Black Heritage Festival-
When you are looking for culture and heritage on the map of human geography, you will find it here on St. Simons Island! Daughters and sons of Geechee-Gullah storytellers telling lives of family, community, struggles, survival and love.
When you are looking for sun, towering oak trees draped in Spanish moss, the sound of the Atlantic Ocean – astonishingly beautiful and sparkling beaches; multi-colored marshlands, serenity, history and culture – all here! St. Simons Island ... home of the Sea Islands Black Heritage Festival! Come and discover you. Let the mood of the tides and the salt-water winds ease you into a voyage of history, education, and culture. We welcome you to St. Simons Island - a haven of tranquility - kick back and relax.
A plethora of choices await you. Touring and visiting historic sites - Slave Cabins; Ruins; First African Baptist Church established in the year 1859 before the Civil War; Robert S. Abbott's monument at Fort Frederica; Ebo Landing; Emmanuel Baptist Church; St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church; African American burial grounds; Baptismal sites of yesteryear. Additional sites include Avenue of the Oaks; The St. Simons Island Lighthouse; Bloody Marsh Battle Site; Gascoigne Bluff; Coastal Center for the Arts; Christ Church; Epworth by the Sea.
Sports include fishing, tennis, golf, horseback riding, dolphin tours, sailing, windsurfing, adventure challenge ropes course, hiking, nature walks. Four and five star restaurants featuring dishes from around the world and Mattie Pearl's Low Country Preserves and other native cuisine.
Visit Brunswick, known for its renaissance style, old grace and charm of an old Victorian painting fusing Spanish moss, marshes of different hues, birds of different feathers; marina and port; excellent restaurants, night life, artist community, a myriad of religions, and the beauty of its people.
The age-old port city is also known, along with its sister city of Savannah, as the two great port sites of the Southeast Coast. Visitors remember Brunswick's captivating charm and the serene Golden Isles - St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, and Sea Island. When leaving Brunswick and the Golden Isles, let the spirit of the Sea Islanders nourish your soul until you return again, again, and again!
A Project for Cultural Affairs (APCA)
Gullah was the language of the slaves along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. There, enslaved Africans, torn from family and friends whose languages and folkways they had shared, could understand neither one another nor their white masters. Out of two overwhelming needs – to comprehend their masters and to comprehend one another – these Africans through trial and error increasingly became aware of common elements in their diverse tongues.
Perhaps the most conspicuous source of Gullah was Wolof, but there were also important influences from Fante, Ga, Kikongo, Kimbundu, Mandinka, Twi, Ewe, Ibo, and Yoruba. The complex process through which a language based on the convergence of other languages expands both in use and form is called civilization. Creole languages developed and became widespread among slaves in the New World. Afro-Portuguese creoles evolved in Brazil and Curaçao, Afro-Spanish creoles in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Colombia; Afro-French creoles in Louisiana, French Guiana, Haiti, Guadeloupe, and Grenada; Afro-Dutch creoles in the Virgin Islands; Afro-English creoles in Barbados, Antigua, Guyana, Jamaica, Surinam, South Carolina and Georgia.
While the vocabulary of Gullah was largely (but not exclusively) English, its grammatical rules were different. Gullah pronouns were no respecters of person, but used an all-purpose pronoun (e and later he) for masculine, feminine, and neuter forms. Neither did Gullah speakers distinguish between location and approach in their prepositions ("One boat stop to Sandy Island"). They did not add 's to their nouns to denote pluralization ("John play for all de dance") but did employ a distinctive form of the second-person pronoun (yinnah or unno) to express plurality. They indicated possession by juxtaposition ("Sam the husband name"). They usually omitted equating verbs in present tense ("I glad for freedom"), but they combined other verbs in distinctive ways ("e tell me say he Messus broder" [he told me that he was Mistress's brother]). In both verbs and negators they distinguished between ongoing and momentary actions rather than when those actions might have taken place. Moreover, they intensified negation by the use of multiple negators. Verbs that take complements in English did not necessarily do so in Gullah ("I ain't wuth!" [I am not worth (anything), i.e., I am not feeling very good]). Not only did Gullah speakers follow a different set of grammatical rules, they also manifested different gestures not intonation patterns, they defined eloquence differently, and they put a higher value on the role of the man-of-words than did English speakers. All of these manifested continuities with African linguistic patterns creatively adapted to a new social and linguistic environment.
Those commentators who considered Gullah to be an imperfect imitation of English were mistaken. It is now clear that Gullah-speaking slaves did not "fail" to adopt their masters' language; they succeeded in creating a creole language. A speech community, even more than a political community, implies shared culture and worldview. It was through Gullah that Africans from diverse backgrounds communicated with one another, entertained one another, gave shape to a common culture, and handed down that culture to their posterity
Dell Hymes, ed., Pidginization and Creolization of Languages (1971); Charles Joyner, Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community (1984); Loreto Todd, Pidgins and Creoles (1974); and Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonia South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (1974).
Music & Song
The Sea Islands Black Heritage Festival's approach is to celebrate and to highlight the history of the African American people and their African heritage through multi-media – speaking to the soul and the rhythm of the African heritage - drums, song, dance, spiritual, gospel, blues, jazz. Music has always been a direct link to the African heritage. Many folk survived with their song. For example, work songs, field calls, protest songs in the 1600s; later in the 1800s, folk gospel and folk spirituals, rural blues, ragtime, jazz; proceeding to rhythm and urban blues, soul and civil rights songs in the 1900s.
Music evolves with the history of the people. Most important, music has always been the catalyst that accompanies the struggle for liberation. Multi-media include poetry, dance, art, demonstrations of Geechee-Gullah heritage, food, film, plays, books, exhibits to capture and to explain history – past, present and future. It also brings joy to all who witness the cultural experience. We at the Sea Islands Black Heritage Festival humbly believe that whether musical festival or food festival, the expression of joy is the same – to keep heritage alive, to keep it strong, to honor life and the windward spirit of the ancestors!
A continuation of the ancestors' expressions of music, song, dance, lore, opens the door to a world of cultures. St. Simons African Americans have made significant contributions to the development of the Sea Islands' cultures and beyond. Slave songs served various functions in the Black community. They provided comfort in time of sorrow, raised low spirits, passed the time during tedious tasks, regulated the rate of work, heightened group feeling, afforded psychological relief from unbearable conditions, and conveyed information and escape plans undetected by the slave owners and drivers. The first spiritual to be published with its music was "Go Down, Moses," under the title of "The Song of the Contrabands O Let My People Go."
Floyd White of St. Simons Island states:
"We use tuh dance roun tuh a drum an a rattle goad. Dey could make good drum from hawg an bass drum from cow. Doze days dey ain only beat duh drum fuh dancing; dey beat it on duh way tuh duh grabe yahd. Dat wuz fuh duh det mahc wen they use tuh carry duh body in a wagon. Dey hab lot uh singin den too an dey hab singin at duh baptizing."
It was in music, dance and storytelling that the enslaved population most expressed their African heritage and passed it along to their children. They played a wide variety of string and percussion musical instruments similar to those used in Africa. Musical tempos were based on African rhythms, and the words expressed a defiance that whites failed to recognize as objectionable. The African influence on African American music was clearly relative to time, place and circumstances.
Copyright © Sea Islands Black Heritage Festival 2010. All Rights Reserved.
s. e. anderson is author of "The Black Holocaust for Beginners"
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