If you are fortunate enough to live in the coastal southeast the words Gullah and Geechee which are somewhat interchangeable will have made a huge impact on your life. In my personal experiences these people are healers and can bestow great blessings on you. But let’s start with their history before I share my history with them again.
Historically, the Gullah region extended from the Cape Fear area on North Carolina’s coast south to the vicinity of Jacksonville on Florida’s coast. Today, the Gullah area is confined to the Georgia and South Carolina Lowcountry. The Gullah people and their language are also called Geechee, which may be derived from the name of the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia. Gullah is a term that was originally used to designate the creole dialect of English spoken by Gullah and Geechee people. Over time, its speakers have used this term to formally refer to their creole language and distinctive ethnic identity as a people. The Georgia communities are distinguished by identifying as either “Freshwater Geechee” or “Saltwater Geechee”, depending on whether they live on the mainland or the Sea Islands.[Source: Wikipedia].
My father was born in South Carolina, and I taught there in one HBCU and one community college in the University of Clemson family. At the HBCU I meet a lot of Geechees. And I remember one year everyone became very, very sick. I guess it was a flu of some sort but it was really bad. I remember having trouble finding housing in the small town because the locals didn’t really love having an HBCU in their tiny town. Eventually, I was allowed to rent a small house which I lived in alone. I had sort of an affair with a preacher down the street whose congregation included a whopping 28 people. He was an avid bike rider and would often stop by after super long bike rides and smoke one of my cigarettes and drink my beer. lol.
It’s actually a time of positive memories for me and most of all my male students loved me (not like that) because I would let the come talk to me in my office about anything. I remember at that time one of my students had been shipped there from Atlanta to await a rape trial. He chopped down a Christmas tree for me that year. It was a rough year for my students and I as frequently having to find them attorneys. But every Wednesday around mid day I think or maybe morning we were all required to go to church, faculty and a students alike. It. Was. Long. But I loved this job and we were all one big happy family, and my kids excelled and rocked their reading tests (after many profanity laced works of “encouragement.”
But anyway one winter we all got very sick. One of my students was said to be a big drug dealer. And AS I LAY DYING, he showed up at my house. He said, “Hey Miss Tamara! I need you to drink this.” I had never felt so bad in my life and thought well fuck. I might as well be taking drugs of whatever sort at this point. Mind you there was not even a WalMart in this town. He handed me a Giant Gulp cup from the 7-11 that looked like it had been on the floor of his car for days.
He had gone home to the islands to get us all a cure. I drank whatever it was in the nasty 7-11 cup and was like I just need to die now. It doesn’t even matter anymore. I remember him telling me that I was the first person he wanted to give it to and he would divide up the rest. That may have been the kindest anyone has ever been to me. And THE NEXT FUCKING DAY I was healed and back to work. These days the Geechee women aren’t seen much in Charleston where their hand weaved baskets sell for OBSCENE prices in the 100s of dollars at times. But I will never forget how much I felt loved and needed at that job. It was my first professorship. And I think you should all know these kind members of the African disporia, your life would be better for it. As mine is. Sadly, or maybe not, they have become a “tourist” place rather than a love place. All of South Carolina is my love place. I met my first true love there. I was 18 or 19 and I’ll never forget him.
Speaking of first true loves. Banjo is walking weird at times and having incontinence issues. This is why I am sort of glossing over the poster who recently lost their dog. I can’t invest in that when I know what is coming. Also, I apologize for making this all about me. I just wanted to share my deep personal connection on this one. I also wanted my beloved Geechee friends to speak for themselves. So I hope I did not overstep.
I hope you will listen to the entire Ted Talk and watch all the videos and know how much I love the Geechee people.