I have followed Beaufort’s State Representative and an all-around great chick, Shannon Erickson, my good girlfriend, Kate Vermilyea (Director of Student Life at USCB), The Mayor of Beaufort, Billy Keyserling and many others as they rooted on and updated the Lowcountry on the progress Candice had made through the show. I never watched (nor have I ever watched American Idol), but I silently cheered her on. Then, one day, just a few weeks ago, someone mentioned that Candice spoke Gullah during a segment on American Idol and a light clicked in my head. I realized how huge this was for not only Candice, but her family, the small coastal community of Beaufort, the farming Island of St. Helena and most important, the Gullah Community.
You see, the Gullah/Geechee people, culture, heritage and history has been a passion of mine since I was mentored by Hilton Head Island legend, Tom Barnwell, Jr. I learned about this way of life that started on this sacred land before the end of the civil war – on the very Sea Island’s of Hilton Head, Fripp, St. Helena and many others. Land that has a past, land that tells a story, land that has family values and land that connects people with place and place with people, well beyond what the visitors and retirees see.
I learned about the ex-slaves, contraband slaves (those that were free before the emancipation proclamation) & runaway slaves that turned into the farmers, fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen and the legacies of their families to our area. I learned that there are still active family farmers, both descendants of Slaves and Confederates, living and farming in the Sea Island communities today. I gained insight and understanding into the Gullah land, the people, the history and personally helped to work on preservation of the Gullah heritage through projects like the Mitchelville Preservation Project.
So when I had my “aha” moment, I realized that this American Idol competition wasn’t about American Idol at all.
Candice Glover winning American Idol is so much more. Sure, it’ll skyrocket a star more quickly than she would have got there on her own…but apparently Candice has always been a talented performer.
A win is about the Gullah children on St. Helena Island – some who still work on their family farms growing tomatoes, strawberries, collards and more – some who have never left Beaufort County – it’s about giving these children hope to realize and pursue their dreams.
A win is for the descendants of Mitchelville, the first self-governed town for contraband slaves in the United States, located right here on Hilton Head Island.
A win is about the farmers and fishermen, still tending to their trade, side by side with their families on the Sea Islands of South Carolina.
A win is a win for all Gullah culture, past and present – a culture I believe is desperately worth preserving.
A win is about the Penn Center, the historic school on St. Helena Island where Candice participated in after-school programs. The same Penn Center where hundreds of black children, in 1862 before the Civil War ended, took boasts across the Port Royal Sound, just to gain access to education. Penn Center is also where Dr. Martin Luther King came for respite, just months before he was assassinated and where local legend has it, he wrote his “I Have A Dream” speech.
And finally, a win is about the Beaufort People & The Lowcountry. A true southern community banded together and provided Candice a lifeline of votes, encouragement and a hometown parade that showed the entire world how we support our own in the Lowcountry.
For my friends who have not come to visit the Lowcountry, I hope this gave you a bit more insight into our world and how special it truly is, rich in history, culture and heritage. A win for Candice won’t just propel another pop starlet into the universe, it’ll have a real effect on the people and surroundings of our area.
So, I wrote this with the hope that it encourages you to GET OUT AND VOTE ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT! Download the app or vote on the website and hit redial on that phone – you can vote up to 50 times with each medium! And hopefully on Thursday night, we will see our next American Idol come from the Sea Island of St. Helena, SC. And T’ENGKY (thank you in Gullah)!!!!
With Love From The Lowcountry,
Click here to see Candice Glover’s hometown visit with amazing video of St. Helena & Beaufort! I dare you not to tear up when she shouts “these are my people”….
Click here to see Candice sing “Somewhere” last week!
When Candice Glover made her American Idol Top 3 Hometown Visit, she insisted on doing a private concert for the Elders of the Church at the Historic Penn Center on St. Helena. My friend, Victoria Smalls works there and shared these photos of the uber-private event with me and they feature her daughter and Ron Daise from the famed show, Gullah Gullah Island. Below that are photos I took the very next day at the Penn Center when Joe, Gray and I attended an event with Civil Rights Hero and Martin Luther King’s right-hand-man, Rep. John Lewis (D) Georgia. Enjoy.