I moved to Hilton Head in the 80s, a period of significant change for the Island. One thing I remember was that the people stopped going home when summer vacation was over. They had decided to make Hilton Head their permanent place of residence. Of course the normal things occur with rapid population growth. For one thing, there were the improvements. That old drawbridge, yes the one that used to get stuck open, was replaced. Then sadly, the island was clearcut to accommodate new homes and businesses. That broke my heart in particular to see all those gaping holes in the once lush foliage. With the population increase, the island also became incorporated. Now formally run by government, there were new rules to which islanders both old and new had to adhere. Sadly, those rules of course, cut into the tradition of island natives. Hilton Head became unrecognizable to those with island roots. Personally, I understand change. Moving to Hilton Head was definitely a change for me. When people from different areas relocate, they cannot help but to bring their own culture with them. People also take on culture as well. At least they are supposed to. Cultural diffusion has taken place since the beginning of time. When it happens correctly, in that people EXCHANGE traditions as well as ideas, it makes them well-rounded. Unfortunately, there are times when people go into certain places determined to wipe out any traces of an established society, but to go that route is so limiting. I feel better as a person to be able to hold on to my culture while embracing others. Even after leaving New Jersey, I still want a pastrami on rye or a New York Style Pepperoni Pizza, but I will beat somebody down for a pot of red rice (It’s the Geechee in me, I’m happy to claim.) While going to school in Hampton, VA, I have danced to more GoGo and House music than I care to remember. Then of course I experienced one of the most significant cultures when I went to New Orleans for graduate school. Mardi GRAS, Second Line Dancing, and street corners filled with live music are experiences for which I will always be grateful. I was over the moon when good friends of our family recently sent us, “The Big Easy in a Box”.
My point is moving one culture out of the way in favor of another is wrong. You not only do a disservice to those traditions already established, you cheat yourself out of truly being a part of what is wonderful about different people. I think the island may be trying to rectify the mistake of not valuing the traditions of its indigenous people. When recalling the island’s history, it’s a little more inclusive. People from other places are certainly becoming more aware. The question I ask however, is it too late? Can the damage truly be undone? I do know that people cannot rely on others to honor their traditions. People need to learn and treasure for themselves. And when it’s necessary, fight for them. That’s my plan anyway.