Gullah Geechee conference offers opportunities for the scholar and the public to come together

Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters

Coastal Carolina University’s Charles Joyner Institute for Gullah and African Diaspora Studies hosts the International Gullah Geechee and African Diaspora Conference, the first of its kind in the region, on CCU’s campus March 7-9.

The conference is themed “Tracing the African Diaspora: Places of Suffering, Resilience and Reinvention” and is organized by musicologist Eric Crawford, director of the Joyner Institute and associate professor in the CCU Department of Music. The event will bring together scholars, practitioners and community members for three days of presentations and performances. Ninety-five Gullah experts from across the country and nations around the globe including Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Barbados will participate.

Conference sessions will examine significant social, political and cultural experiences among African-American communities and various African and Caribbean nations in the past, present and future.

Crawford emphasized the distinction between this conference and the traditional academic gathering, in which scholarly experts present their research and findings to a group of highly specialized peers. At this conference, presentations and activities are designed to be accessible to the general public and the communities from which the culture emerged. Many events are free and open to the public.

“It’s not just going to be an academic effort,” said Crawford. “It’s an effort to engage scholars, yes, but there are also scholars who are in the communities themselves who will be here. We will have basket makers, performers and doll makers alongside academics.”

Highlights of the conference include a keynote address by Sheila S. Walker, director of the African Diaspora and the World Program and professor of anthropology at Spelman College. Walker is a cultural anthropologist, documentary filmmaker and executive director of Afrodiaspora Inc., a nonprofit organization that develops documentary films and educational materials that focus on the global African diaspora.

Marcus Amaker. Photo by Alice Keeney

Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s first poet laureate, performs spoken-word poetry on March 7. Also a graphic and web designer, videographer and musician, Amaker has been featured on PBS Newshour, TEDxCharleston and the Huffington Post.

A Salute to Gullah on Friday evening, March 8, brings a crowd of iconic performers to the stage in Wheelwright Auditorium with the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, Ron and Natalie Daise, and Aunt Pearlie Sue.

Community Day is March 9, dedicated to the history, customs, stories and current issues of our local communities. Presentations range from papers and musical performances to film, theater and dance on topics including language, folklore, spirituality, medicine, archaeology and anthropology.

For a full conference schedule, including admission information, visit coastal.edu/joynerinstitute/conference. Click here for more details.

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