Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters at the Gathering, Riceboro

I drove down to Riceboro yesterday to see the wonderful work Jim Bacote (above, right) has done with Geechee Kunda and to check out his Gathering, an annual celebration of Geechee and Gullah culture. Jim is passionate about preserving the ways of his culture and it’s tangible. Geechee Kunda is the culmination of his lifelong fascination with this endangered culture. I first met him a couple of years ago when he was still working on his museum and history center so I didn’t get to make any photographs. He invited me to come back and  I’m so glad I finally got to see it yesterday.

The highlight for me was a performance by the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters (not to be confused with the McIntosh County Shouters, who organized about a decade before the Geechee Gullah). This group of dedicated men and women share the ring shout with the world and aim for authenticity. They’re historic interpreters of the highest order and preserve a tradition that was thought to be extinct as recently as 1980. Historians believe the ring shout is the oldest surviving African performance tradition in North America. While “shouting” in the vocal sense is a part of the performance, linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner, who spent a lifetime researching the Gullah language and culture, suggested that the term came from the Afro-Arabic word saut. This is a reference to the forward-moving shuffle, during which the feet are not to cross, associated with pilgrimages to the Kabaa at Mecca.

It’s hard not to come away from a performance by the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters with a better understanding of a culture that, especially as white Southerners, we have kept at a distance at best or dismissed altogether at worst.

One thing you’ll quickly notice when you’re around the Shouters is their charisma. They’re very passionate about what they’re doing and you can feel it. You not only learn but you’re uplifted, as well.

In 2011, the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters set the Guinness World Record for leading the largest recorded ring shout, during the “Word, Shout, Song” exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D. C.

Besides the world record ring shout, the group is also proud to have among their performers Mrs. Butler (above, right), who at 90 is the world’s oldest living ring shouter. She’s amazing.

At the end of the performance, a narrative of Emancipation is re-enacted and is quite powerful. If you couldn’t already tell, I was very moved by these living historians and would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to attend one of their events.

 

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Gragg-Owen-Miller House, 1910, Brunswick

Thanks to Ginger Miller for identifying this wonderful Colonial Revival, which has been in her family for six generations. She writes: My grandparents (Gragg) purchased the house, my parents (Owen) had it next and now we (Miller) have the house. Mr. McKinnon who built the McKinnon House across the street built this house for his daughter. Our property was a part of the land grant for Glynn Academy. We have the abstract on the property dating back to 1835. She also notes that it has a brick basement, a real rarity in sea-level Brunswick.

Brunswick Old Town Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Prairie Style Cottage, Brunswick

Though not a “textbook” example, this house is strongly influenced by the Prairie School.

Brunswick Old Town Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Eclectic Victorian Houses, Brunswick

This house, and the house next door, are near twins. The first house features a porte cochere. Both have a general Victorian appearance, though the gable windows are Colonial Revival in style.

Brunswick Old Town Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Major Columbia Downing House, 1886, Brunswick

Designed by Alfred Eichberg, who also designed Brunswick’s Old City Hall and Temple Beth Tefiloh, this is now home to Brunswick Manor, the most popular bed and breakfast in town. The original owner, Major Columbia Downing (1845-1924), was a big booster for commercial and residential development and chartered the National Bank of Brunswick in 1884. He was also the founder of the Downing Company, a naval stores factor, in 1890.

Brunswick Old Town Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Eclectic House, Brunswick

Brunswick Old Town Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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U. S. Custom House & Post Office, 1902, Brunswick

Now Brunswick’s City Hall, this was built under the direction of James Knox Taylor, Supervising Architect of the Department of the Treasury at the time.  It is unclear who the actual architect was.

Brunswick Old Town Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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