of my grandmother; we picked okra and tomatoes, corn and snap beans. Every Sunday we’d have a big family dinner and you could always expect some “hoppin john” aka peas & rice, cornbread, mac & cheese, turkey wings, potato salad and more. Sundays were literally Gullah Grub day. I was also influenced by the show Gullah Gullah Island. I remember watching this show in kindergarten. It taught me social skills and family lessons through song and also highlighted the Gullah culture. It wasn’t until I attended Penn Center’s summer camp that I was really able to claim my Gullah Geechee identity. As a camper and eventually a junior counselor, I learned a lot about our enslaved ancestors and what they went through. We toured the local museum and viewed all the handmade clothes and artifacts that were used back in the day. We’d also watch videos and have speakers come and enlighten us with more knowledge. I can honestly say that my identity as Gullah Geechee has evolved through different stages and experiences in my life.

Being Gullah Geechee  is a privilege. To be a part of a culture that endured and paved a way for me is just a blessing. Gullah Geechee isn’t just a popular fad to cling to. It’s a way of life—our way of life that needs to be promoted and preserved.

I’ve always had my own style. I have a collection of baseball hats that I started buying my first year out of high school. I have a thing with coordinating, so my hats always matched my sneakers, shirt and socks. I was blessed with a gift to cut people’s hair. I’ve been a Master Barber for 9 years, and I ggjoselyn3enjoy every minute of it. It’s such a great feeling being able to enhance one’s natural beauty with a simple haircut. My culture certainly influences my barber career. Every style is a revolving cycle of what was worn before my time. Many of the styles have some type of symbolic meaning behind them.

My advice to my fellow black women entrepreneurs would be to keep God first and be patient. In order to be a successful businesswoman you first have to love what you do. Be humble and accept constructive criticism. Always remember that you have to go through to get through. Times may be rough, but nothing worth having is ever easy. Support your fellow black women and never let their success make you envious. You never know the storms they went through to get there.

I am most passionate about motherhood. There is really no greater feeling than working hard to take care of the very kids I carried for nine months and birthed. I love teaching them the lessons that were instilled in me. I think we need ggjoselynseminars as well as summer programs to teach more of the Gullah Geechee Culture to this generation. Art shows, crafts and music should be incorporated to assist in telling our stories. Our culture should be taught in the school system as its own course–not just one chapter in a history book. We could even have fashion shows, cooking & sweet grass basket weaving classes. Trips to local farmland & docks. All of these could be ways to engage the younger generation and continue to bring awareness and knowledge to the culture I am so proud of.


Khetnu Nefer, Geechee Gal

ggkhetnuI’m from Johns Island, SC.

I have always known that I embodied a cultural identity that surpassed just being black. Even though I didn’t grow up hearing specifically that I was Gullah Geechee in my household, I lived and witnessed the culture on a daily basis. It probably wasn’t until I went to college at Claflin College (now University) that I truly embraced it. Attending an HBCU somehow makes you assess who you are as a black person and I saw from the outside looking in how awesome my culture was. I knew that I had to not only represent but do what I can to help preserve it.

Being Gullah Geechee to me means being proud to be a descendant of a treasured heritage that encompasses more than the middle passage. Our Gullah Geechee ancestors set the precedence and survived despite the odds. Being Gullah Geechee means being the benefactor of a rich and unique living culture that needs to be recognized for its numerous contributions. I call myself the Geechee Goddess in honor of the wonderful strong and intelligent Gullah Geechee women who came before me and shaped and molded my existence. I think by polling the Gullah Geechee people, we can get an even greater understanding of how to encourage others to embrace the culture.  Community forums and focus groups are valuable to help gather information.

My calling is to help others preserve their health. I am passionate about women’s health, especially women who are dealing with infertility. I love helping women connect to their wombs and learning their womb’s story. The goal is to assist women in healing by bringing balance to their lives. I wear a lot of crowns 🙂 I am a certified holistic health practitioner, certified birth doula, licensed massage therapist of over 12 years, certified Egyptian yoga instructor, certified KuKuwa African dance instructor and budding community herbalist

My purpose is to utilize my skills and gifts and be the awesome person the Divine intends for me to be!

My culture plays huge role in my entrepreneurship as I come from a stock of entrepreneurs on both sides of my family. I think seeing that influenced me in ways that I didn’t realize until I went into business for myself. I think that Gullah Geechee people are so resourceful when it comes to business that it is almost innate. Not all of our ancestors were enslaved. A lot of them were entrepreneurs.ggkhetnu2

My advice to other Black female business owners: Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate. Don’t try to go at it alone when you don’t have to. Seek out like-minded business owners and network and build with each other. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to say “No” to those things that don’t align with your business/brand. Step out of your comfort zone. Be focused and fearless.

Check out the amazing mobile services Khetnu offers at A Soulful Touch Wellness

Stay tuned for upcoming features!






4 GenerationsI woke up with the realization that my parents won’t live forever. For years my mother has said when she looks in the mirror she expects to see me and she is regularly surprised to see a middle-aged woman. My father calls himself “old.” I have always shrugged off these remarks. She is as beautiful and peanutbuttery as I remember. He is as smooth and mahogany and bright as always. Now, though, I see the smile lines in her eyes that resemble her father’s. Now I see the softness in the strong cheekbones she got from her mother and her mother before that. I hear the slow rhythm of his mother’s voice slip out of my father’s mouth. I see Grandma’s fire and approval in his expressions.

Both of my parents have been caretakers for different elders in our family for as long as I’ve been here. I lost two of my grandparents last in 2015. My maternal great-grandmother Elizabeth Shields lived to be 99. She transitioned last February. My paternal grandmother, Kathleen Daise, lived to be 101. She passed on last August. I watched my parents, just as they did in 2009 when my Papa died, take care of all the funeral arrangements, edit the program, communicate with family members, etc. They handle these family transitions with such grace and poise—or so it always appeared to me.

It wasn’t until this new stage of my own adulthood that I started to see the miles that my parents have gone. I began seeing my parents as adults. People who were once children with their own hopes and fears. Human beings who sometimes just wish their parents could step in and make it better. With my new eyes, I can see more of the lives my parents lived etched into their faces. It’s when I saw my daddy’s body shake with grief after Grandma's Obitsinging one last song to his mother at her homegoing service. It is the sigh I can feel as my mother prepares to care for her own mother, who is now suffering from dementia. It is the uncomfortable realization that my parents won’t live forever either. (Even though I’ve been telling them for 20 years that they have to).

There’s another itchy thickness in my chest. The recognition that I am older than my mother was when she met my father. My parents are the ages my grandparents were when I was born. Now I’m the young adult with a bunch of teenage cousins whose diapers I remember changing.

I know what this means.

I’m no longer up next. I’m up now.

I’ve been feeling this urgency for a while. This knowing that it is my turn. Our turn. Now it is time to grab the torch and run as far and as hard as we can: planting seeds for the ones who got next.

In my angst there is gratitude.

Gratitude for my great cloud of witnesses. I am surrounded by the wisdom of Kathleen. The compassion of Elizabeth. The calm strength of William. The cool style of Larry. The brilliance of Mildred. The healing empathy of Simeon. The unapologetic self-exploration of Osalami.

3 GenerationsThe stay-vigilant-I-got-an-idea-and-now-it’s-complete attitude of my daddy. The problem-solving-find-joy-in-everything character of my mother.

I meditate on these gifts. I water these seeds. I pray I’ll have the beauty and stamina of the generation before me. I hope I make the ancestors proud. I hope my parents know that even though it’s kinda scary, I am running with the torch. I am beyond grateful for all the strength training.



Let The Culture Flourish: REVISITED

In downtown Charleston, one can witness the past and the present interwoven. The sweet, salty scent of marshlands drifts off the coast and passes the old bricks. At the Historic Charleston Market, old women, skin as smooth and dark as mahogany, in wide brimmed hats, weave swift fingers through sweetgrass, creating cables to the past. One can hear colorful voices, rich with hints of old African dialects infused with hip hop jargon. Young boys make and sell palmetto roses–and couples, young and old, hold hands while walking toward the waterfront.


Charleston, SC is the top tourist destination in the United States. Known for its unique history, atmosphere, beautiful beaches and incredible food, it is not recognized as much for the people who made it thrive and who live there.

“It used to be all Black,” says Bill Saunders. “All this was Black owned. The epitome of Black business.” The community and Civil Rights activist and John’s Island native son gestures out of his car window as he drives downtown. In his deep voice, with a Geechee accent and grandfatherly tone, he acknowledges former black owned dry cleaners, restaurants, motels, law offices and taxicab stands. History. Culture. What was.

The who and the what of Charleston are Gullah Geechee.

Gullah Geechee people are the descendants of enslaved West Africans brought to the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Due to the geographic isolation of the plantations, the Africans and future generations were able to hold on to much of their African culture and traditions. The people were stolen from many

West African Gullah Origins

W. African Gullah Geechee Origins

different countries in West Africa. In order to communicate with each other amidst the various African dialects present on these southern plantations, the enslaved created a creole language—a combination of hundreds of African dialects with an English base. This language is known as Gullah Geechee.

And as Saunders says, Gullah is more than a language. It is a people. It’s tradition. It is food, religion, arts, crafts, folklore and storytelling, sweetgrass baskets, fishing.

Many people are unaware of who Gullah people are—their identity, culture and significance. And Gullah people are among the uninformed. These people whose voices, features, rhythms and traditions tie them to the heart of humanity have yet to tap into all that makes them unique and memorable.

What is required to find pride in one’s culture? Can it be preserved? Or is it too late to care?

Winema Sanders, College of Charleston senior, loves history and culture. Her mother is from Turks and Caicos and her father is from South Carolina. Born in Charleston, Sanders feels much pride for her island heritage. She recalls growing up in the church and listening to the older Gullah women tell stories—how the melodies of their voices captivated Sanders and her younger sisters.

“I think a Gullah or Geechee person is someone who speaks with the Geechee dialect. You know?” she says. “They know a lot about seafood and sweetgrass baskets. We’re normal people. We just talk a little different.”


In contrast, Saunders used to hate being called Gullah. “When I came from John’s Island in 1949 on a bus that Esau Jenkins put together for some of us to go to school, I suffered more mental and some physical stuff because of the hate that folk had for the way we talked.” Sixty-three years later, there is still a sadness in his voice.

Many older Gullah people remember a time when they were taught to be ashamed of their accents. Today, Sanders and other young people delight in the difference in their voices.

“People don’t understand their culture, their history,” says Sanders. “Their history. Embrace it. You won’t be able to know who you are or represent yourself otherwise. Maybe we should have Saturday schools to learn more [about our culture.] There are Gullah bibles and Gullah books. I think people want to be so proper. So they try to suppress the accent. The language.”

“My mother taught us about our heritage,” Sanders says. “She said, ‘You are Gullah people. This is where you’re from. This is your culture.’ She taught us about our West Indian culture, too.”

Sanders’ imitations of her mother bring to mind an older Island woman—articulate and proud. There is a faint hint of a West Indies and British in the accent.

“I mean, do you say panties or drawers?” Sanders laughs. “Me and my sisters say drawers, too! I’m like, ‘Mom, that’s how we talk.’ My mom is always like, ‘It’s panties! I tell you girls to say panties.’” Heavy emphasis on the “T”—sounds like Pawhn Tees.


Winema &  parents ’12

Sanders is preparing to spend the week in DC for the Washington Model Organization of American States. She and other students are representing the delegation of Argentina as delegates and “discussing hemispheric policies to better improve the life of citizens in the western hemisphere.”

This is not the only time Sanders travels.

“Another time I was in DC, I’d always visit with the Haitian women,” Sanders says. “They’d be making baskets. That’s another connection to the Lowcountry, except they used lemongrass not sweetgrass.”

As documented in Sweetgrass Baskets and the Gullah Tradition by Joyce V. Coakley, the art of sweetgrass basket making was brought to the Lowcountry in the 17th century by enslaved West Africans. These captive artisans originally used black rush, a marsh grass, and bound it with thin splits of white oak or stems from the saw palmetto, weaving these tough materials into baskets SWEETGRASSsimilar to those used in Africa. Once referred to as work baskets and  used to winnow rice, carry dried goods and maintain slave villages as functional art, sweetgrass baskets now sell for hundreds of dollars and can be found decorating the homes of art collectors and tourists. The craft continues to be passed down in Gullah Geechee families. The use of sweetgrass as opposed to black rush, began in the 20th century.

Dr. J. Herman J. Blake fully acknowledges the significance of his culture. “For me, being Gullah makes me the recipient of the gift of history that connects me and my children with spirits long gone who labored hard to create this society,” he says. Blake, a professor of Health Professions and Dental Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, also works tirelessly to teach others and preserve the land and livelihood of Gullah people. He sees a dis-connect in the younger generation and believes that education is necessary to spread awareness for the culture.

“There is a very superficial and extremely limited understanding in the appreciation of the culture around them,” Blake says. “It is like a fish swimming in water, and the fish doesn’t know what water is. We’ve got to develop curriculums for elementary schools, secondary schools and, ultimately, colleges so that we are constantly educating and training our young people. Then young people as a part of their education would be getting the culture.”

Gullah Geechee Cultural

Leaning forward in his leather computer chair, Blake recalls when Penn Center on St. Helena Island offered classes for standard English. “They believed people wouldn’t get jobs talking with what people called ‘broke-up English.’ I consider it very proper Gullah.”

Generations apart, both Blake and Sanders recognize a need to fill young people with excitement and pride for their heritage.

“We could have shirts, ya know?” Sanders suggests. “ Shirts that say Geechee Girl, Geechee Boy. Something hip and fashionable. I’m not into marketing or anything. But I know guys with `Geechee For Life’ tattooed across their chests.”

James Vickers is another young person aware of his culture. He and his girlfriend, Ameerah Mills are sitting in the Stern Student Center at College of Charleston. Mills has a laptop and opened notebooks scattered on the table in front of them.


Ameerah & James ’12

“I’m African American, and I’m from Charleston, South Carolina,” Vickers says. “I know I’m Geechee because of my accent—because I talk like this.” Vickers’ family originated on McLeod Plantation by the James Island Connector. McLeod Plantation is now an important educational site in Gullah culture.


McLeod Plantation

Vickers is a College of Charleston sophomore in the “Call Me MISTER” Teacher Recruitment Program. MISTER is an acronym for Men Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Modeling. The program was created to aid the critical shortage of African American male teachers, particularly in South Carolina.

“The culture itself is deteriorating,” Vickers continues. “It should be in history books because people don’t even know that they’re descendants of this culture. I think it’s an educator’s job to tell people about it. I feel like no one would listen to me. They’d take it as a joke.”

Vickers first learned about Gullah Geechee culture in middle school. “Queen Quet (Marquetta Goodwine) came to our school and spoke. I remember thinking my grandma talks just like her.” He laughs. “I was the only one in class who understood what she was saying.” His laugh is loud and infectious. His girlfriend smiles and nudges him off her shoulder.

“I think it’s so interesting,” Mills says. “I’d sign up for a class about Gullah so fast.”

Mills, a senior Sociology major at CofC, is a former summer counselor for the Upward Bound Pre College Programs at the college. She recalls bringing the high school students on a tour of Avery Research Center for African American History & Culture.


Ameerah & Tremaine, UB ’11

“I really want to go back by myself sometime so I can really look around without keeping track of the kids. But when we saw the Gullah Bible (De Gullah Nyew Testament), and I heard Tremaine read it in her accent!” Mills’ face lights up. “I was like…YES!” Tremaine is an Upward Bound student from Wadmalaw Island.

Mills is completing a study guide for a test on stereotypes and racism. However, her excitement for the culture and her boyfriend’s history trumps studying for a few minutes.

“Not to be corny—but I learned a little bit about the culture from ‘Gullah Gullah Island.’ I used to think the show was about Jamaica.” She pulls her curly red hair into a ponytail. Vickers has re-positioned himself on her shoulder, phone in hand. Every few minutes he laughs at something he sees on Twitter.


“Gullah Gullah Island” ’94-’98

“I don’t know,” Mills continues. “The Gullah culture is a beautiful thing. Culture in general. I don’t really know much about mine, so the closest thing is knowing y’alls.” She nods her head toward Vickers. She spent most of her childhood in Fayetteville, NC. A military brat, she graduated from high school in Charleston. Her mother is black, and her father is Puerto Rican.

“My great-great-grandma was a slave,” she explains.” My great-grandma lives in Orangeburg. She doesn’t have a birthday. We guess, you know? We celebrate it at the end of January.” Mills widens her eyes and moves both of her her hands in a circular motion as if to say, how crazy is that?


UB ’11

For young adults like Sanders, Vickers and Mills, there is hope for the culture. They connect and would like to join a growing circle with others who do also.

Both Saunders and Blake are commissioners on the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which works to preserve and protect the Gullah culture.

However, Saunders feels that “preserve” isn’t the right term.

“When we preserved fruits and food when I was growing up, we put some of it in jar to age. The rest we threw away. We can’t preserve the culture. We have to let it live. Let it flourish. Grow.”

I wrote this in 2012 for a Feature Writing course while completing my B.S. in Communication-Media Studies. I received a minor in African American studies. Today I’m looking back in awe at this article and the amazing people I was privileged to interview.


Mr. Bill Saunders continues his lifetime work of activism, speaking out about Civil Rights, injustices and other issues facing our community.

Bill Saunders

Dr. J Herman Blake is now the Executive Director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission. 

Dr. Blake

Winema Sanders is the Youth Programs Manager at The Palms, a luxury resort in Turks & Caicos, and the proud, new mother of son, Kymani. 

James Vickers is a middle school Social Studies teacher in North Charleston, SC. He makes it his job to fill in the cracks about African American and Gullah Geechee history for his students. He’s also a popular SC dj (@DJSCrib).

Ameerah Mills is completing the Master of Education program in Secondary School Counseling at The Citadel. She is also preparing to study abroad in London this Summer–for the 2nd time. 

James and Ameerah are engaged 🙂 

And I am a Cultural History Interpreter at McLeod Plantation Historic Site where Vickers’ family descended from. 

Crazy how life works. Like my mama said, we been comin’ a long time.