Engaging citizens of the Gullah/Geechee Nation in the protection of endangered species
On the Sea Islands of the eastern United States exists a direct link to the continent of Africa. In these disparate outposts—off the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia, and northeastern Florida, the Gullah/Geechee culture began during the enslavement of African people in America. Due their geographical isolation, residents did not have significant contact with people of other races, and so were able to maintain their many elements of African culture, language, and traditions.
Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine’s role as the Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation has increasingly taken on the additional responsibility of environmental stewardship for her people. She has spoken before the United Nations, the US State Department, a number of legislative bodies in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, acted as an Expert Commissioner in the U.S. Department of the Interior, and was a participant in the White House Conference on Conservation.
The initiative Queen Quet will launch through her TogetherGreen fellowship is The Gullah/Geechee S.E.A. and M.E. Project, a year-long educational effort to create living learning labs utilizing the Hunting Island Nature Center and St. Helena Island as the bases of operation. The project will seek to educate citizens of the Gullah/Geechee Nation from Jacksonville, NC to Jacksonville, FL on the species that are endangered on the coast in which they live, how to identify these species, and what things are being done in the lifestyles of residents that affect the habitat and feeding methods of these species. Project components include interactive intergenerational workshop sessions called “Gullah/Geechee fa de Famlee Days”, an instruction kit distributed to educational centers and Nation organizations, and program materials that will be presented in both English and the Gullah/Geechee language.
“The influx of overbuilding, resort, and gated areas have brought environmental threats to the region that did not previously exist, and Gullah/Geechees have continually had to find means to adapt to these changes,” Queen Quet explained. “This is an intergenerational project that will involve the traditions of the Gullah/Geechee culture and how these have already linked to conservation and how they can further sustain the waterways and land that are the natural habitat of the community.”