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Georgetown group, leader recognized by South Carolina African American Heritage Commission

Ray Funnye WeGOJA foundation.jpg

The Village Group, directed by Ray Funnye, works to empower and provide for youth in Plantersville.

GEORGETOWN — Among the nine recipients of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission's 2021 annual achievement awards are two from Georgetown: The Village Group and Marilyn Hemingway with the Herbert A. DeCosta Trailblazer Award.

Georgetown is the only community recognized twice among the statewide awards, and both Hemingway and The Village Group's director, Ray Funnye, believe this is a direct example of how strong, vibrant and resilient the African American community in Georgetown is.

"There's this strain of conversation that says the Gullah language and culture is dying, and its not. The culture is not dying, its evolving," Hemingway said.

The awards are in coordination with the WeGOJA Foundation, whose goal is to identify and promote the preservation of historic sites, structures, buildings, and culture of the African American experience in South Carolina. The foundation's executive director, Dawn Dawson-House, said that often times, Georgetown and its African American history is not given as much attention as other communities such as Charleston. Despite this, she said a lot of work is being done in Georgetown to educate people on African American culture and history, and the foundation wanted to be sure that ws recognized in this years' awards.

"Both Marilyn Hemingway and The Village Group, despite the pandemic, both went out of their way to reach African American communities, shore them up, help them and support them," Dawsom-House said.

CEO and President of the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce, Hemingway is a Georgetown native who is passionate about social entrepreneurship, business development and economic vibrancy. She is known throughout the community for her dedication to preserving and honoring Gullah Geechee culture in South Carolina.

Herbert A. DeCosta was a prominent Black business man throughout South Carolina and was president of his family-owned architecture firm, which many considered to be one of the most successful of its kind in the state. Hemingway said she was grateful to be recognized with an award honoring DeCosta, even though she doesn't seek out awards such as it.

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"The work I do is because I love my community ... and that includes recognizing and appreciating my heritage and culture," Hemingway said.

The Village Group is a nonprofit youth program out of Plantersville that provides after school programing to students, and was recognized for its work in improving the Plantersville community and building a brighter future for its children.

Recently, The Village Group partnered with HTC to provide students in Georgetown County with hot spots at the Plantersville Cultural Center and Plantersville Community Center. Though all students in Georgetown County School District were offered Chromebooks, many lacked access to internet.

Funnye said this initiative as well as all work done at the cultural center is about providing for the youth in Plantersville and Georgetown and bringing information to the community about African American culture and history.

"I think recognizing Georgetown two times in this award is indicative of our community and the work that we are doing now to highlight our ancestors and the work they have done," Funnye said.

Follow Demi Lawrence on Twitter @DemiNLawrence.

Demi Lawrence reports on Georgetown County for The Post and Courier. She graduated from Ball State University in 2020, and previously was an intern at The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Indiana and Indianapolis Monthly.

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