ST. HELENA ISLAND, S.C. (WTOC) -The Gullah Geechee nation recently celebrated its 20th anniversary as a globally recognized nation.
“With our 20th anniversary of the Gullah Geechee nation, we had a plethora of events scheduled all the way through the year,” said Queen Quet, the Gullah Geechee Queen Mother.
But when the coronavirus hit, the community-oriented nation had to take a step back from the celebrations.
“So I spent the first month about to pull all my corkscrews out of my head trying to tell family members and friends don’t come here,” said Queen Quet. “They said ‘stay home'. Don’t mean to come to my house, it means stay to your house so our community is communal. So to try to break that was like trying to take a 3-quart rope and shop with your fingers and think you’re going to go through it. It was not working.”
Coronavirus has directly impacted the main industries of the Gullah Geechee nation: fishing, agriculture, and tourism. Additionally, without the economic support of the festivals and celebrations, many Gullah Geechee organizations have not survived.
“Because economically, we can’t sustain ourselves without having the income that usually comes from people being able to sell their different things.”
The queen says while some Gullah institutions will not recover from coronavirus, in some ways it has helped bring the nation together
“Queen Quet can you tell me is this a sweet potato? No gal that’s a weed. Pull out your field. Pull out your field. I mean they hit me up with videos and pictures and it has been a wonderful thing because now what we have been trying to pass down has gotten passed down almost inadvertently. But God had it that this was that divine time. So there’s been a plus. I ain’t all the way mad with Rona for that.”
The queen says what she believes is vital now is supporting the Gullah Geechee owned businesses that have been struggling in the last few months- and making sure when coronavirus does pass those institutions are still in the sea islands to support.