On this day in 1990,the
South African activist and politician Nelson Mandela was
released from prison. Mandela had spent twenty-seven years in prison for
his role as an anti-apartheid activist at the head of Umkhonto we
Sizwe, which translates as Spear of the Nation. The controversial
organisation served as the militant armed wing of the African National
Congress political party, born out of a frustration among anti-apartheid
activists that their non-violence was met with brutality by white
authorities against black citizens. Mandela was arrested in
1962 and sentenced to life in prison, during which time he was largely
condemned as a terrorist by Western nations. He served most of his
twenty-seven years on Robben Island, then Victor Verster Prison near
Cape Town, and during his imprisonment his reputation grew as a
significant black leader both in South Africa and internationally.
Mandela was finally freed after the ban on the ANC was lifted by the
apartheid government. Upon his release, Mandela led the ANC in the
successful negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to end apartheid,
and was overwhelmingly elected President
of South Africa in the first multi-racial elections in 1994, serving
until 1999. In
2013, Nelson Mandela died aged 95 and has been mourned around the world
as a hero who fought for freedom in South Africa, and as a symbol of
resistance for oppressed peoples everywhere.
“Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way.”
On the Sea Islands along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia, a painful chapter of American history is playing out again.
These islands are home to the Gullah or Geechee people, the descendants of enslaved Africans who were brought to work at the plantations that once ran down the southern Atlantic coast. After the Civil War, many former slaves on the Sea Islands bought portions of the land where their descendants have lived and farmed for generations. That property, much of it undeveloped waterfront land, is now some of the most expensive real estate in the country.
But the Gullah are now discovering that land ownership on the Sea Islands isn’t quite what it seemed. Local landowners are struggling to hold on to their ancestral land as resort developers with deep pockets exploit obscure legal loopholes to force the property into court-mandated auctions. These tactics have successfully fueled a tourism boom that now attracts more than 2 million visitors a year. Gullah communities have all but disappeared, replaced by upscale resorts and opulent gated developments that new locals — golfers, tourists, and mostly white retirees — fondly call “plantations.”
Faced with an epic case of déjà vu, the Gullah are scrambling for solutions as their livelihood and culture vanish, one waterfront mansion at a time.
Funny story, lol I 1st learned about the Gullah people after watching Gullah Gullah Island as a child (please tell me you remember otherwise i feel old). I didn’t fully understand the culture and motive behind the show until last fall in my African Retentions in American course in college.
So here goes:
The Gullah people are the descendants of the slaves who worked on the rice plantations in South Carolina and Georgia. They still live in rural communities in the coastal region and on the Sea islands of those two states, and they still retain many elements of African language and cultureMany traditions of the Gullah and Geechee culture were passed from one generation to the next through language, agriculture, and spirituality. The culture has been linked to specific West African ethnic groups who were enslaved on island plantations to grow rice, indigo, and cotton starting in 1750, when antislavery laws ended in the Georgia colony.
A Board of Trustees established Georgia in 1732 with the primary purposes of settling impoverished British citizens and creating a mercantile system that would supply England with needed agricultural products. The colony enacted a 1735 antislavery law, but the prohibition was lifted in 1750. West Africans, the argument went, were far more able to cope with the climatic conditions found in the South. And, as the growing wealth of South Carolina’s rice economy demonstrated, slaves were far more profitable than any other form of labor available to the colonists.
Rice plantations fostered Georgia’s successful economic competition with other slave-based rice economies along the eastern seaboard. Coastal plantations invested primarily in rice, and plantation owners sought out Africans from the Windward Coast of West Africa (Senegambia [later Senegal and the Gambia], Sierra Leone, and Liberia), where rice, indigo, and cotton were indigenous to the region. Over the ensuing centuries, the isolation of the rice-growing ethnic groups, who re-created their native cultures and traditions on the coastal Sea Islands, led to the formation of an identity recognized as Geechee/Gullah. There is no single West African contribution to Geechee/Gullah culture, although dominant cultural patterns often correspond to various agricultural investments. For example, Africa’s Windward Coast was later commonly referred to as the Rice Coast in recognition of the large numbers of Africans enslaved from that area who worked on rice plantations in America.
Documentation of the developing culture on the Georgia islands dates to the nineteenth century. By the late twentieth century, researchers and scholars had confirmed a distinctive group and identified specific commonalities with locations in West Africa. The rice growers’ cultural retention has been studied through language, cultural habits, and spirituality. The research of Mary A. Twining and Keith E. Baird in Sea Island Roots: African Presence in the Carolinas and Georgia (1991) investigates the common links of islanders to specific West African ethnicities.
Enslaved rice growers from West Africa brought with them knowledge of how to make tools needed for rice harvesting, including fanner baskets for winnowing rice. The sweetgrass baskets found on thecoastal islands were made in the same styles as baskets found in the rice culture of West Africa. Sweetgrass baskets also were used for carrying laundry and storing food or firewood. Few present-day members of the Geechee/Gullah culture remember how to select palmetto, sweetgrass, and pine straw to create baskets, and the remaining weavers now make baskets as decorative art, primarily for tourists.
Aspects of West African heritage have survived at each stage of the circle of migration, with rice, language, and spirituality persisting as cultural threads into the twentieth century. The Geechee/Gullah culture on the Sea Islandsof Georgia has retained a heritage that spans two continents. Sapelo Island Cultural DayAt the end of the Civil War, lands on the coastal islands were sold to the newly freed Africans during the Port Royal Experiment, part of the U.S. government's Reconstruction plan for the recovery of the South after the war.
During the 1900s, land on some of the islands—Cumberland, Jekyll,Ossabaw, Sapelo, and St. Simons —became resort locations and reserves for natural resources. The modern-day conflict over resort development on the islands presents yet another survival test for the Geechee/Gullah culture, the most intact West African culture in the United States. Efforts to educate the public by surviving members of the Geechee/Gullah community, including Cornelia Bailey of Sapelo Island and the Georgia Sea Island Singers, help to maintain and protect the culture’s unique heritage in the face of such challenges.
The Gullah/Geechee have arguable preserved the heritage of their African ancestors better than any group in the United States.
Cornelia Bailey, with Christena Bledsoe, God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man: A Saltwater Geechee Talks about Life on Sapelo Island (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
Margaret Washington Creel, A Peculiar People: Slave Religion and Community-Culture among the Gullahs (New York: New York University Press, 1988).
Unguja is the largest island in Zanzibar. Inland, the island is quite hilly, while on the coast, its famous beaches are characterised by white sandy beaches and clear blue water. The historic city, Stone Town, sits on the islands western coast.
The beaches offer a wide range of activities, including snorkeling, beach volley ball, beach soccer, kite surfing, kayaking, or just relaxing in a hammock, drinking cocktails.
At about 35,000 BC a group of these African Chinese later known as to us as the Jomon, took this route and entered Japan, they became the first humans to inhabits the Japanese Islands. Later, another group, known as the Ainu, followed. Oddly Indians were NOT part of this group. Today their genes can can still be found in 40% of modern Japanese, as well as Mongolians and Tibetans- past and present Kings and Queens
While on my jog this afternoon, I stumbled across this quiet, little cemetery that was tucked away in the tidal marshes. With a little research, I found out that some these are the graves of Charleston African Americans, dating anywhere between the reconstruction era to the mid-20th century. A couple of them are Civil War veterans, members of the “colored regiments”; for some, all we have are their names. While some of the graves are in disrepair, and the ground has several large depressions (indicating possibly unmarked graves), some of the stones were still well-kept and tended to, with American flags and flowers on them. What a great piece of history to come across.
La Digue is the Seychelles third largest island, by population. 2,800 people live on La Digue, mostly in villages on the western coast. The island is home to a number of unique animal species, including giant tortoises, crabs, bats, whale sharks, and geckos.
The island is mainly known for its beaches, the most famous being Anse Source d’Argent, that is characterised by its large, granite boulders. Along the edge of the beach, locals sell drinks and fresh fruit from little beach shacks.