The International Gullah-Geechee Film Festival is back!
Who are the Gullah-Geechee?
If you’ve read any of my stories, you’ve already had a taste of the Gullah language and Geechee culture.
The Gullah-Geechee Nation runs from Jacksonville, NC to Jacksonville, FL, encompassing the coastal Sea Islands and some thirty-odd miles inland. We are descendants of varied African groups linked with Indigenous Americans. We’ve been considered “a nation within a nation” from the time of chattel enslavement in the United States until we officially became an internationally recognized nation on July 2, 2000.
W. Kamau Bell’s recent episode of United Shades of America featuring the Gullah-Geechee of South Carolina is bringing more of the culture I grew up with to light. Turns out 90% of Black Americans can trace their roots to this part of the world. The popular series followed Bell as he discovered our past and our present, talking with local artisans and storytellers and walking some of the Charleston roads I grew up playing on.
Even Tracy K. Smith, 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States, had a profound experience among the Gullah-Geechee of Georgia.
In 2006, the passage of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Act enabled preservation of certain Gullah historical sites.
But more of our stories need to be told.
How can you help further the story and preserve the culture of one of the oldest groups of African-Americans in the US? One thing you can do is support the International Gullah Film Festival (TIGFF). TIGFF’s mission is to encourage filmmakers to explore and tell visual stories based on the rich history of Gullah culture. This film festival is as much about pride for people of Gullah descent as it is about our place in the global community.
My speculative fiction writing, along with the novel The Everlasting by Rasheedah Prioleau — also steeped in Gullah-Geechee culture — show The Black Experience isn’t a monolith.
But it doesn’t happen often on screen.
In 1974, Twentieth Century Fox released the film Conrack starring Jon Voight. This film follows the arrival of a white teacher onto a South Carolina Sea Island. In 1991, Daughters of the Dust, an epic tale of the Peazant family’s migration from the Sea Islands to the mainland, was released by Julie Dash. In 2017, John Legend introduced a Gullah narrative in the breakout hit television series Underground.
Every twenty years isn’t enough.
TIGFF goes beyond showing short films, to offer education and experience to youths and young people on filmmaking and how to bring their stories to life. There’s even a contest for screenwriters to win a table read for their screenplay. Other beneficial impacts include adding new jobs to the community, encouraging the use of facilities, increase local cultural tourism, influencing film projects, and showing the area as a desirable film location.
Please consider donating and sharing this post and/or the link to the GoFundMe page for TIGFF. We’re trying to raise $2,500 by June 30th to help fund the film festival and its community outreach programs and any amount helps. This is a one-day event, with the potential to become a global advocate and ambassador for the Gullah-Geechee Corridor as a whole, as well as Gullah-Geechee and descendants all over the world.