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
I 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. God 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.
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 African 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 like 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!