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MUCH OF GULLAH MUSICAL HISTORY CAN BE TRACED TO HILTON HEAD

CELEBRATING-GULLAH16As a musician and active member of the Hilton Head Island Gullah community, Lavon Stevens has always been fascinated by local history.

“Not to take anything away from New Orleans, but I’m reading a book right now that makes a strong case that jazz music was actually started in Charleston,” Stevens said. “The impact that Charleston had in the world of jazz is one of those things that has gotten lost in time.”

According to the Charleston Jazz Initiative, a multi-year research project that documents the African American jazz tradition in Charleston and its movement throughout the U.S. and Europe from the late 19th century through today, the beginnings of jazz music on the southeastern coast of the United States was centered here.

CELEBRATING-GULLAH12World famous Lowcountry cuisine consists of everything fresh and local

In the Gullah culture, storytellers have the important function of reciting and remembering genealogy and historical information for their village.

These islanders, former slaves from the West African coastal countries of Senegal and Sierra Leone, have inhabited the Sea Islands for generations, and their unique traditions remain largely intact. Equally important to local culture are the recipes they preserved.

“Growing up Gullah means that you learn to make do with what you’ve got,” said chef David Young, owner of Roastfish & Cornbread restaurant on Hilton Head Island.

CELEBRATING-GULLAH10Anyone with a hankering to try their hand at making a sweetgrass basket – or to learn how they are made – need look no further than the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn on Hilton Head Island.

Daurus Niles, an expert weaver of sweetgrass baskets, conducts a hands-on class about the enduring Gullah art every Saturday morning at the museum from now through the end of February.

Niles said everyone comes away from the class having made something under her tutelage. The classes are two hours long, running from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and cost $65, which includes the materials the participants use.

 

COMMISSION HOPES TO PRESERVE, EDUCATE, FURTHER ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR GULLAH GEECHEE CULTURE

CELEBRATING-GULLAHThe drive to preserve and protect the Gullah Geechee culture rides into 2014 with accelerating enthusiasm drawn from completion of the management plan for how to proceed in going about that work.

 When the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission holds its first quarterly meeting of this year on Feb. 21 at Fernandina Beach, Fla., near Amelia Island, the members will be looking to rev up some specifics to move forward on.

The thrust of their work will be how to implement the three major goals of the commission: to preserve the culture, to educate people about that culture and to further economic development to help the people of the culture.