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.

It’s All About that Culture Baby!

I think that is fair to say that it’s been more than a few weeks since I’ve posted on my blog. I actually have a good reason for that. I am going to school for my PHd. So add The University of Tennessee to my list of schools. My degree is going to be in education with a concentration in – wait for it – Cultural Studies. It’s a lot of work, this first semester. There are a lot of reading assignments and class discussions. Then I have to find time to publish journal articles (be on the look out for mine at some point), not to mention thinking about my topic for my dissertation. If you know me, it will be something about the Gullah-Geechee Culture. In addition to that, as a Cultural Studies student, I have to do service learning projects, where I give my time outside of the university to perform services that give back to the community. It’s actually a good concept because it gives students field experience rather than keeping us buried in our books. So I had been wracking my brains trying to figure out what to do. How do I tie my love of culture and history into a service learning project? Well believe it or not, the answer came to me in the form of my 8-year-old son. He always has what I call, “under the radar” knowledge. It’s that he knows something but you don’t know that he knows. But when this kid shows you what he knows in that nonchalant way of his, I don’t know about anyone else, but you can knock me over with a feather. So my eight-year-old and I were reviewing vocabulary and the word was “sew.” I asked him to tell me what it meant. So my 8-year-old responds, “You know when Granny Janie (he makes a sewing gesture) pulled the ‘string’ through the cloth?” Through my tears I told him that was exactly what she had done. I could barely hear my own voice when I asked him what the “string” was called. I couldn’t believe he remembered that Granie Janie sewed quilts. First, she was my grandmother and his great-grandmother. Secondly, she passed away when he was 5-years-old. The other thing that got to me was the impact that my grandmother had made on my son. I’m grateful for his memories. Who knows what else my grandmother left with him? Or as my father always says, and maybe he is right, “This child has been here before.” Anyway, I began to realize that everytime someone passes on, a bit of history dies with them…That is if they hadn’t passed it down to the next generation. Just yesterday in my sociology class, we discussed the fact that history courses are disappearing to make way for new subjects that would supposedly catapult us further into the 21st Century. But our history is important too and I wish that people would not forget that. After all, ef oona ent know weh oona da qwibe, oona should kno weh oona kum from (If you don’t know where you’re going, you should know where you come from).

So my idea for my project is simple: People should talk to their grandparents or the oldest person they know and ask them to tell what life was like growing up. Then write it down in a journal. That way people can keep their own history and culture alive.

So I am going to try my best to juggle my school work and hopefully find time to blog. Who knows, maybe I’ll post a journal article or two 😉