This year, the Black Cultural Center is remembering its pathways through low country legacies – through a people who have retained their culture despite being transplanted onto a different continent.
The BCC is focusing on the folklore of the Gullah and Geechee people to explore the roots of African-Americans this semester. In fact, Gullah is the theme of the BCC this semester, and the center will host a multitude of events to uphold this focus.
Renee Thomas, director of the Black Cultural Center, says the BCC is in for a Gullah-cultured semester.
“We’re holding a whole variety of activities based on Gullah culture. We’re going to celebrate Gullah culture as it relates to the American dream,” said Thomas.
The Gullah and Geechee are groups of African-Americans from the regions of South Carolina and Georgia, including the coastal plain and Sea Islands. They were enslaved and brought to these regions from Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia because of their rice-cultivating skills. Because they were somewhat isolated in their years of enslavement, the Gullah and Geechee have retained much of their African Heritage, even to this day.
BCC will kick off its tribute to the Gullah at 7 p.m. on Sept. 5, when Ron and Natalie Daise will do a presentation in Fowler Hall on the customs, beliefs, folkways, language and heritage of the Gullah people. The Daises may be recognized by some from the T.V. show they used to star in on Nick Jr. called “Gullah Gullah Island.” The presentation is titled Dream Weaving Gullah Stories and Songs.
September will bring a whole host of other activities for the BCC as well, including a Jazz Jubilee immediately following the first football game on Sept. 7 at the Center. The event encourages children, parents and the public to attend, and will feature Gullah music. The event will be held in honor of Antonio Zamora, former director of the BCC.
October will also be brimming with activities related to the Gullah such as a research tour for performing arts students of the BCC in Savannah, GA and St. Helena Island, SC from Oct. 4 to 8. Those on the tour will soak in Gullah culture for four days and express what they absorb through their respective art form in the Gullah Cultural Arts Festival at the end of the semester. October also features a BCC alumni series in which visual artist, LaToya Hobbs, will be teaching a workshop on adinkra stamping at 2 p.m. on Oct. 15 at the BCC.
Rounding off the semester in November and December will be a film screening of “Daughters of the Dust,” at which Gullah cuisine will be served at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 at the Hillenbrand Hall Atrium.
Bill Caise, assistant director of the BCC, explained how the cultural focus of this semester relates to anyone with roots in America.
“Lots of times people think this is just African-American history,” Caise said, “But it’s American history. We’re not just looking at the African American experience, but how that culture – the African married to the American – how that created a flavor that spills out all over the place, through music, food, and language.”