“De wata bring we and de wata gwine tek we bak” is one of the thousands of Gullah/Geechee proverbs that stand as a testimony ta de muddawit of our ancestors that navigated these waters to not only feed our bodies but to nourish their own souls.
I find myself breathing in their energy and power as I stand on the same shoreline where drops of their tears seem to be what created the oceans and rivers that surround us on the Sea Islands. My feet land in their footsteps as I journey over every grain of sand. I stop and pick up some and think of how they picked up the ballast from the enslavement vessels and were forced to walk them from onboard onto Chicora/Carolina sand.
I’ve walked across the sweat and tears in these stones that still show along the cobblestone streets of Charleston. As I walked, my ancestors talked and told me the pain that they felt at Gadsden’s Wharf as they were chained together and could just hear the ripples of the incoming tides of the harbor in the distance.
They told me to never hold my head down or divert my eyes from those of a different skin color lighter than my own that was coming toward me on these streets as some of their descendants have been forced to do. They told me to tell their story so that they would forever live on.
I thought about how they live on. They live on in the very DNA of the trees that some were tied to and beaten during enslavement. They live on in the mirrors in every Gullah/Geechee household because they are us and we are them and we are still speaking their names. We are still walking this land. WEBE free Gullah/Geechee anointed people!
Yes, it was them that prayed in the wilderness and shouted for the day of Jubilee when they would be free and those of us still fighting for freedom are their living legacy. We honor Gullah Jack and Denmark Vesey by taking pride in being Black Gold Gullah/Geechee, the richness of Lowcountry land.
Our brightness has now shined like the glow of the sunshine that has emerged amidst another of America’s darkest hours. We are still standing united as blood family that embodies the Angolan, Igbo, Mandinka, Yoruba, Gola, Gizi, Yemassee, Edisto, Creek, Cusabo and more. Their unified drum call is not only the sound of our Sea Island handclap, but the beat of our polyrhythmic stride as we walk down the dirt roads together carrying a legacy not only in our sweetgrass baskets, but in our minds, our souls, and our hips.
These hips have held the children that the midwives caught and shook before handing them to mamas. Mama has fed us not only from the breast and from the fields, but from these waterways on the shoreline of which I find myself standing once again breathing in the power of the water that brought us. Tenk GAWD e gwine tek we bak! Sankofa!
Marquetta Goodwine, also known as Queen Quet is Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, as well as a founding member and secretary of the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association.