Friday, February 3

The G.O.A.T.

I attended a wonderful Black History Month event last night. It was a movie screening for a new documentary called "Will to Survive - The Gullah and Geechee Nation." It'll broadcast nationally this month, so check your local TV listing if you'd like to see it.

I'm really quite surprised that so many black folk have never heard of the Gullah or Geechee. Like my family, they are descendants of slaves. But unlike the folk in my 'hood, their communities have retained many of the original African traditions. They're sort of like the Native Americans, but from West Africa.

The land they occupy stretches from the Charleston, SC area to Jacksonville, Florida -- including lots of little islands off the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Sapelo Island, off the coast of Georgia.The fabulous resort town of Hilton Head was historically Gullah. That is, until real estate developers moved in and turned it into a tourist hot spot. Losing their quaint, coastal land and nearby islands is, indeed, what the Gullah and Geechee expressed concerns about in the "Will to Survive" documentary. They also fear extinction, as their population has dwindled so over the years.

Before attending this event, I mentioned to a number of friends that I'd be seeing this film about the Gullah and Geechee. Two of my friends asked, "The WHO people??"

I found myself lapsing into song to help explain what the heck I was talking about. "You remember that LaBelle song, right? Geechee, Geechee ya-ya nah nah... Creole lady marmalade?"

LaBelle"Oh!" one cried. "Is that what the hell Patti was talking about? I never knew."

Another said, "Okay. Like the Maroons in Jamaica?"

"Um... yeah," I replied. "Kinda. The Gullah and Geechee do still speak a tongue that has lots of African dialect in it. A pidgin English."

I half expected this one to say, "The Pigeons?! Now I definitely haven't heard of them. Where exactly do they live?"

"Right outside my house, crapping all over on my dang car!" I would have informed her. "Wanna come check 'em out?!"Heckle and Jeckle, my old cartoon pals.

Anyway, the chieftess of the Gullah and Geechee Nations was in the house. Her name is Queen Quet. Queen Quet, chieftess of the Gullah-Geechee NationWhat an awesome sister, a well-educated historian and traditional performer who remains committed to advocating for her people. She entered the auditorium singing an old spiritual, then talked a while on-stage in the native tongue (which most couldn't understand) before landing on regular English and telling us about her beautiful people. Gullah basket weaverQueen Quet talked about how they still basket weave and live off the land, net fishing daily for their meals in the Atlantic. I loved the name of one of their charming fishing spots, Nanny Goat Beach.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that an ex-boyfriend, C., from long ago was probably from a Gullah family. His grandmother still lives in Charleston, and I could never understand a single word the gentle old woman uttered. Like the people shown in the documentary, C.'s family was addicted to eating tons of sticky rice with every meal. C.'s momma would freak OUT when her Hummer-sized sack of rice became only one-third full.

So now I feel a little guilty. I blew my chance to help save an entire nation. I should have given this man lots and lots of Gullah babies. Then one of the boys could have grown up and become a rapper. A sensational cross between Sean Paul and Mos Def -- two of the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) who no one can ever decipher. He'd a been called Lil' Geechee, the gansta rascal. Stymie, my favorite Little Rascal.

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like


Blogger Death said...

I learned about these folks years ago. and to tell you the truth I'm still not sure what to think of em.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting that they are considered like the American Indians. Maybe they'll get some casinos and have to spend lots of money as payolla to the gov't. to get stuff done, too. (Hee he)

3:12 PM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


I'll give you "two gullahs up" on that prosaic and thoughtful post...


7:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... ya think that your dominant genes of superior verbal expression might have saved these poor, ignorant inarticulate barbarians?

if so...its probably not too late!

6:20 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

now, now y'all. can we all just get along, please?

i'll have you know that:

1. i don't recall any of the people in the documentary being inarticulate or barbaric.

2. actually, a number of the spokespeople held more degrees than i and/or have published more works. so i'm in no position to look down and hope i didn't leave that impression.

3. i like that they embrace their African roots and hope that others will appreciate. it's different, true, but as they say in France, "Viva la..."

6:55 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

PS, Uda...

Did you, as an after thought, write that 'anonymous' post calling these people Barbaric? Just curious... ;-)

7:13 AM  
Blogger Inside Man said...

I went to the Gullah Festival in Beaufort, SC when I was in high school. I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the culture and festivities.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Naro% said...

Viqi, Nice drop once again. The need for exposure to unknown elements (too many) of our onw culture is absolute. Social antropology is SOOOO necessary, as we assimilate we lose vitial bits of what got us to where we are today. I remember when I was little and pops would say "get yo little Ghee Chee ass over here boy" and I'd ask whats a Ghee Chee and he would say "You Boy!!!" And mad props for upping the cultral IQ of just about every fool who ever sang Patti's joint knowing none the less. These things are special, these things are gifts, Knowing who you are and where you come from is special. Gullah Gullah island; has anyone every seen that show? I bet your kids have, ask them, you might just learn a thing or two..
Spread Knowledge,

12:47 PM  
Blogger Berry said...

Another great post...I've always had a fascination with the geechie/gullah culture. I guess my first intro was through Julie Dash's film, Daughters of the Dust. I hear the book is amazing.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

yup, Beaufort, SC, is one of the town the Gullah heavily populate. i've never been to that part of the world and hope to get there one day.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

that's too funny that your dad called you Ghee Chee -- and you had no idea what he was talking about.

i take it that calling someone Ghee Chee is about like calling them "country." now that, i've heard many old timers call us bad ass kids! lol

6:38 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

hey berry,
i didn't read the book either, but loved Julie's film. it's one of the absolute magical greats!

6:41 AM  
Blogger obifromsouthlondon said...

jeez viqi! that is something. I'd never heard of them before and now I'm all ears. talking of Lil' Geechee there's a rapper called Geechee suede (camp lo). no relation

5:31 PM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

no way! somebody already took my baby rap name? lol

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Queen Quet said...

Peace All!

I appreciate the compliment that was listed.

For all the others that would truly like to learn who we are in the Gullah/Geechee Nation, please write us at

We are a NATION, not a reservation. I am the head-of-state for the Nation.

So, ef hunnuh wan kno de tru ting bout wi, cum fa see!

We have our annual Gullah/Geechee Nation International African Music & Movement Festival in different parts of our Nation and the African Diaspora. So, if you want to truly interact with us, you can attend the event or come down at a different time. Use the e-mail above or in regard to the festival.

At all times, seek to uplift somebody else and you can do nothing, but be lifted yourself.

Peace and progress,
Queen Quet
Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation

1:41 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home