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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Preserving Gullah Traditions and Culture through Language

By Philicia Parker, PhD Preserving Gullah Traditions and Culture through Language is the theme for the twenty-third annual Penn Heritage Days Celebration held each year at Penn Center on Saint Helena Island, South Carolina.    Penn School was the first school established for newly freed slaves. It served the community as a boarding and day school for many years. It now serves as a community center for the study of Gullah Culture since 1862. Penn is a designated National Historic Landmark District since 1974.   This year’s celebration will showcase Gullah Culture, featuring entertainers such as the Halleujah Singers, Ron and Natalie Daise, Aunt Pearlie Sue and her Gullah Kinfolk. You will hear storytelling, see basket making, net making, hair braiding and bateau making. This part of the culture is deeply rooted in West Africa.The Gullah People  The Gullah people are a distinctive group of African Americans from the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia. They live in small farming and fishing communities nestled along the Atlantic coast. As descendants of slaves, the Gullah people were left to take care of the plantations on the Sea Islands by themselves. They produced crops for their owners. They brought with them a vast knowledge of how to grow and cultivate rice. They were also able to withstand the onslaught of mosquitoes and the extensive summer heat.   Their isolation allowed them to keep their cultures from West Africa, which mainly came from that area of Africa: from Senegal to Sierra Leone. The word Gullah refers to the language and customs whereas the word Geechie refers to the people. The language is a mixture of their native tongue mixed with English. It has survived over the centuries and it is now being preserved in recordings, songs and books.Note: The Twenty -Third Annual Penn Center Heritage Days Celebration is set from November 10-13,2005Dr. Philicia Parker is CEO of “Celebrate Differences” (an educational consulting firm) She lives in Beaufort, South Carolina. She may be reached at jisme4run@yahoo.com or843-263-7722

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