A plan to preserve Gullah culture

A recent opinion article and news article have stated that the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor study proposes legislation concerning heir’s property. Although land ownership is a cultural resource that has dominated public feedback to the four-state federal commission, proposing legislation is not a part of the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission’s Management Plan.

The plan is available for public review and comment through Aug. 17 and will be submitted to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior for approval in early fall. The long-awaited document was produced as a collective effort by the Commission and National Park Service (NPS) partnership since 2007, with developmental assistance from Denver Service Center. It is based soundly on feedback given by the public, stakeholders, prospective partners and Gullah Geechee community and grassroots organizations.

The 272-page document, with CD appendices, provides a description of Gullah Geechee people and culture and a brief historicial overview. The plan highlights examples of important cultural resources throughout the corridor, summarizes its natural resources, discusses land ownership and land cover and briefly touches socioeconomic conditions. It also provides readers with a basic level of information about the corridor to facilitate a better understanding for future implementation that is outlined in the management approach.

Public engagement has been the driving force behind the Management Plan. Through feedback from 21 public scoping meetings throughout the corridor in 2009, the corridor’s implementation theme was selected: “Enlighten and Empower Gullah Geechee People to Sustain the Culture.” The management approach focuses the commission’s implementation efforts on three interdependent pillars: education, economic development and documentation and preservation. The management plan, moreover, includes an interpretation framework to raise awareness, understanding and appreciation for the history of Gullah Geechee people; their contributions to the development of the United States, and connection to the African disapora and other international cultures.

The commission is grateful to Congressman James E. Clyburn for sponsorship of the legislation and to all who have contributed throughout the planning process. It welcomes continued feedback and comments. Management plan copies can be viewed electronically at libraries throughout the corridor. Written comments may be submitted by either: 1) visiting the NPS – PEPC (Planning, Environment and Public Comment) website: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/guge , or 2) direct mailing: Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission, c/o Commission Chairman, 1214 Middle Street, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482.

Additional information about the Corridor is available at; www.gullahgeecheecorridor.org

With comments received throughout August 17, the commission will fine-tune its implementation efforts, as needed. The commission is particularly interested in feedback from our youth – high schoolers and Generation Y’ers. After all, the plans voiced in this document very soon will sustain their culture and that of their descendants.

Daise is chairman of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission.