By Damion Smalls
A Taste of Gullah welcomed visitors to James Island’s Mosquito Beach, a strip of marshland in the Sol Legare area, to an interactive community fundraiser June 9. The event also served as a celebration of the Gullah culture complete with a drum circle, fish fry and the evening’s full “strawberry” moon. The Suga Shack served as the epicenter of festivities.
Sea Island historian Giovanni Richardson is the cultural events coordinator of A Taste of Gullah. Also known as “De’ Gullah Griot”, Richardson is seeking to “preserve the Gullah” by restoring Mosquito Beach to its luster of decades past. A Taste of Gullah is a event planning organization that specializes in promoting Gullah Geechee culture through social events, Lowcountry tours and catering. Richardson brings authenticity to the table as her heritage is deeply ingrained in the culture. She uses her vast knowledge to spread awareness and educate, which has garnered her acclaim throughout the Gullah Geechee coast (North Carolina to Florida).
In recent times, Mosquito Beach has suffered from negative connotations as violence has been associated to the area. Going back to the days of racial segregation, the waterside property gained recognition as a popular locale for Blacks to party, hang out, eat and engage in various other recreational activities. Publicized occurrences of gang activity, fighting and shootings involving Black youth have plagued the location and damaged its reputation. Richardson is hoping to change the perception of “Skeeta Beach” with its recent resurrection.
The fundraiser accepted cash donations that were accompanied with a buffet-style offering of fried whiting, red rice, quinoa with cabbage, chips & dip, “swamp water” and grilled vegetables such as sweet potatoes, eggplants, onions and zucchini. On the first Monday of every month through October, the Folly Beach Farmers Market will celebrate Gullah Geechee culture with crafts, entertainment, food and more at the Folly River Park from 4 pm to 8 pm.
Racial diversity defined the evening. Friends and strangers vibed off the serene waters, breezy weather and the “preserve the Gullah” camaraderie. Music played a large role during the event as the open-to-everyone drum circle brought out children, young adults and elders alike. Tiki torches lined the Suga Shack’s exterior as bombastic rhythms and spirited vocals organically flowed in respect to the African-Sea Island nature of Gullah Geechee.
Mosquito Beach is set to reclaim its place as one of Charleston’s hotspots sooner rather than later. June 18, it will be the site of the Island Gullah Geechee Market and Sea Island Market five days later. Future dates for the Geechee Market are July 22 (in honor of Halie Selassie I’s birthday) and August 17 (Marcus Garvey’s birthday). Island Breeze, a bar and event venue on the marshland, will host the All White Day Fete June 25 as part of the 2017 Charleston Carifest. This summer, Island Breeze’s Social Sundays will be DJ-hosted gatherings featuring Caribbean soul food and drink specials.
The public is invited to the Mosquito Beach Cleanup work party on June 17 from 9 am to 11 am. It is a collaborative effort with Charleston Waterkeeper, a non-profit that works to preserve local waterways while advocating clean water. Cleaning materials will be provided for all volunteers. For more information, visit tasteofgullah.com or charlestonwaterkeeper.org.