The Gullah Geechee’s fight against ‘cultural genocide’

How some descendants of slaves are challenging the assumption their African culture was lost during the slave trade.

Queen Quet Marquetta Goodwine is the queen mother, chieftess and spokesperson of the the Gullah Geechee Nation in the southeast United States [Allison Griner]


Allison Griner

The cicadas’ song is rising with the midday heat, and Queen Quet Marquetta Goodwine flits from one canopy tent to the next. The fish fry is well under way. There are guests to greet, conversations to be had, and help to offer.

Tall, with a head crowned with cowry shells and robes that flow to the ground, Goodwine looks every bit like a head of state. And that is in part because she is one. The Gullah Geechee Nation in the southeast United States elected her as its head pun de bodee: its queen mother, chieftess and spokesperson.

A self-declared “nation within a nation,” the Gullah Geechee people are the descendants of African slaves, isolated on the coastal islands stretching from north Florida to North Carolina.

Their ancestors combined west and central African traditions to create a culture entirely of their own. The language they speak is the only African American creole created in the United States, a mash-up of English and African languages like Krio, Mende and Vai.

But as Goodwine settles beneath the shade of an oak tree, she recalls the scepticism the Gullah Geechee face. “We don’t really know if they have a real culture,” she remembers hearing.

The misconceptions worry Goodwine. She fears her culture is in danger of being lost and forgotten, especially as black identity is reduced to what she calls a “monolith”.

When African American studies first began, there was a prevailing assumption that slavery had destroyed any culture the slaves had brought from Africa. What could have possibly survived more than two centuries of brutality and oppression?

Some academics concluded that blacks in the US had no culture “independent of general American culture”. That view was championed by Swedish Nobel laureate Karl Gunnar Myrdal in a searing study of the institutional barriers facing African Americans.

Myrdal’s work was so powerful that it was cited in the decision to desegregate American schools – but his assertion that “American Negro culture” was merely a “distorted development, or an unhealthy condition, of American culture” continues to ignite debate. Was every speck of African culture lost in the trans-Atlantic slave trade? Is America’s history of discrimination the single defining aspect of African American culture?

Goodwine bristles at the idea. After all, the Gullah Geechee Nation continues traditions born in Africa, long before white colonisers arrived. The sweetgrass baskets they weave mirror the shukublay baskets of Sierra Leone; the food they eat follows recipes found in Africa’s ‘rice coast’ region.

One of the biggest battles Goodwine faces is “just letting people know we even exist,” she says, brushing gnats away from her face. Clouds of insects are rising from the nearby salt marshes, where vast stretches of water and grass separate Goodwine’s home, St. Helena Island, from the rest of South Carolina.

For years, those marshes helped shield Gullah Geechee culture from the pressures to assimilate, keeping its traditions intact. It is only in recent decades that many of these islands have become accessible from the mainland.

“We’re not shocked when African Americans, regular Americans, people from around the world say, ‘We thought all black people in America lost all their cultural traditions,'” Goodwine says. She believes that perception arises from a systematic devaluation of black people, starting with slavery. “That was the plan: to programme you to believe you never had a culture, that you never came from rich kingdoms, from people who created math systems and science systems.”

A memorial by the Emanuel AME Church, where nine African Americans were shot during Bible study [Allison Griner]

Goodwine is attending the fish fry to toast the five-year anniversary of the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association. It is a blindingly bright day, and over her shoulder, volunteers ladle crisp, fresh fish onto beds of warm red rice. But as the cookout wears on, Goodwine’s thoughts turn to heavier matters.

In June, 21-year-old Dylann Roof casually walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, just 50 miles to the north in Charleston, South Carolina. There, in the midst of Bible study, he shot nine African American worshippers in a massacre believed to be racially motivated.

For Goodwine, this shooting was not just a hate crime. It was part of a continuing trend of ‘cultural genocide’ against her people.

The Emanuel A.M.E. Church is situated along the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a region designated for protection by the US Congress. Its history is deeply entwined with the Gullah Geechee community that grew around it. And Clementa Pinckney, the pastor singled out by the gunman, had fought on behalf of Gullah Geechee cultural preservation during his time as a state senator.

“The word genocide is one that a lot of people can’t handle me using,” Goodwine says. “Because so many people in the world don’t realise that those were Gullah Geechee people that were massacred. Those were Gullah Geechee people whose rights were being violated.”

It is a complicated issue, as Goodwine explains, and one that plays into a long-term struggle for the Gullah Geechee Nation. Their homeland is being threatened by gentrification. Their lifestyle is eroding. And all the while, very few people are aware that they are anything other than ‘black’.

“That’s a colour. That’s not a culture,” Goodwine says. “That’s a way to make sure people think we’re legend, and that we’re something of the past, that you only find Gullah Geechee in a history book.”

Disappearing under dollars and cents

Cornelia Bailey is concerned that Gullah Geechee life is fading away and hopes younger generations, like her great grandnephew, can keep it alive [Allison Griner]

A state away, on Sapelo Island, Georgia, Cornelia Bailey shares the concern that Gullah Geechee life is fading away. She is a local tour guide, historian and author ofGod, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man, a memoir of her life as a Saltwater Geechee woman.

Before the 1950s, Gullah Geechee communities like hers were thriving in the isolation of the Sea Islands. Now, Sapelo Island is one of the few with no bridges connecting it to the mainland. It claims the distinction of having the last intact sea island Gullah Geechee community in the United States, untouched by large-scale development.

“I always say, ‘Lord, when there came air conditioning, we were in trouble,'” Bailey says. She has witnessed nearby St. Simons Island grow into a tourist destination during her lifetime. Vacation homes and hotels have flourished, and property prices have risen. “There was a time when most people didn’t want these areas because they said it was infested with mosquitos. And now, everybody wants it.”

Even in Hog Hammock, the town in Sapelo Island where Bailey lives, she gets offers to sell her land. The pressures make Bailey grim about the Gullah Geechee’s future. “We will disappear in golf courses and condos. We will disappear under the dollars and cents,” she warns.

Now in her 70s, Bailey has seen many of the traditions she grew up with disappear. As she sits in the shadows of her dining room, she remembers the days when she had to drive horses as well as cars.

No one sews fishing nets like they used to. And why bother with subsistence hunting when there is a grocery store on the mainland? Instead of rowing through a maze of wetlands, Sapelo’s Gullah Geechee population can now wait for a ferry to come three times a day.

More and more, the Gullah Geechee are boarding the ferry to leave, while outsiders ride the ferry in, Bailey explains. She sees the population around her “aging and moving”. There are no schools on the island, and few jobs.

The Sapelo Island’s visitor centre, run by the state of Georgia, advertises a local Gullah Geechee community of 75, but Bailey says the number has actually tumbled down to around 50. “We just like that big number,” she adds playfully. “It makes us sound good.”

At that, she pauses. Her eyes linger around her single-storey house, its walls covered with memories. Newspaper clippings and family photos are framed on the wall behind her. A child’s craft project – a paper plate transformed into a spider with googly eyes and pipe cleaner legs – hangs from the ceiling above her fridge.

There has been some hope for Hog Hammock’s aging population, including the one-and-a-half-year-old great grandnephew that Bailey helps to take care of. As he blusters past the dining room table, Bailey quickly scoops him onto her lap, interrupting him mid-rampage. “The terrible twos came early,” she says with a laugh, rubbing the child’s tummy. He has already broken into a cupboard this morning and ravaged a box of Fruit Loops.

“If you don’t have children in your community, you don’t have a community,” Bailey says. “You can’t have a community of senior citizens. That’s a retirement community. You have to have children to make a community grow.”

In recent years, Sapelo Island has garnered national attention for its drastic rise in property taxes. Gullah Geechee feared they could lose their land, land passed down since emancipation, to tax auctions.

“It was like we went to bed one night and it was $300, and the next day it was $3,000. We were like, ‘What’s going on here?'” Bailey explains. Many of the tax hikes have been appealed and overturned, but the question of punitive taxation haunts many on the Gullah Geechee corridor.

Selling baskets, not pain

“What you see when you come to Charleston is sweetgrass baskets,” says Benjamin Dennis. “It’s an easy sell. Anybody can sell that. But can you sell the pain? Do you want to tell that story?” [Allison Griner]

Gullah Geechee chef Benjamin Dennis IV decided early on to keep his family’s property by any means necessary. Distant relatives had sold off their shares, and his late grandfather had received offers for what little remains.

“My granddaddy always said, ‘My own grandfather worked hard for this, so keep it in the family,'” Dennis says. “There’s no amount of money in the world that could compensate for owning your own land.”

Dennis has carved a niche in Charleston’s culinary scene, sharing his Gullah Geechee background through food. “I call it culture through food. It’s a history lesson on the meaning of Gullah food, which is almost a lost art,” he explains.

It is a gastronomic tradition rich with the smells of his grandmother’s okra soup, her apple dumplings, her rice with shrimp caught straight from the local creeks, fried in rich bacon fat on a cast iron skillet.

But when Dennis works at student kitchens as a mentor chef, he meets high schoolers who live far from food markets with fresh produce, in what is known as ‘food deserts’. The only stores close by sell liquor and potato chips, he says.

It is just another way Dennis sees the descendants of Gullah Geechee people drifting away from their fresh, subsistence-based lifestyle. “Some can’t even afford to eat stuff that culturally their ancestors brought here. It baffles me,” he says.

Dennis agrees that the Gullah Geechee may be facing a ‘cultural genocide’. A big part of the problem, he says, is the lop-sided history. When he walks through the old-time grandeur of downtown Charleston, he sees monuments to white America and its complex relationship with race. But Dennis does not see the same complexity afforded to black history.

Instead, all he passes are stalls of souvenirs – prominent among them, the Gullah Geechee sweetgrass baskets sold for hundreds of dollars to the tourist hordes.

With black identity so simplified, so underrepresented, Dennis says it is “easy” to understand why a massacre would happen here.

He believes Charleston would not be Charleston without the Gullah Geechee presence, period. But as long as the “true story” of that culture goes unacknowledged, racism will continue to fester.

“What you see when you come to Charleston is sweetgrass baskets. It’s an easy sell. Anybody can sell that,” he concludes. “But can you sell the pain? Do you want to tell that story? I think it needs to be told, but they don’t want to tell it. They don’t want to ruffle feathers.”

This article first appeared in a special edition of the Al Jazeera Magazine exploring race in the US. Download it for iPads and iPhones here, and for Android devices here.  


To a lot of people Africa is just a dark place, but to us it’s home and we are proud of it! Be proud of your heritage.

Mother Africa is Pregnant with Greatness

With China being predicted as the next Super Power, I cannot help but divert attention to Mama Africa’s vast land mass, high growth potential, large workforce, natural resources and increasing consumer bases.

Here are statistically proven reasons to prove that Mama Africa is pregnant with greatness:

  • While the growth of the world economy slowed to 3.2 %, the African aggregate GDP growth rose to 4.7% in 2010, 5.3% in 2011 and this is estimated to grow to 5.7 % by 2013.
  • Foreign direct investment to the continent have risen nearly 9 fold from a mere $ 10 billion in 2000 to $ 88 billion in 2008.
  • 7 out of the top ten growers for the year, 2011 to the year 2015, as predicted by  Economist, are African countries.
  • Africa is a key trader and source of resources for upcoming countries such as China and India. In 2010, China traded $ 114.81 billion with Africa.
  • Compared to the current powerhouse, Asia, Africa is among the low wage region with an enormous coastline with closer proximity to both European and Northern America Markets.
  • Mama Africa has close to a third of the world’s economically viable mineral reserves.
  • The enormous manufacturing potential created by low cost labor and a great pool of bright and talented people, whose native language are mostly French or English.
  • Increased donor support promotes increased regional integration and cross border projects in the infrastructure, agriculture, energy and transport sectors. In East Africa, the proposed railway construction between Kenya and Uganda will ease transportation between Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi.
  • Doing business has also become easier. In 2010, among the 10 economies in the world that highly improved the ease of doing business were Cape Verde, Rwanda and Zambia.
  • Multinational corporations are increasing market presence in Africa. In 2011, Walmart invested 44.8 billion in the acquisition of 51 % of Massmart (a South African company). The Cosmetics giant L’Oreal has operations in South Africa, Ghana and Morocco and has opened new subsidiaries in Nigeria and Kenya. The growth in the ICT sector has attracted investors, for example, IBM now operates more than 20 new African offices.
  • The expanding middle class and a consumer base is projected to reach 1.4 billion by mid 2025 and 2.2 billion by 2050.
  • Communications technology has caught up in Africa as well. Africans are among the world’s top users of the internet on their mobile phones.
  • Advanced technologies are helping to drive a wave of innovation across African financial services sector. For example, banks create new and accessible banking channels and take banking services such as MPESA to previously un-banked parts of society.


Coca Cola has seen that Mama Africa is on its way to becoming an economic powerhouse shown by its “A billion reasons to believe” in Africa advert.  Africa’s population was estimated at 1 billion in 2010 and estimated to reach 1.4 billion by mid 2025. The Coca Cola “A billion Reasons to Believe” advert:


Mama Africa is clearly on its way to becoming an economic powerhouse.

Naomi Njeri Mwaura


Naomi Njeri Mwaura is a young 26 year old Kenyan that currently resides in her home country of Kenya, near the capital of Nairobi. She is the founder of FloNe Initiatives and is passionate about social entrepreneurship. Naomi is proud to live on a continent that has so much diversity and potential.



Why America Must Stop Ignoring Its Black Youth

6 Reasons Why America Must Stop Ignoring Its Black Youth

Photo of Black Army Cadets with Their Fists in The Air Draws Criticism, Accused of Supporting BLM Movement

May 5, 2016 | Posted by


Members of the U.S. Military Academy's Class of 2016 pose for a photo with their fists raised in front of their barracks.

The raised fist has long been a symbol of resistance, whether it be along the lines of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. A number of groups throughout history have used it to express their resistance to oppression and determination to overcome struggle; from the Black Panther Party to labor unions, socialists and suffragists. Today, it’s mainly associated with the influential political activist group Black Lives Matter.

This is exactly why a group of cadets at the West Point Academy are in hot water. A photo recently surfaced of 16 African-American cadets standing outside a barracks at the U.S. Military Academy with their fists in the air, The Army Times reports. The picture drew criticism as it circulated the internet, many accusing the young women of outwardly supporting  the Black Lives Matter Movement.

“We can confirm that the cadets in this photo are members of the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 2016,” said West Point’s director of public affairs Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker in an email to The Army Times. “Academy officials are conducting an inquiry into the matter.”

Critics are also concerned that the cadets were in violation of the Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces. The policy lists the do’s and don’t’s for service members when it comes to political statements, party affiliations, etc., according to The Army Times. For example, service members are allowed to join and attend the meetings of partisan or non-partisan groups when they’re NOT in uniform. A member of the Armed forces may not, however, “display a partisan political sign, poster, banner, or similar device visible to the public at one’s residence on a military installation, even if that residence is part of a privatized housing development.”

Motivational coach and former soldier John Burk took to to his fitness website, In The Area, to voice his disapproval of the photo. He then posted his statement on Facebook, which was then shared over 1,200 times, The Army Times reports.

“The students below in the picture have been making their voices heard more and more behind closed doors to senior ranking officers, until now,” Burk wrote. “This overt display of the black lives matter movement is not, in itself, wrong per say, but to do so while in uniform is completely unprofessional and not in keeping with what the USMA stands for, and as well as violating the DOD directive 1344.10.”

He went on to condemn the cadets for publicly supporting a movement that is “known for inflicting violent protest throughout various parts of the United States, calling for the deaths of police officers, and even going so far as to call for the deaths of white Americans.” Burk revealed that the senior class had been trying to make their voices heard more and more through the anonymous phone app Yik Yak, for fear of being harshly punished or accused of racism for their views.

“It’s a really touchy subject here,” an unnamed source told Burk concerning the reactions of white soldiers to the photo.”We can get kicked out of West Point, or forced to repeat years for what is called a ‘respect board.’ They can be given for just making someone upset, so no one wants to get kicked out of college and lose their commission over something like this, especially since a white man, in this situation, is already at a disadvantage when a conversation like this starts. It’s purely political.”

The Black Lives Matter Movement, established in 2012, seeks to address racial inequality and is “working to rebuild the Black liberation movement,” according to its official website. BLM was recently in the news after the Ghost Squad, a hacking group created from the Anonymous hactivist collective, shut down the organization’s website in protest to assert that “All Lives Matter,” not just Black ones, the International Business Times reports.

“Are these the type of “leaders” you want moving down to the line and leading your sons and daughters, graduates with an agenda?,” Burk wrote on his website.

An investigation into the cadets’ photo is still ongoing.


Speak not evil one of another, brethren.

He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law of Mother Afrika,

Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law of Mother Afrika, and judgeth the law of Mother Afrika: but if thou judge the law of Mother Afrika, thou art not a doer of the law of Mother Afrika, but a judge.
Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth: evil shall hunt the violent man or womb-man to overthrow him.
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man or womb-man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for the Black Afrikan Nation hath received him.
Who art thou that judgest another man or womb-man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for the Black Afrikan Nation is able to make him stand.
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to the Black Afrikan Nation.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to the Black Afrikan Nation.
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man or womb-man have praise of the Black Afrikan Nation.
What shall we say then? Is the law of Mother Afrika the transgression of the law.? the Black Afrikan Nation forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law of Mother Afrika: for I had not known lust, except the law of Mother Afrika had said, Thou shalt not covet.
Wherefore the law of Mother Afrika is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Was then that which is good made death unto me? the Black Afrikan Nation forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin (the European).
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of Mother Afrika is eternal life through Jes/Us the Anointed Son’s of our Mother Afrika our Lord.
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
Take heed; “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law of Mother Afrika: for sin is the transgression of the law of Mother Afrika.”
He that committeth sin is of the European; for the European sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of Mother Afrika was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the European.

Therefore be ye doers of the word of Mother Afrika, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
For if any be a hearer of the word of Mother Afrika, and not a doer, he or she is like unto a man or womb-man beholding their natural face in a glass: forgetting what they look like when they walk away.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of Mother Afrika of liberty, and continueth therein, he or she being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man or womb-man shall be blessed in their deed, (For not the hearers of the law of Mother Afrika are just before the Black Afrikan Nation, but the doers of the law of Mother Afrika shall be justified.


•••••••••••••••••• Lyrics:
Illuminati, you’ve come to take control
You can take my heartbeat
But you can’t break my soul
We all shall be free

[Verse 1]
Lucifer Son of the morning, shalom, good day good morning
All of the living are mourning, he affixes sixes on them
But didn’t the scripture warn them? delivered the revelations?
Still they debatin Satan’s use of major corporations
Remember the plantation, remember the black enslavement
Remember the soul debasin, globe defacin, hidden persuaders
Remember your colonization, colonial education
Ignorance and nigger shit, we get from the radio station
Performers are getting younger, the dresses are getting shorter
It’s funny how these pedophiles market your sons and daughters
Target and breech your borders, kidnap your seeds deport them
Transport them over overseas where devils fiend auction and bought them
In ayiti someone caught them, if these are the seeds we lost them
Tossed them to hell they fell for what his system taught them
Gimmie a minute to prove this, call it conspiracy theory
You never knew what the truth is, be sure that my enemy hear me

[Verse 2]
All of this talk about Jay Z, being Illuminati
Or whether they got to Kanye, or whether or not they both gay?
This is irrelevant subtext, call it celebrity gossip
Your taking it out of the context of Lucifer’s pertinent subjects
We live in the projects, we descend from slaves
A lot of us don’t even got shit, and do anything to get paid
Who Jigga? that nigga ain’t Satan, and West just hood at best
And If they homo, I do not know and I could care less
Nahh they ain’t the Bilderbergers, nahh they ain’t the Rothschild’s
That’s right they da Rockefeller’s… nahh that’s just dem niggas style
Illuminati sellin your mind soul and body
And they ain’t ever need no rappers to accomplish that
Rhythm I ride on top of that, given you the truth so copy that
Soon the economy collapse, great tribulation after that
Skull and cross bone pirate hats, British west indies company cats
We call that Steve Cokely raps, Illuminati coming but I’ll be back

[Verse 3]
Before they collapse the market, they’re criminalizing farming
They’re silencing you for talking, while turning us all into peasants
Agricultural patents, ConAgra created the famines
Monsanto’s seeds that terminate the natural birthing action
Controlling the food supply, choosing who should live or die
Confusion rules you choose the lie, illusion illuminates your mind
These are the last times, spend them getting organized
Victory be with the strongest tribe, the ones that forge the tightest ties
The light is ours, they’re the sons of darkness in disguise
Edom’s fall is Jacob’s rise, so the prophets prophesized
Cecil Rhodes mining more than just De-beers
We’re rewinding through the years but you would rather drink da beers
While your peers disappear, off the corner every year
Prison population risin’ abortion clinics everywhere
Truth is they don’t want us here, there’s no cotton left to pick
Physical labor is redundant, secret shifts in politics

All this talk about Illuminati
Y’all running around here acting like rappers got something to do with this, you gotta be kidding me man
You got major corporations producing seeds that don’t produce seeds son
You understand? It’s called a terminating seed man, they creating famine
They selling farmers seeds that don’t create seeds, so when you plant your seed and pull your harvest, you can’t grow any food for yourself
You have to keep coming back to them to buy more seeds son
This is going to depopulate the planet son, this is man-made famine, this is Illuminati son
This is what we dealing with out here
This ain’t got nothing to do with Jay-Z spitting a rhyme
This ain’t got nothing to do with Jay-Z wearing an Aleister Crowley quote on his shirt
It’s deeper than that man, it’s much bigger than that
You running around here acting like you don’t see 80% of all sterilization clinics in your hood, in your community, in the name of planned parenthood
Because they plan for there to be no parents in the hood son
Know what I mean?
80% of all sterilization efforts around the world are taking place in non white countries son
You act like you don’t know
I mean, I ain’t talking about what happened 250 years ago, I ain’t even talking about channel slavery
Not that i’d be wrong to do it son (?)
I’m talking about 250 seconds ago son
250 seconds ago they privatizing education son
They about to stop your kids from being taught anything
You running around here talking about a rapper man
You running around here talking about who gay, who ain’t gay man, get out of town son
Illuminati, he already here man, he already got you.

Published on Sep 22, 2013…


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