This blog was written by Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine, a published author, computer scientist, lecturer, mathematician, historian, columnist, preservationist, environmental justice advocate, environmentalist, film consultant and “The Art-ivist.” She is the founder of the premier advocacy organization for the continuation of Gullah/Geechee culture, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition.
“De wata bring we and de wata gwine tek we bak,” is a proverb from my ancestors here in the Gullah/Geechee Nation. As I walk to the marsh of the Sea Islands or stand on the shoreline of the ocean, I hear these words resonate in my soul. I pause and I take in not only the beauty of the ocean as the waves crash against the sand on which I stand but I also take in 500 years of history since this is the means by which my ancestors arrived on the shores of North America and then built the United States.
As I pay homage to these ancestors and begin to tune into the spiritual energy of the ocean, it always seems that the waves begin to beat in perfect syncopation with my heart which beats out a polyrhythm that we call the “Sea Islands clap.” This percussive sound has been what sustained us over generations of being in what is now called “America” while not being treated like we were part of this place. Our blood, sweat and tears are within every grain of sand from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida. The blood first spilled as folks were beaten in the pestilence houses of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina where more than 40% of all Africans enslaved in America came through. This was part of a process called “seasoning” which was to prepare this “Black cargo” or “Black gold” to be auctioned in Charles Towne which is now Charleston, South Carolina.
As the sea levels rise on the Carolina coast, the ocean continues to push further and further inland and floods over the places and spaces on which this crime against humanity began. The ancestral bones that lie in the Middle Passage seem as if they are moving about and as we wade in the water GOD is truly troubling the water. However, just as much as the oceans’ droplets contain the pain from the screams of enslavement vessels, it also contains healing. I breathe the healing in via the salt-filled air. I pause and think about those that can no longer breathe. George Floyd and Eric Garner, the Emanuel Nine, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery cannot breathe, but as long as I and others have breath, we will say their names and their spirits will live on just as our ancestors live on through us.
I pause again and I feel an embrace from the wind.
I realize that at this moment in time, embraces mean so much more as we socially distance from one another. Although we aren’t reaching out for hugs, we are reaching out to one another for social justice. We are screaming out in a united voice around the world and breathing in a new way of living. There is finally a flow of justice. I pause. I breathe in this power.
As the power of the rising waves strike my legs, I reflect on how I expected to be in another country this year celebrating World Ocean Day. I reflect on how I’ve stood with many environmentalists over the decades seeking justice and how that path is now intersecting with that of racial justice and equity around the world. If our environment is healthy, it improves the quality of life of the people.
If people are healthy, they can sustain themselves and be in better positions to overstand the value of protecting that which we all are made of—water. So, on Juneteenth, I did a drum call for JUSTICE: Jump Urgently Spiritually Truthfully Into Cultural Empowerment. The more that people tune their spirits into this global moment of truth that we are in, they can come together in their cultural communities and be empowered. This power will then strike the shorelines around the globe well beyond World Oceans Month and maybe we can all breathe it in, then pause and give thanks for the water bringing us all back into balance and healing us as Mother Earth heals herself. While she does, I pray that justice continues to flow.
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