Chase Bramlet ’16- Each group we have studied during this trip, whether it be the people of Sapelo Island, the Yoruba people of the Oyotunji tribe, or the Gullah Geechee people in general, has attempted to seclude itself from the outside world in some way. The people of Sapelo Island have a great deal of water around them to separate them from the many cultures of the outside world that would attempt to influence them while the Oyotunji are alone, deep in the woods that are protected from the discriminatory people of the region, and the Gullah Geechee people have built their own places of worship, like the First African Baptist Church, the oldest African American church in the country, established in 1832.
While seclusion isn’t necessarily the solution to all problems, these particular examples are very interesting because the people don’t attempt to cut all ties with the outside world, rather they maintain enough isolation to preserve the traditions that create their identity as a people. This is what I have found most fascinating about the trip. These people have remained true to their roots and ancestry despite the constant innovations around them. This philosophy was one of the main points lectured by the speakers we heard in the Oyotunji community; preserving the ancestors and the history they provide. Similarly, the citizens of Sapelo Island boast that they can list their family lineage twelve generations back!
On both Sapelo Island and within the walls of the First African Baptist Church there are many artifacts dating back well over 100 years. One example of the attempts to honor the ancestors who struggled so hard to provide their descendants with a better life is the stain glass images found behind the altar. The people belonging to both organizations have preserved these items in an attempt to honor the struggles of their ancestors, and to educate the visitors who come, about the mistakes of the past. The way these people incorporate how their ancestors lived for hundreds of years into modern society is truly fascinating and quite admirable. Among the many things I have learned from this trip, the persistence of these traditions is probably the most striking, and I think we could all learn a great deal by taking note of how the Gullah people respect their history.