By Verne Strickland / Wilmington NC July 6, 2013
Conservative Christian blogger, Right Side Media Productions & USA DOT COM
I'm a product of the South. Native to Eastern North Carolina, which in the history books, and in my memory, was once a largely agrarian area. I might add that there were also a lot of farms there. Now rural industrialization is changing the economies of the region.
In the summers my parents liked to vacation on the South Atlantic Coast, and sometimes we would go to to South Carolina, where the renowned Myrtle Beach Grand Strand is located, as well as the storied City of Charleston.
My two brothers and I at the time were wee lads, but even then I was a budding history buff. I was entranced by stories of the "Gullah Geechee", a culture of African Americans, which for generations has lived in "the corridor" -- a string of small isolated coastal barrier island communities, all-black and proud but often impoverished until federal programs intervened only recently.
Note: Gullah Geechee is properly pronounced "Gullah Geechee".
As we neared Charleston, traveling south on U.S. Highway 17, we began to see the first signs of Gullah Geechee people, who erected rickety roadside stands where they sold trademark "sweetgrass baskets" -- simple or elaborate hand-woven creations popular with travelers. They are still there. The products and the people are still popular with the tourists.
I picked up some fascinating background of the Gullah Geechee (or Geechee Gullah) culture from Wikipedia, and the Folk Section of a source called the New Georgia Encyclopedia:
Through research, education and interpretation, the corridor aims to preserve and raise awareness regarding the Gullah/Geechee, among America’s least-known and most unique cultures. Visitors to the southeastern coast of the country have the chance to experience Gullah/Geechee heritage through historic sites, local tours, traditional foods, cultural events, and art galleries.
The Gullah/Geechee are the speakers of the only African American Creole language that developed in the United States – one that combines elements of English and over 30 African dialects.
The Gullahs have struggled to preserve their traditional culture. In 1979, a translation of the New Testament in the Gullah language began. The American Bible Society published De Nyew Testament in 2005. In November 2011, Healin fa de Soul, a five-CD collection of readings from the Gullah Bible was released. This collection includes Scipcha Wa De Bring Healing ("Scripture That Heals") and the Gospel of John (De Good Nyews Bout Jedus Christ Wa John Write). This was also the most extensive collection of Gullah recordings, surpassing those of Lorenzo Dow Turner. The recordings help people develop an interest in the culture because people might not have known how to pronounce some words.
The Gullahs achieved another victory in 2006 when the U.S. Congress passed the "Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Act" that provides $10 million over 10 years for the preservation and interpretation of historic sites relating to Gullah culture. The Heritage Corridor will extend from southern North Carolina to northern Florida. The project will be administered by the US National Park Service with extensive consultation with the Gullah community.
* The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Management Plan has been approved by the U.S. Interior Department, clearing the way for implementation of projects and programs.
Star-News Wilmington NC) May 13, 2013.