Tag: Gullah

Charleston-Born Artist Sunn M’Cheaux to Teach Gullah Language Class at Harvard

COURTESY OF SUNN M’CHEAUX

by  via charlestoncitypaper.com

A renewed interest in Gullah has propelled the language to one of the highest rungs in academia.

Charleston native and performance artist Sunn m’Cheaux spent the fall semester at Harvard teaching an introductory version of a course on Gullah: A language indigenous to the Lowcountry region often described as a combination of English and Central and West African languages.

The pidgin language originally allowed enslaved African people from various tribes to communicate with each other and with their overseers, and is still spoken by African-American communities across coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

The Gullah class is the first of its kind at the Ivy League school. It’s part of the African Language Program within the Department of African and African American Studies.

The class is the brainchild of a graduate student who knows m’Cheaux. The student phoned him and asked if he would be willing to meet with the head of the program, Dr. John Mugane. M’Cheaux, who graduated from Goose Creek High School and didn’t go to college, found that Dr. Mugane was impressed with how quickly m’Cheaux was able to teach him some Gullah basics.

“He starts talking about getting my information and taking a picture for the website, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wait a minute — did I just get hired?'” m’Cheaux said in a phone interview with CP.

Mugane argues that offering Gullah, along with the 44 other languages taught in the program, increases students’ chances of accurately portraying different communities. “To engage in intellectual and professional work in the Gullah community, we deem it necessary even critical that scholars be literate in Gullah whose basic demonstration is an ability to hold non-trivial conversations with the people they write about, including (and especially) in Gullah, the language of the people they write about,” Dr. Mugane said in an e-mail to CP.

M’Cheaux says that his time bouncing between Charleston, Los Angeles, and New York as an artist and activist influenced his teaching methods. “Ultimately, my arts and entertainment career kind of dovetailed into social activism and commentary, and in a sense, I feel like this is an extension of that as well,” m’Cheaux said. “How to use literal and figurative language to communicate with people and teach people how to make it their own.”

This kind of approach is especially necessary with Gullah — a language that is passed down orally without established standards for grammar and spelling. Aspects of the language may be familiar to English speakers, such as “han’ baby,” which means small infant, and “knee baby,” which can be interpreted as toddler in English.

“I want to build these students’ intuition in order to know when to apply something literally and figuratively, because that will help bring the language to life,” m’Cheaux said. “Those are figurative terms, not necessarily literal terms, but once you look at them literally, it makes total sense.”

M’Cheaux uses the few Gullah reference books and literature available as course materials, but has largely stuck to developing his own curriculum throughout the semester, which includes video chats between students and native speakers.

To read more, go to: https://charlestoncitypaper.com/TheBattery/archives/2017/12/19/harvard-introduces-gullah-class-taught-by-a-charleston-born-artist

How Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” Helped Bring Julie Dash’s Groundbreaking Film “Daughters of the Dust” Back to Theaters

"Daughters of the Dust" directed by Julie Dash (poster via Cohen Media Group)
Poster for re-release of “Daughters of the Dust” directed by Julie Dash (via Cohen Media Group)

article by Yohana Desta via vanityfair.com

In 1991, Julie Dash’s sumptuous film Daughters of the Dust” broke ground as the first movie directed by a black woman to get a wide theatrical release.  Since then, the gorgeous tone poem about a Gullah family in 1902 has continued to gather accolades. It was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004, and recently served as a heavy inspiration for Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade.

Now, the film is being re-introduced to the mainstream in a splashy new way—the Cohen Media Group has created a rich 2K restoration that will be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, then released in theaters again this November. (Watch the exclusive new trailer above to see the film restored in all its fresh, new glory, and scroll down to see the glossy new poster.)

Dash calls the new release “exciting.”“I never imagined it would be released again,” she says.  For the record, Dash is also a huge fan of Lemonade—and says that the visual album actually helped Daughters on the road to restoration. Read on to see her thoughts about Beyoncé, Hollywood, and whether she’d ever make a sequel to her classic film.

Vanity Fair: Were you paying attention at all to Lemonade, to the Beyoncé film?

Julie Dash: Yes. My phone blew up the night Lemonade came on and my Web site shut down . . . someone called me and said Daughters of the Dust is trending on Twitter. And I said, “No, it must be something else,” and they said, “No, it’s trending!” And I looked and it was, and it was so funny. It just tickled me to death. So I finally got a chance to see Lemonade and I was just very pleased. Lemonade is just—it breaks new ground. It’s a masterpiece.It’s a tone poem, a visual tone poem with various stories going on—vignettes. It’s just all visual, and it’s like yes.

To read full interview and see the “Daughters of the Dust” trailer, go to: How Beyoncé’s Lemonade Helped Bring a Groundbreaking Film Back to Thea | Vanity Fair

Black History Month: Then and Now in Education with Charlotte Grimké and John B. King Jr.

Charlotte Forten Grimké (Image: Wikipedia.org)

article by Robin White Goode via blackenterprise.com

For Black History Month, we are honoring pioneers and their heirs apparent.

There are so many black pioneers in the arena of education, but one who stands out is Charlotte Forten Grimké, who was born into an affluent family that had fought for racial equality for generations.

THEN

Charlotte Forten Grimké   (1837-1914)

Charlotte Forten Grimké was the first northern African American schoolteacher to go south to teach former slaves.

Grimké was born in Philadelphia in 1837 into an influential and affluent family. Her grandfather had been an enormously successful businessman and significant voice in the abolitionist movement. The family moved in the same circles as William Lloyd Garrison and John Greenleaf Whittier: intellectual and political activity were part of the air Charlotte Forten Grimké  breathed.

She attended Normal School in Salem, Massachusetts, and began her teaching career in the Salem schools, the first African American ever hired. But she longed to be part of a larger cause, and with the coming of the Civil War Grimké found a way to act on her deepest beliefs. In 1862, she arrived on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, where she worked with Laura Towne.

As she began teaching, she found that many of her pupils spoke only Gullah and were unfamiliar with the routines of school. Though she yearned to feel a bond with the islanders, her temperament, upbringing and education set her apart, and she found she had more in common with the white abolitionists there. Under physical and emotional stress, Grimke, who was always frail, grew ill and left St. Helena after two years.

Today, Grimké is best remembered for her diaries. From 1854-64 and 1885-92, she recorded the life of an intelligent, cultured, romantic woman who read and wrote poetry, attended lectures, worked, and took part in the largest social movement of her time. She was determined to embody the intellectual potential of all black people. She set a course of philosophical exploration, social sophistication, cultural achievement and spiritual improvement. She was, above all, dedicated to social justice.

NOW

John B. King Jr.

John B. King Jr. (Image: Wikipedia.org)

John B. King Jr., (1975–)
John King Jr. is the first person of African American and Hispanic descent to be appointed Acting Secretary of the Department of Education. Previously he was Acting Deputy Secretary, and before that, the first African American and first Puerto Rican to be appointed Commissioner of Education of the State of New York.

Before King assumed these high-profile leadership roles, he was an award-winning teacher, receiving the James Madison Memorial Fellowship for secondary-level teaching of American history, American government, and social studies. He also co-founded a high-performing charter school in Boston, the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School.

King received a B.A. in government from Harvard, a Juris Doctor from Yale, and a Ph.D. in educational administrative practice from Columbia University Teachers College.

Although King was born into a well-educated and accomplished family (his father was the first black principal in Brooklyn, New York; he later became executive deputy superintendent of schools; his grandfather had attended New York University Law School), he experienced devastating loss and instability as a youngster, losing both his parents by the time he was 12. Seeing school and teachers as an anchor, he himself became a teacher and education leader, perhaps living out the potential that Charlotte Forten Grimké foresaw for all people of African descent more than a hundred years earlier.

National Museum of African American History to Display Photos of the Gullah People

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Miss Bertha, 1977 (JEANNE MOUTOUSSAMY-ASHE/NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE)

The collection is haunting: black-and-white stills of another place from another time, a documentation of the Gullah, or Geechee, people—a population of African descendants living on the Sea Islands off the Eastern coastline.  The images of a place and a people that time forgot were captured by celebrated photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe—the wife of renowned tennis player Arthur Ashe—between 1977 and 1981.

Bank of America donated the collection of more than 60 photos to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The photographs center on the people and life of Daufuskie Island, a cultural and national treasure tucked away off the coast of South Carolina.

A “time capsule” is how the island was aptly described by Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director, who is thrilled at the addition to the yet-to-be-finished museum.  In addition to the stunning collection, which Bank of America originally obtained through its acquisition of Merrill Lynch in 2007, the financial institution also donated $1 million toward the building of the museum, a $500 million project.

“We’ve had a great history with the [museum]. We were one of the first donors [and have a] long-standing partnership,” Bank of America spokeswoman Diane Wagner told The Root. “[The collection] seemed like a very natural fit to be donated to the museum as one of their key exhibitions once they open in 2015.

“We feel that the arts have the power to connect people and … can connect people across cultures, across geography and socioeconomic status … People can take a look at art and understand a different culture, or they can understand their heritage, where they come from and how they’ve been established,” she added. Continue reading “National Museum of African American History to Display Photos of the Gullah People”

Cultural Center In Gullah Heartland Marks 150th Anniversary

ST. HELENA ISLAND, S.C. — The Penn Center, a historic African American cultural institution that once educated freed slaves on the South Carolina coast and later served as a retreat center for civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King, is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The Penn Center on Saint Helena Island started in 1862 as one of the nation’s first schools for emancipated blacks and, at the turn of the 20th Century, became an agricultural and industrial school. Continue reading “Cultural Center In Gullah Heartland Marks 150th Anniversary”