Growing up, my father used to always talk about “the Old Country,” meaning Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. My father still has the casting net that my grandfather handwove. My grandmother sold fruits, vegetables, and her handmade quilts. My great-aunt wove the baskets from the sweetgrass found in the marsh. To my family, these traditions did not have a name as it was just a way of life. Now this way of life is dying not only on Hilton Head, but on other sea islands as well.
When I explain to people that I am from Hilton Head, I always let them know that I did not live in a subdivision, but that my family has owned land on the island since the Civil War. I am proud to be a part of a culture that has best maintained its West African traditions. As the years pass by, fewer people live the old way as development brings in new people and new traditions. These values that I have learned from my cultural experiences led me to a career in urban planning directly after finishing my Masters degree, then on to teaching history.
When I close my eyes, I can still hear the musical lilt of my grandmother’s voice, and I fear that memory will also fade. I believe that it is my responsibility to keep my grandmother’s song alive. While it is important to embrace the new, like the Griot I feel that we must continue the storytelling. With The Promise of Palmettos and Marshland, I have chosen to tell my story using a fictional voice drawing on very real elements.
Please join me as I periodically blog about my experiences growing up on Hilton Head as well as the progression of my up coming novels.