Eco-Stories: Queen Quet of the Gullah/Geechee Nation

Eco-Stories: Queen Quet of the Gullah/Geechee Nation

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. See the full interview below.

Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine is a published author, computer scientist, lecturer, mathematician, historian, columnist, preservationist, environmental justice advocate, environmentalist, film consultant, and “The Art-ivist.” She is the founder of the premiere advocacy organization for the continuation of Gullah/Geechee culture, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition.

Queen Quet has not only provided “histo-musical presentations” throughout the world, but was also the first Gullah/Geechee person to speak on behalf of her people before the United Nations in Genevé, Switzerland. Queen Quet was one of the first of seven inductees in the Gullah/Geechee Nation Hall of Fame. She received the “Anointed Spirit Award” for her leadership and for being a visionary.

This interview was recorded on June 30, 2020.


Fiona Martin (FM):

So Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, it is an honor to be interviewing you for The Eco-Interviews. Please introduce yourself and tell us about your many accolades.

Queen Quet:

Tenki Tenki fa habin me on, Fiona.  Mi gladdee fa be ya.*

*Gullah is an oral language and not normally written.

frum disya paat ob de Gullah/Geechee Nation wha gwine frum North Cacalacky, down to Florida, Jacksonville to Jacksonville and I duh not onluy a native of St. Helena Island, but my family stems from Polowana and Dataw Islands on the South Carolina coast here in the Gullah/Geechee Nation.

And I'm also a computer scientist, mathematician, and an author. And so I often tell people, it's easier to tell people what I don't do than to tell them all of what I do. So definitely, as you well know I love the environment and so it's such an honor to have an opportunity to sit here and talk about it.


Well, I'm just incredibly excited to hear from you and to hear more about the Gullah/Geechee Nation and the work that you're doing. And I, as a child, went to school in South Carolina, so we did learn a little bit about the Gullah/Geechee Nation. And of course we see references to Gullah/Geechee when we visit places like Charleston, South Carolina. But I know that your history is much richer than sort of superficial name that we see thrown about. So can you tell us the story of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and where you've come from and then where you are in present day?

Queen Quet:

Absolutely. So I'm sure your listeners wondered at first, "What?  You know?  When they yeddi mi duh crak mi teet likka disya but if people hear that, that is the Gullah language, and that is usually the first indicator that people have to us being anything different than just being "Black people" or African-Americans. They start to say, "Well, wait a minute, are y'all from the Caribbean?" Because the language is considered Creole language, like many of the languages throughout the other islands.

But our ancestors were kidnapped from the Windward Coast, Rice Coast region, Angola and a few they say even from Madagascar that were brought over to the Sea Islands in the 1600s and interestingly enough, you mentioned Charleston. Charles Town, South Carolina, was the number one enslavement auction block in North America. So my ancestors were part of who they called the black gold, black cargo that got sold there, but then later the families, the individuals, the people, were actually dispersed along the Seas Islands.

So on both my mother's side and my father's side, our families have been on these Sea Islands actually from the 1500s forward. And so our traditions and our culture are an amalgamation of African traditions and cultures. So our language, our food ways, many people here this sound when they come here, especially they go to our praise houses or our churches, that people call the Sea Islands clap, or a polyrhythmic hand clap, that developed out of the time when our people rebelled against being enslaved.

So in 1739 the Stono Rebellion took place along our coast, and Cato, or Jemmy, was one of the Angolans who led that charge with other Angolans, crying, "Liberty! Liberty! Liberty!" as they marched up what we now call the King's Highway, leaving from Charleston County, South Carolina, what later became Charleston County, what is now Charleston County, to march to Florida, the Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, or Fort Mose, in St. Augustine. They had heard that there was an edict that if any "Negroes" could escape the plantations in Carolina and make it La Florida, they would be manumissed and given arms and land if they converted to Catholicism. You see?

And so they had to become Catholics to get their freedom, but many of them did. We fought for our freedom many times, many different ways, and even now, we're in a human rights movement, still holding on to and maintaining ownership if our land and being free crakin hunnuh teet disya whey or talk like this..., or to sing our songs, to continue our own food security, and other things so that when people do come to the coast, they can find us, and they will be able to find us still being able to live our traditions, our legacy, our history, and our culture, the way our ancestors passed it down and left it for us to live.


Fascinating. And you did mention that you own the land, can you tell us the story behind owning the land in the Sea Islands and that sort of evolution?

Queen Quet:

Oh, yes, and that's a story, again, that many people don't even think about asking because Gullah/Geechees became the largest group of Black people in North America to own land collectively during the Civil War, before the Emancipation Proclamation was ever read. Before the Civil War ended, many native Gullah/Geechees including both of my great-great grandparents, both sets, both sides, went to auctions, and actually, instead of being auctioned this time, they were the ones making the purchases. They purchased the very same plantations that they had previously been enslaved on.

So when people hear 40 acres and a mule, it ties directly to the Sea Islands. It ties to those auctions, and it ties specifically to one of the field orders issued during the Civil War by William Tecumseh Sherman. Most people only talk about him burning things, but he didn't burn this. He actually built up. He said, "Well, we've got to do something. These people are here, I can't take care of them. I mean, we have to do something so that they can have ways they can take care of themselves."

So he put out special field order number 15 that said from Charleston, that all the abandoned rice fields southward to Fernandina, which is to the Florida area, right where Amelia Island is. And 30 miles inland to the St. John's River, which the St. John's River is still our boundary for the Gullah/Geechee Nation, our westward boundary. That the land would be distributed in 40-acre plots to the "Negroes."

That didn't happen. They didn't give us land. The few places where that happened, where the Freeman's Bureau distributed land such as in coastal Georgia and a few places, that got rescinded when Abraham Lincoln was killed. So fortunately for the Gullah/Geechee families, where their people had saved enough money to buy the land, many of us still hold that land. Some in common, and there's a legal term for it called heirs property, and others have it divided now so that each family has their individual deeds, but they're still part of a broader family compound.

So many of us live on 10-acre plots, 40-acre plots, but you live there with 25 cousins. You know? Or your mom's house is here, and your auntie's house is there, and the uncle's house the other way, and grandma and grandpa's house in the middle. So that is part of our continuing of our traditions though, is having the land because to us, the land is our family and the waterways are our bloodline. So we have to continue to take care of the land, and the land will take care of us. And so we're really happy, those of us who have continued to own the land, because so many Gullah/Geechee families are starting to get displaced from their land.


The history is fascinating, this is definitely not history that we are taught in our schools, and so I feel honored to be able to hear the history from you and then hopefully distribute it to a wider audience. And speaking of that, this month, July 2020, you're celebrating 20 years as Queen of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. Can you tell us about these 20 years and what were you expecting when you started? And how far has the nation come in 20 years? What are your hopes for the nation in the next 20?

Queen Quet:

Wow, that's a lot right there.


I know. Break it down however you feel.

Queen Quet:

Give me at least 40 years to talk about it. But let me talk about the 40 year journey I've been on anyway, because a lot of people don't realize they say, "Well, you chose to be queen." No, I did not. Nobody chooses to work without a salary, okay? Let's get that straight.

So I founded the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition back in 1996 and it became the first organization in world history to exist with Gullah/Geechee in the name. At that time, if you went to a browser, if you went to go and do a search at that time, you would end up with one page of responses that had the word Gullah in it. And maybe half a page with the word Geechee.

Now if you do it, you're probably there all day. But that was the result of our consistent and persistent work through the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition that led up to me going before the United Nations on April 1, 1999 to speak on behalf of my people and to let the world know at the United Nations Human Rights Commission how our human rights had been violated from the time of chattel enslavement and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade all the way up to the present time, where at that point, there was an onslaught of people getting murdered for their land, people getting taxed off their land, people getting zoned off their land. I mean, just all types of things that were happening that were displacing Gullah/Geechee families.

So we had started the coalition to fight for the rights of Gullah/Geechees and here we were able to elevate that into the international arena because of my work with the International Human Rights Association for American Minorities that was founded by the late Dr. Yusuf N. Kly, God bless the dead. Dr. Kly is the one that also spoke with someone who I didn't know at first who ended up e-mailing me back then and she's Elder Carlie Towne today, but she was Carlie Towne, a native of Union Heights in Charleston. After my organization started, she started the Gullah/Geechee People Foundation, and we both had television shows, but mine was in the Northeast, hers was in Charleston, that focused on highlighting Gullah/Geechee culture.

Well, Dr. Kly found out about her through her work as well, and then started talking to her about, "Well, what are you all going to do?" Well, Elder Towne and the Gullah/Geechee People Foundation started a petition that was presented publicly at events, at restaurants, anywhere they could go where Gullah/Geechees were in the community, and online, for people to vote for one year and elect their own head of state for the Gullah/Geechee Nation.

They said my name floated to the top because I was the only person who had consistently, for decades at that time, already been working just on behalf of native Gullah/Geechee people. People did all kinds of civil rights, they did other things related to Black culture, but nobody else had stepped forward to admit... because a lot of people were ashamed to admit they were Gullah/Geechee, and that would speak the language. I never minded, I [spoken in Gullah].

And so there was a pride that they saw, but they saw a track record of success with fighting to help people keep their land, helping fundraise to keep land, they saw success with winning legal cases, to being deposed in legal cases on behalf of my people and people keeping their land, not losing it. So they said, "Well, who else can it be? Who speak for we?"

So this petition was named "Who Speak Fuh We," to elect a head pun de bodee of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. So this election went on from the time I came back from the UN until July 2nd, 2000. We were at Sullivan's Island in Charleston County, the same place where over 40% of all Africans who were enslaved in North America came through, was where I was brought out in chains from the water, past the dunes, to the center of the property.

And I will never forget with all the drums and all the people, I still am meeting people now, I don't know where all those people came from. The media was there from around the world, not just from around our state. People contacted me from the BBC, Vibe Magazine was there, television trucks were there. It was an amazing thing to see, but it was like it was surreal, that day, for me.

So when I got out to the center of the circle, where all of these items were that represented artifacts of our culture and things we use in the family, like cast nets and drums and mortar and pestle, and things like that, I heard someone's voice, a woman, say, "Let her go, let her go." And once she said that, it was like a ripple through the crowd and all of a sudden I remember dropping to my knees and the chains falling off on their own. And the drums and everybody just resounded.

And from that point forward, I feel like I had already done all this work. Like, at this point in my life I have been doing this same work trying to keep Gullah/Geechee people alive and keep our environment protected on this coast for 42 years. Four decades already. So when you say to me, "What do I see for the next two decades going forward?" We've accomplished a great deal in terms of getting the world to know the existence of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. Letting people know that we have a right to have our right to self-determination. We have our own flag, we have our own constitution, we have stood our ground in terms of maintaining our cultural legacy, our language, and our traditions.

So the next 20 years, I want to see a return to it. Unfortunately, coronavirus had to bring a lot of people back to the land. Back to farming the land. A lot of people now want to catch their fish again, but don't know how. I want to see our people return home, return with their grandchildren, their children, and learn our traditions while we still have elders alive that can pass down the real tradition and not a mock version of it where people have used our culture and as an exploitive tool to draw in tourist dollars while not respecting us as a people.

Displacing us and replacing us with people they could rent that will do storytelling and jokes and make fun about the language instead of actually living the tradition and holding on to the land. So 20 years from now, whether I'm alive or not, I want the native Gullah/Geechee people to be standing. And as I always say to folks, We binya and ain gwine nowhey!". So I pray that God helps us with the sea level rise issues and with stopping the destruction meant on our coast, and that we will still be here, where we will be here as a unified people in the Gullah/Geechee Nation still standing for who we be. And we be Gullah/Geechee anointed people.


Amazing. Amazing stories, amazing goal. I mean, you've done so much and you mentioned that you were forming or became codified, in a sense, near the late 1990s. So I was in school in the 1990s so I can't speak to what South Carolina children learn nowadays, I hope they learn more than I learned in the 1990s.

Queen Quet:

I must tell you, Fiona, from what I've seen, I don't think so. And some of the things we've seen as literature that was even presented in schools last year was so offensive to native Gullah/Geechees who were teachers they took pictures of it and tagged me on Facebook with it because they were like, "Look at this horrible, watered down version of our culture that they're passing off in South Carolina schools."

So they might be learning less than you learned in school, unfortunately. And that's not good, because now we have all of these mediums, like even the one you and I are talking on now, to even share knowledge with people. You could actually talk to the people who live a culture now, and learn from them. So why not do it? Why not do it?


Exactly. Hopefully this can be an entry for people to explore more if they, you know, find this interesting. I think it's incredibly interesting, and I came across you, personally, from the Drum Call for Justice for the Juneteenth Broadcast that was put on by A Growing Culture which was incredibly powerful and moving. And it was rooted in the intersectionality of racial justice and climate justice. So can you talk to us about how the climate crisis affects Gullah/Geechee Nation? And then zooming out, how other groups are disproportionately affected by climate change?

Queen Quet:

Absolutely. I have been fighting for this coast since they called it just erosion. They didn't have these other terminologies that we have, climate science, climate change, sea level rise. These terms didn't exist, we just talked about erosion. Yeah, it meant that some of the earth wasn't going to be where it is anymore. We talked about drought, how we have these seasons without enough rain, so farmers suffer, and if farmers suffer, then human health suffers because we don't have the proper nutritional balance that we should have growing straight from the land where we are.

And so I've been fighting for this issue, I've won speech contests and writing contests writing about conservation and conserving the environment and so it was sort of a natural flow for me to continue what all these people that started entering the water, whether they were in yachts or kayaks or bateau boats, we were all rowing together. We were all moving together in this flow to say, "Wait a minute, there's a lot changing on the coastline and what is causing that? Is it the actions of the human beings on land that's affecting the water?"

Well, of course the answer is yes. Is that what's affecting the air and the environment? Yes. So now, what do we do to reverse it? Because if we don't reverse it what happens is the food security of the Gullah/Geechee Nation is in jeopardy. We literally live in the Atlantic Ocean, so we have ocean acidification, which is one of the negative results of climate change. Then the seafood won't be healthy or won't be here for us to eat.

So then what do we do when seafood is a major staple of our diet? If we have too many sea level rises that are King Tides coming in, and we already live in a hurricane zone, we ain't even going to get to that one. And we have that coming in and inundating the land with saltwater intrusion, then how do we have that land remain farmland? Again, food security is in jeopardy.

So now if our food security is in jeopardy, we can't eat naturally from the water. We can't harvest naturally from the water or the land. Then we end up being subject to eating food-like substances from supermarkets and that's not food. It's a food-like substance, that's why it's a different classification by the USDA and the FDA. They have these classifications for this stuff.

And it's like, you want something that's going to sustain your body and every cell in it so that you can be strong. And right now, when we're talking about people being immuno-compromised and then having high blood pressure, hypertension, as we say, sugar diabetes, as we call it, and heart problems, the trifecta in the Gullah/Geechee Nation and the larger Black or African-American community, and in comes a virus like COVID that infects and affects you and God forbid you lived in an urbanized area around the coast where you have air pollution that already had you with asthma attacks and lung issues, how do you survive that?

So how does the larger Black community survive all of this? We have to then take it upon ourselves to as, we say, go back to ole landmark.  Which is go back to the root of our culture and traditions. And that is being agrarian people, being sea working people, but living in balance with the environment so you can do that. So that you can do that in a safe and a healthy way. You want to ingest things that are healthy so that you can sustain the public health for the public good.

And so I think that these things that people sometimes want to categorize as one thing or another are all inter-linking. Justice is linked to all of it. We have been fighting against environmental injustice all for decades, including fighting off seismic gun use and offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean so that we can protect our community and protect the sea life that's here because it's all about the ecological balance. And with that balance of the Mother Earth, there's balance with us. We take care of her, she'll take care of us. And so that's for everybody, and not just the Gullah/Geechees.


And we've touched on this a little bit, but my next question was in your call you discuss the power of land sovereignty and growing your own food as a revolutionary act. Would you expound on that a little bit?

Queen Quet:

Surely. For most Black people in North America, they don't own land. Even if they're purchasing a house or a home, they have a lot. So they may have just a small backyard and a little bit of grass, maybe in the front, or things like that. That is very different from owning acres of land. And when you were still paying a mortgage, you still don't own it. You don't have a deed to that.

So having land, first is foremost, is a blessing. To then be able to have viable land where you can grow the very food that you need to sustain your body is a revolutionary act. Because it requires intellectual capacity and the physical ability to be out there to work the land, especially when you have a heat wave like what we're having now. 105 degrees, but it's harvest season.

So if you don't go out there and cut your okra and get your tomatoes, they'll be rotten by the time you cool off, then go and do it. So to continue to be able to do this kind of work and to hold on to sustain an agrarian, agricultural background to sustain this agrarian nature as a Black person and take pride in it is a revolutionary act. To be able to control your own food means you can control your life. If somebody else controls your food source, they can control you.

And so that's why food sovereignty is so important, food justice is so important, and that's why with the Call for Justice, and with all of us who spoke on that day for A Growing Culture on Juneteenth, we thought it was time to put out that call to make people aware that in the midst of all of this, this fight to have Black people own land that's viable to take care of themselves so they can be self-sufficient and self-sustaining, is critical.

And if you're doing it already, yes, you're leading in the revolution. You're participating in a revolutionary act. Somebody else is not controlling your life and your destiny.


Yeah, I think that's a great thing to think about. It's something I think about a lot is in modern culture we're very disconnected from our food and we are locked into this system, we have to go to the supermarket to buy food. I think COVID has kind of flipped that on its head as we saw bare shelves and I think a lot of Americans thought they would never see this in this country and the reality is it can happen very quickly. And so it's a wake-up call.

Queen Quet:

Yeah, and it did happen very quickly, didn't it?


It did, it happened very quickly. You were talking about having Gullah/Geechee elders who have this knowledge. That's another thing I find on my own, trying to grow my own food in the backyard, is that I don't have a personal.... I don't have an older person to show me how to do this. So I'm reaching out and learning from other people. But you have the elders on the land who can teach that and you want the Gullah/Geechee to come back, so what are they teaching, first of all? And then how large is the Gullah/Geechee diaspora, if you're bringing people back?

Queen Quet:

Wow, the Gullah/Geechee diaspora is huge. Because it is part of the whole dispersion of the Black migration. So you have Gullah/Geechees that are in other countries, as well as almost in half of, at least, the 50 states. A large populous of them are in the Northeast because many people left the Sea Islands and just took the train or the Greyhound, the Ground Dog as I call them, straight up north on the coast. So many of them ended up in New York City and some in New England.

So but our biggest population outside of the Sea Islands, largely for us, is New York City. But now, so we're talking about hundreds of thousands of folks that are out there because they had their children away from here. Right? And their children have largely grown up in urban centers so, like you, they need elders to tell them. They've tried to grow something in a pot. People started Facebooking me and e-mailing me. "Queen, is this how this supposed to look?"

And I was like, "Um, it's fine, give it some more water." You know. And somebody else was like, "Is this a sweet potato, Queen?" I was like, "No, darling. That's a weed. Get that out your field." You know, and things like that. So at least I was happy to be the elder now, that could pass on the knowledge that my mother passed on to me that her mom and dad passed on to her, you see?

And I could even contact cousins and say, "Well, wait a minute. I'm farming where our great-great granddaddy farmed, the way our granddaddy farmed, and your daddy farmed. What's going on when I plant on this end everything is fine, but the other end, it's not good?" Then they, "Oh, child, poor salt all over that. Honey, [spoken in Gullah]because my daddy used to throw this in there, this and that." Okay, great.

Then I know what to do to build up a certain area and I know the other areas are okay. I'm fortunate because my mom is still with me, so not only do I grow the food and she can no longer get out there in the field with me, let's harvest it, or let's get it going. She has to stay at the house but once that food comes in that house, we can't keep her still. Because we still jar the food, we still preserve it for later.

So right now, with okra and tomatoes, we harvest them out of the field, bring them in, and before I know it, she's already cutting up the okra, wash it, get it cut up, get the tomatoes, get them washed, and she's getting the pots back on so that we can can and jar this food. So, you know, the knowledge she got came down from her parents, from their parents. So we're talking about consistently doing the same thing over generations.

So they've taught us everything from where to farm, when to farm, what to look for on the farm, like if I see some weird bug or something, I'm quick to be the one like, "Ooh, yuck." I'm a "Ew," person quick about a bug. I'll stand there and talk to a snake and be, like, looking at the bug, like, "Ooh, get off." You know, slapping the bush and all that. And I'll be like, "What is this thing? It looked this way." You know, before we all had all these cameras, right? It looked like this, and describing. And then they could say, "Oh, yeah, you got it. Oh, no, we got to spray them so nothing will get them. Throw lime on it. That's a so-and-so, it'll eat the whole crop."

So they teach you a lot of things that when you're first getting out there you wouldn't know. Like you said, you wouldn't know. I know people think they can Google everything, but you can't, okay? Your greatest Google are your elders who lived the experience so they can really tell you what to do, what not to do, what may be safe to eat, what may not be safe to eat, when you should eat these things so it balances out everything else in your body and so that it's a good food for you for this time, maybe not another time.

So it's a lot of things that go with that. Especially you learn about your family itself, because you can learn jokes and stories about something that somebody really liked and something somebody else really hated. You know? Doing or eating. And so with my family, I don't think they hate much about any kind of food, but we definitely get some fun stories in when we start talking about the field and fishing and cleaning it and getting food all together together and doing all that that people call food ways.

So it's about learning our ways through that. And so it's really beneficial to do that with your elders and right now when you have to socially distance, now you want to be up close to them even that much more because we never know when folks are going to be gone.


Yeah, definitely. And I must say, I smile as you're talking about tomatoes and okra, because that's what we're pulling out of our garden this week. So we're in sync, I think, with that. It's the right time of year in South Carolina for that, for sure.

Queen Quet:

That's right, it's the season.


So what is your message to humanity as we move forward in a time of environmental degradation and human degradation in the form of racism, labor exploitation, and that sort of stuff?

Queen Quet:

Wow. My message would be to finally bring about not just equality but equity for everybody. And that means that even as we talk about land ownership and we talk about environmental injustice versus environmental justice. We are going to have to face the fact that when we're talking about the United States of America, Gullah/Geechees were called black gold for a reason. There was richness that they brought to this land and they have a right to have land on which to stand and sustain themselves.

And that's going to go to the broader discussion with the Black community about, "Well, what happened when all these Black landowners got land taken from under them?" How do we deal with talking about justice, equality, or equity without dealing with that subject of land ownership? Because land is wealth, so that means that we're talking about closing the wealth gap. If people are able to own land again and sustain themselves on it.

And so these are topics that a lot of people are avoiding like the plague. I'm watching a lot of people with major corporations only give to all ready well-established nonprofits that are also neutral. That are not calling anybody out about closing the wealth gap. That are not talking about restoring to Black people land on which they can live and sustain themselves where they can have the things we've talked about, social justice happened there where they can have sovereignty, they can have food security.

And if we had those things, you wouldn't have to worry about anybody being so sick that it's going to overload our hospital system. You don't want to give people healthcare for everybody, real universal healthcare like they have in Canada and in parts of Europe and so forth. But yet, you also don't want to let your people feed themselves from the land so they can stay healthy. Because if people were healthy, their immune systems wouldn't be broken down, their communities wouldn't be broken down, your country wouldn't be breaking down, the society that we call the Western society wouldn't be breaking down.

And so we are going to do anything at this point in time is where it is breaking down, where it is burning. We have to look at that as new stones to rebuild with out of the ashes. That's what we'll have to do but we'll have to do it honestly and collectively around the world. You cannot continue to have racial injustice stand. This is the moment where being anti-racist is the call of the day. Not being non-racist, which means, "Well, I just don't do anything to anybody as long as me and my family are okay."

I mean, Black people, white people, anybody can be just non-racist, doesn't mean that, "I just don't, I don't say anything, I don't laugh at the racist jokes or anything, I don't do that." No. Being anti-racist means you will fully participate in dismantling systemic racism around the world. Then we have a foundation that we can build on using the stones of what's getting torn down and rising from what might seem like ashes together. We've been talking about farming but one of the things that also I've seen, bless my land, is sometimes we burn on the field or we burn down the field.

And when we burn it off, just like in the forest, when you burn off that underbrush, new things grow. So it's not always a bad thing to burn, just like with alcohol. If you get cut and you pour that alcohol on it, it burns, but it also heals. So we have to get through the burning feeling of, "Oh, it hurts for them to tell me about slavery, it hurts me for me to hear the word racist, it hurts for me to even think about it."

That may be true and it may be something that feels as painful as a burn but let it instead become a burning desire for righteousness. Let it be a burning desire for you to be that person that made a difference at this time in world history. This is something we all have a choice to do right now. Little children have chosen to participate in this movement for justice. So what about us grown people? It's the time.

So when it's all said and done and your great-grandchildren are sitting back talking to somebody in an interview, will they say that you did something that they could honor? Like I can say about my ancestors? Or will they not want to talk about you, like you don't want to talk about this subject? But this is the subject of the hour. There's nothing else to talk about except equity and equality for all. Let's make the universal declaration of human rights something that we all live every day, everywhere, in every culture.


Powerful, powerful message and a strong distinction between, like you said, being non-racist and anti-racist. I really feel like that is something that is in the spotlight right now, it's not just enough that, you know, I don't say things that I shouldn't say, right?

It is actively seeing systemic racism and recognizing it, because you can't change anything unless you recognize it, and then using whatever power you have to make the changes that are absolutely necessary. And I hope, COVID-19 has flipped everything upside down, but I really hope that we get through this burning as a phoenix would and rise from it and step up into the next level that we can be in. So you had mentioned that there are some corporations and nonprofits out there that are avoiding this subject. Are there any groups or organizations that you would like us to look out for and support and follow?

Queen Quet:

Oh, yeah. It's really interesting because when I say they're avoiding it, I'm loving these commercials, right? That are telling people they should act. You know, you should read, you should listen, you should learn, you should act. You know. Some of them have "donate" in there. But then it's like, but then you're only giving to other corporations. You're giving to groups who already have money. That's who you're giving to.

So my thing is, get close to the root. Connect to the grassroots. Don't always want a tax write-off, okay? So you have organizations like the Gullah/Geechee Angel Network is our official 501(c)(3) for the Gullah/Geechee Nation. Yes, if you donate there, you get your little tax form and get your little tax write-off. Okay? We do have that. But the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition that's existed since 1996, we are a grassroots organization.

So we rely on the good-natured people of the world that say, "I want to purchase something from you, I want you to keep the change, I want to give you something to keep your work going because I know how hard it is to fight for land, especially for Black people to fight to hold on to their land because a lot of people just don't even see you and don't even see what's going on.

And so people from around the world have supported us and this long journey that we're on and we hope they'll continue to do so. Also, there's another organization when we talk about the climate justice issues, there's a group that's called the Anthropocene Alliance that has a collective of people called the Higher Ground Council that is the largest flood network of people in the United States. So these are all communities that flood for different reasons, but it is multi-cultural and it is... you know, we have a balance in terms of gender balance, and everything.

And so we're seeking environmental justice and also equity in regards to environmental issues and the distribution of funds when it comes to providing resources for these communities. So again, Higher Ground would be another one that is a nonprofit organization if someone wanted a tax write-off. I would say donate there, donate to the Gullah/Geechee Angel Network. They could donate also to GoFundMe. The Gullah/Geechee Land Legacy Fund is on GoFundMe.

Our goal is to get to $20,000 by July 2nd. I believe we are at about $16,000 or something thereabout. If people would donate, that would be fabulous, so that we can get to the goal of having an endowment. Our goal is $300,000 to have an endowment so that these land rights issues, these water rights issues, these environmental issues that we have to keep fighting in court, we actually have a fund to help pay for those things.

Also, we have to lobby, and we have to just try to educate the community. The money comes from that fund, so anyone can go to GoFundMe and look up Gullah/Geechee Land Legacy Fund. Gullah is G-U-L-L-A-H, Geechee is G-E-E-C-H-E-E. There ain't no I een Geechee ef e duh we, so Gullah/Geechee Land & Legacy Fund.

And those who love CashApp, because we found a lot of people like, "I'm not going through all that with GoFundMe." But CashApp, they can just do $gullahgeecheenation, all one word. $gullahgeecheenation, and they can contribute there. That goes into the Gullah/Geechee Land Legacy Fund work and the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition's work to help sustain our community and our culture and to keep us [inaudible 00:40:23].

Like I said, [spoken in Gullah]. And so definitely I would encourage people to find the grassroots organizations and even the nonprofits in their local communities that you've already seen doing the work. The ones you actually can talk to, one-on-one, that you could touch them. Not just always look for the big national group or the one you see on TV to give money to. Those folks are well-funded. It's the ones in your local area that need your help. So please, get out there and support them.


Perfect. I will look up the links to everything that you mentioned and certainly have them in the show notes for people to go to. I also follow Gullah/Geechee Nation on Facebook. Do you have any other social media or websites that you want to connect us with?

Queen Quet:

Excellent. Yeah, for folks who are Twitter happy, we are @GullahGeechee on Twitter, we're @GullahGeechee on Instagram, we also have, which is Gullah/Geechee TV on YouTube, so you can find a lot of other videos and learn a lot about our culture, the language, the food ways, there's a plethora of things that you can learn about us there, documentation of our celebrations, so there's music and all of that.

So definitely make sure to follow those and if you're looking for me, just go to and Quet is Q-U-E-T. So So those are the myriad of ways to follow us and of course follow If you follow, all these links to all of our social media handles are there. We have a blog, we post just about every day to keep people apprised of what's happening here in the Gullah/Geechee Nation.

And especially about our #GullahGeechee2020 celebration for this 20th anniversary. And so it is just a wonderful thing that we're still here celebrating and definitely happy to celebrate the environment with you, Fiona. And it really just adds to the 20th anniversary celebration to have a show like this definitely have a chance to talk about our wonderful environment here in Carolina.


Well, I really appreciate it, Queen Quet. I've been following Gullah/Geechee only for a few weeks but the work you're doing is amazing, I want to congratulate you on that. And also I noticed that many counties along the coast in Georgia and South Carolina are declaring Gullah/Geechee appreciation, I believe I've seen lots of that happening. Oh, for those who might want to visit in person, do you have in-person visitation for Gullah/Geechee Nation, and has that been affected by COVID-19?

Queen Quet:

We do, we have a website called and if people also go to which is the website for the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, you'll see that we host the Gullah Route Experience Tours for groups of seven or more. And those are interactive, educational tours, we not only do it on St. Helena Island, but we also have coordinated people that go into other areas along our coast.

Well, because of COVID-19, as a leader of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and someone who studied science, okay, and believes in science, I discouraged my folks from continuing their tour operations until we could recognize what this actually is, what it really does, how is it transferred, and how can people heal from it if they would?

And with us being Black people with the trifecta we talked about earlier, we have to make sure that our community stays safe, we have a lot of elders that live to be over 100, so we don't them coming in contact with this and we've had a few people in their 90s now that have passed on because family members or people came by to visit them and did not have a mask on.

So now they're gone. So now people are sad and they're on Facebook posting. So yes, COVID has had a negative impact on us in terms of our spiritual and emotional health by connecting with one another and connecting with all the people that come and visit us each year, especially the students that we usually work with every year. We just got to working with students before the stay-at-home order, so that was a blessing.

We had just finished our Gullah/Geechee volunteer month which happens every March. We had just finished our groups for that month and then here this came. But that now has affected the economy of the Gullah/Geechee Nation because agriculture, sea work, and tourism are our main industries.

So without having the tourism during these summer months, then that is harming our ability to raise funds. And for this 20th anniversary year, we had events scheduled for every single month. And we've now had to move those events online for virtual activities. So the plus is this, is that we will, with the same group you mentioned earlier, will be sponsoring a virtual celebration on July 25th at A Growing Culture.

So A Growing Culture and our Facebook pages that you mentioned, the Gullah/Geechee Nation's Facebook page, we will actually have a celebration that will be a telethon to try to raise the money that we were not able to raise face-to-face at the various engagements that we had scheduled where people could have bought craft items and items, you know, healing items from native Gullah/Geechee operations and companies and they would have been able to engage with us and hear about my new novels and various things.

We're going to shift what we usually do for our Gullah/Geechee Nation International Music and Movement Festival the first weekend in August to Gullah/Geechee Family Weekend the last weekend of July, which launches Gullah/Geechee Nation Appreciation Week that you talked about the counties and the cities and everybody declaring and proclaiming. We'll be having more of those coming up. We celebrate it every year and we're just so happy that the entire coast celebrates with us.

You know, this year we'll have a real captive audience because they'll be able to be there virtually but at least it'll be recorded on July 25th, it'll be live and then recorded and then we'll be re-sharing it throughout that whole Gullah/Geechee Nation Appreciation Week along with blogging about ways that people can help.

We're going to launch one list that'll be up there on Gullah/Geechee Nation is 20 ways in 20 days so we encourage people to go look for it on, so you see 20 different ways that you can support the Gullah/Geechee Nation. Some is by signing petitions, some may be donating time or money or resources, but all of it will help us sustain our culture and our cultural community.

And so, yes, COVID has definitely caused a negative impact financially, but a positive one in terms of people being more focused on our culture and our living legacy and wanting to connect with us. So we've gotten some really good collaborations, including this one with you.


Thank you.

Queen Quet:

It's a wonderful thing. Yeah.


Well, thank you. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled on July 25th, we will promote it on our social channels and make sure that people know it's out there and I really look forward to seeing that. It's a shame that, as you mentioned, people can't visit and having people pass is always difficult but to be able to reach out in other ways is... you know, it's good that we're able to do that.

Queen Quet:

Absolutely. And we're looking forward to having a massive drumming celebration and fish fry when 'rona gwine bak whey e cum frum.  I know you wan to com on down.


I was going to say, I'm going to have to come on down, for sure. I'm not too far away, it sounds awesome.

Queen Quet:

Yes. Yes.


Well, thank you Queen Quet. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me and our audience. You've been incredibly busy from what I can see online, and I find your message incredibly powerful, so I do feel very honored that we were able to speak. Not face-to-face, but in a sense, face-to-face.

Queen Quet:

Yeah. Well, I want to say thank you. Thank you, Fiona. Because I love your name, because the first person I met with the name Fiona, she's actually a Dame in England. And so we were like, "The house is full of royalty," because I was there, there was a princess of Jordan there, and the Dame Fiona was there.

So you two were donning you a dame for the day. I really appreciate being here with you and being a part of your audience and I pray that they'll follow us, they'll support us, and that we can support one another because that's it's going to take for all of us to heal coming out of this and to get to building and then get to flying, like we said. Like that phoenix right on over these wonderful waters that we have that are healing because folks need to stay inside. All right?

And so definitely, let's get this environment healed and heal one another, and as folks always know, I say all the time "Hunnuh mus tek cyare de root fa heal de tree. I thank you for giving me this opportunity for us to dig a little deeper together and so that we can get the healing going right at the root and get new fruit. Peace and blessings, everybody.


Thank you, Queen Quet.