Let’s Give a Shout Out!

As people come to know me, they will soon find out about my sister. I have to explain that as far as sisters go, no one else has one of these. No one. Seriously. And when they do meet her or have any interaction with her at all, they’ll find out very quickly what I am talking about. My sister is an original. I’m saying all of this to say that in addition to her infectious personality, propensity for making up names for things, having an incredible knack for telling side-splitting stories, and other quirks that are too numerous to name, she has these segments on Facebook that garner plenty of attention from those who follow her. My favorite is the Shout Out segment. Now the original meaning for the phrase, Shout Out is to give people a greeting or praise. However, my sister uses the Shout Out to let’s just say to… acknowledge those lacking in common sense and common courtesy. It’s quite hilarious, actually. Well I hope that my sister doesn’t mind, but I’m going to borrow her Shout Outs for this blog post. Only, I want to use the term Shout Out for its original purpose: to give praise. So, without further ado, here are my Shout Outs:

My first Shout Out goes to Naomi. In spite of it being illegal, she learned to read and write. For slaves, literacy was more than knowing what their white owners knew. For Naomi and the other slaves, having an education meant finally being seen as more than 3/5 of person or a second-class citizen. Having an education would do something that merely being brought to these shores could not do. What fighting in the wars for freedom could not do. What speaking in English and becoming a Christian could not do. For slaves and freedmen alike, having an education meant finally being regarded as an American.

I want to give a Shout Out to teachers like Charlotte Forten Grimke, who dedicated their lives to teaching the newly freed slaves. Thanks to the Port Royal Experiment, descendants of Naomi’s generations were able to become educated. Getting a good education had always been apart of Black American Culture. After gaining freedom, it was important for former slaves to have learning. Our people may not have had the most pristine setting for a house of learning, but they sure knew how to school. These students didn’t just receive “book learning” but life learning. In other words: It was not only important to gain knowledge of the 3 R’s, but they needed to learn how to function in mainstream society. Lessons actually included diction and etiquette. I mean how else would people who were once in bondage ever be taken seriously? This actually reminds me of all of the “extras” I learned while attending Hampton University. I still remember a sternly worded lecture in my Mass Media class on the art of being a good tipper. I digress. Anyway, our people have always been survivors and knew that obtaining a well-rounded education would lead to success.

Of course there were some aspects of educating Black people that were up for debate: Should we learn a trade like Booker T. Washington believed, or should we compete on an intellectual level as argued by W.E.B. DuBois. So Shout Out to both men because they understood that having an education, whether it was learning a trade or becoming a professional, was a way for Black citizens to be competitive.

Shout Out to Thurgood Marshall and those countless students who fought against education discrimination. Facilities for Blacks may have been separate, but they sure weren’t equal. Of course today, we are dealing with “resegregation” and once again separate is not equal… but, moving on.

Shout Out to the student activists of the 1960s who knew that it was not enough just to have a good education. They knew that they needed to work to fix society’s ills – segregation, discrimination, disenfranchisement – in order for us all to have a better future. These students risked their own education in this fight for equal rights.

Shout Out to the It’s-a-Black-Thing-activists-Malcolm-X-cap-wearing-positive-rap creating/reciting-A-Different-World-and-School-Daze-watching-HBCU-attending-learn-your-history-urging-Africa-shaped-medallion-sporting-Bob-Marley-jamming-give-back-to-the-community-Fight-the-power-students of the 1990s.

The importance of education was passed down from generation to generation. To that end, I want to give a Shout Out to people like my grandparents, who were always telling us to go and “get our learnin’.” I acknowledge them because economics did not permit them to get a college education, but they made sure their children had one. They knew that getting a degree was the key to their children and grandchildren reaching that coveted middle class status. And it wasn’t just our Grandmamas, Gramees, Big Mamas, Mamas, Granddaddies, Grampees, Big Daddies, and Daddies giving this message to their own children, but was imparted to all of the children of the ‘hood, island, or country. Getting a good education was a part of Black culture and reinforced throughout tightly-knit neighborhoods. Then our neighborhoods broke down and there went the expectation for higher learning. Now, as a people, we are so far removed from the educational mindset Naomi’s generation, it’s a tragedy. And this is one of the reasons I implore people to Gentrify your Own Self!

As a people, we have to get back that culture of education success. Although we are still presenting theories as how to achieve this, I say we give a Shout Out to those who have brought us this far. But first as we look to Naomi and shout her out, please remember what getting a good education is all about for our people and where it started.

Who is Naomi, you ask? Read Marshland and find out :).


The Ethnic Tip

As I am delving further into Cultural Studies, I am finding out some interesting things. So as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in my blog, I have to do a service learning project. At times, these projects are geared towards social justice, meaning that awareness is brought to problems and resources are provided to address those problems. In my Cultural Studies class, we learned about the Highlander Research and Education Center, through assigned readings, a presentation made by our professor and this engaging film called, You Got to Move. For over an hour I sat there mesmerized as I watched the documentary of how Highlander was utilized to mobilize against different injustices that occurred not only in Appalachia, but in other places, particularly the Jim Crow South. Highlander actually reminded me of Penn Center on Saint Helena Island in South Carolina. I interned there a couple of summers, so I know a bit about it.

The Penn School was founded in 1862, three years before the end of the American Civil War. This normal school was a part of the Port Royal Experiment, which I kind of allude to in my book, Marshland. These philanthropists, abolitionist, and missionaries came to Beaufort after the Confederates were run off by Union soldiers. Their purpose was to prepare former slaves for freedom by teaching them to read and to learn trades. Like the Highlander, the Penn Center served as a safe place during the Civil Rights Movement where Black and White folks could convene, organize, and strategize in peace. In fact, Martin Luther King and Southern Christian Leadership Conference visited both sites. Today, the social justice purpose of Penn Center (What it is called today) is focused on preserving the Gullah culture in spite of the rapid development taking place on the Sea Islands.

One more thing before I sign off: So as I am writing this blog – in my sleep deprived state – I am strongly reminded of a particular The Fresh Prince of Bel Air Episode. Yes, I know that this is taking me off on a serious tangent, but not really. There is this episode that was first aired in 1991 (and a part of my VHS collection) called The Ethnic Tip where Vivian Banks, played by Janet Hubert, was teaching a Black History Course at Bel Air Academy. To my shock and delight, she assigns her nephew, Will Smith (Will Smith) and son, Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro) a paper on The Port Royal Experiment and the Penn School. If you want to see what episode I am talking about, you can view it here . I guess I am finding it necessary to mention The Ethnic Tip because as crazy as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air could be, it had some pretty good messages and I respect the fact that they even did an episode on such important institution of American History. I mean really, how many people actually know about places like Highlander and Penn Center?

Anyway, I am not going to give away the details, in case you have never seen it, but I will say that Aunt Viv, wouldn’t have had to tell me twice to do a 15 page paper. She might have even gotten one that was 25 pages. IJS.

Braddock’s Point Cemetery…and Other Places

A few posts ago, I encouraged visitors of Hilton Head to visit Braddock’s Point Cemetery that is located behind the gates of Sea Pines Plantation. Upon doing so, I was reminded of the story that I read concerning the Sea Islands in a 1987 issue of National Geographic. Lord knows where the publication is now (somewhere in the attic of my childhood home), but I remember that there was picture of a woman looking at headstones through a gate. Luxury condominiums served as its backdrop. It’s an odd experience to watch the past and the present collide in such a manner. To me, it’s an unsettling feeling. It makes me wonder if people realize that places like Braddock’s Point Cemetery is more than just a bunch of headstones but a historical record of self-sufficient people who built, lived, and thrived on Hilton Head Island. Up until a few years ago, few people respected that fact. The descendants of the Braddock’s Point Slaves and Freedmen even had to pay to enter the Sea Pines Plantation just to visit the cemetery. The plantation powers-that-be put a stop to that after the wrong was exposed in the National Geographic article.

Another story of the present clashing with the past takes me closer to home. My husband and I went to visit one of my loved ones in the Joe Pope Cemetery, which is located near Broad Creek. First we stopped at the Piggly Wiggly to buy flowers, but we didn’t return to the car, to drive to the destination as was probably expected. It wasn’t necessary. If husband was surprised that I walked through a fence next to the supermarket and into the neighboring cemetery, he never let on. I knew that it was odd to him though that a place so sacred did not have its respected space.

Finally, one summer while I was in college, I worked for one of he resorts on nearby Daufuskie Island. The only way to access this island, even now, is by boat. As we would chug slowly to the docks, one of the first sights of the island was a cemetery near the water. With the surrounding oaks and palmettos, it was actually a beautiful site. But then the welcome center for the resort was right next to it, just marring the whole image. It wasn’t more than a couple of weeks after working at the resort did the islanders tell me that the building wasn’t right next to the cemetery. It was right on top of the cemetery and there was a big lawsuit going on for the resort to move the welcome center. I was appalled but it wasn’t surprising. A lot of the older graves on the Sea Islands are either unmarked or the headstones have sunken into the soft earth. I just wonder why development has to occur right next to or practically on top of these final resting places, as if our ancestors never existed. I’ve been to a few cemeteries over the years in places like New Orleans and Philadelphia where they are apart of the cities’ character. I feel as these places are respected as places that contributed to this country’s history rather than as places that are an inconvenience to someone’s plans for development.

If you have read either The Promise of Palmettos or Marshland, you will find that I make references to the cemeteries to help the reader understand that these aren’t just places to bury loved ones. These places are also a part of our history. It displays our traditions. This cemeteries on the islands are the only places undisturbed by time. They are a record of our past.

The Reviews for “Marshland” and “The Promise of Palmettos” are In!

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Interview with an Author

Check out the Palmetto Author’s Blog Tour! I had the priviledge of being interviewed by Evolving Elle, who did a wonderful job of outlining my writing journey. Check it out as well as other blog topics.

Southern Girl in the City

Wife. Mother. Teacher. Urban Planner. Author.

These are just a few words that describe novelist Sheryse Noelle DuBose.   With always having dreams of being a writer, Sheryse decided to hit the ground running when she stopped teaching to pursue her dreams of writing full-time.  Her upcoming book, Marshland, will be released this Friday, which also happens to be her birthday.  “My newest novel is fictional, but I received the inspiration from my family’s story,” Sheryse states.  “Marshland is set during the Civil War and tells the story of a slave family that escapes the mainland (of South Carolina) and flees to Pickney Island then to Hilton Head Island.  The family meets various people along the way-some who are friendly and some that are not.”  As a native of Hilton Head Island, SC, Sheryse has always been fascinated with life in the Lowcountry.  While teaching U.S. History, Sheryse discovered the…

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