Celebrating Gullah Culture on Hilton Head Island

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For many of my friends in the Lowcountry – The RBC Heritage is their favorite annual event, and what’s not to love?  A huge party with a PGA tournament thrown in, right in our backyard, how fun!  But my favorite event takes place for the entire month of February – known on Hilton Head Island as Gullah Celebration.  This month long celebration of everything Gullah – history, language, storytelling, food, culture, family, God – everything is a time to connect with the Island – celebrating the people who set down roots here well over 150 years ago.

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For those of you who don’t know, The Gullah/Geechee are the people, and now their descendants, brought over from West Africa during the slave trade to the south eastern shores.  They lived and worked primarily off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, and in the barrier islands.  Many of them, before the Emancipation Proclamation (runaway or contraband slaves) and after (freedmen), settled on the barrier islands, like Hilton Head & St. Helena Islands and became fishermen, craftsmen, traders, farmers and so on.  Gullah are known for a certain dialect, area and culture, and in 2006 Congress designated the area from Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, FL The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.  The GGCHC is now an initiative with the National Parks Service with funding from Congress and so much is happening (thank God) for historic preservation of this culture.  Remember the TV show on Nick Jr, Gullah Gullah Island….well, I went to an event last year and stood next to Ron and Natalie Daise (totally starstruck) – it was pretty neat chatting with them and Ron is the current chair of the Commission.  Anyways, I digress….

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Gullah Celebration kicks off tonight at 6:00 pm with an exhibit at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, De Aarts ob We People, and continues tomorrow with an AMAZING food festival in the Arts Center parking lot – from 12-4, stop by for the best Gullah food ever!  Last year, Gray ate everything from okra to shrimp & grits to frogmore stew to gumbo.  And of course, all traditional Gullah recipes include rice, a culinary homage to the Rice Coast of Africa.

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You can see the Gullah Celebration complete list of events here, along with being able to purchase tickets online or click on their facebook page.  I can’t wait to attend the Gullah Gospel event, the Gullah Breakfast and the Oyster Roast/Lowcountry Boil in Shelter Cove Park. And Gray will love to see the Marsh Tacky Exhibition on the beach at Mitchelville.

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I am so proud to sit on the BOD for the Mitchelville Preservation Project – a project to preserve the town of Mitchelville, SC – set up by contraband slaves before the end of the civil war. It was the FIRST self-governed Freedman’s town in America – right here on Hilton Head – pretty cool right!  Find out more about Mitchelville here! 

I consider it an honor and privilege to have access to a month-long festival of this magnitude, celebrating a culture of shrimping, fishing, farming and entrepreneurship right here on Hilton Head Island.  And VERY Thankful to the team of volunteers that puts it on each year.  Even if you can’t make any of these events, I encourage you to visit the Mitchelville site, go see Louise (who did a reading on the Gullah land at our wedding) at The Gullah Museum, take my friend Irv Campbell’s Gullah Heritage Tour and find out more about this history/culture/language/food/ and the people here on Hilton Head Island that are working so hard to preserve it.

With Love From The Lowcountry & Tenki tenki fa cumin,

Heather

 

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