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Remembering Savannah

Gage Ulery ’18- Right when I asked to join the class, I had no idea what I was in for. While learning about the different themes in class such as Candomble, the orisha gods, and all the different aspects of this religion that was new to all of us, I started to think about the immersion trip and the places we will be going. We were not at all expecting to have the great journey that we had. It all started on a Saturday when we all woke up way to early to do something we had no idea what to expect. On the first day we traveled through the channels of the Atlantic Ocean to reach Sapelo Island. We had to reach the island by a short ferry ride which gave us a great view of the vast Atlantic Ocean and really stressed the long journey African American went through to come to the Americas. Once we reached the island, we were introduced to our tour guide J.R., who was a 5th generation resident of the island. There we went to different locations all over the island such as: Chocolate, an old plantation, the common area where the gas station and a local school or learning center was, and we went into the community where we could talk to the locals on the island. Sapelo really showed us the difference in land from the Midwest to the South and how the land was, and still is, able to grow goods such as cotton, indigo, and rice.

On the second day, we got to experience, in my opinion the most influential part of the trip, the First African Baptist Church in Savannah. This was a remarkable experience because it touched a lot of my project topic of Call and Response and the communication of African Americans that carry on today. The songs and praises that were sung took place back in the 1700’s and 1800’s and still inspire people today. There we got to experience how traditional Southern Baptist praise and worship their god. The celebration included the singing of a small group of three women singing beautifully, clapping of everyone in the building, and the continuous yelling of “Hallelujah” and “Yes Lord”.

Entrance to the Oyotunji village.

Entrance to the Oyotunji village.

After the wonderful service, we took a tour of the historical places of Savannah by Professor Jamaal Toure of Savannah State University. He took us back into the Baptist Church, down to River Street, and several other locations in Savannah that played a major role in the upbringing of Savannah and its start up. Until this tour, I had not idea that there was such a great slave presence of slaves in Savannah. There is a statue down near the Savannah River, that shows a family that is in the middle of the slave trade and the young boy is looking East towards the homeland of Africa. There was such a large African presence in Savannah that a lot of the cuisine and local shops are inspired by these people. The next place that we visited was Tybee Island. The island was known notoriously for its large rice plantation and the thousands of slaves that died in this area because of the malaria and dangerous living conditions that the island possesses.

On the last day that we were in Savannah, we visited an actual African Village in South Carolina but it remains part of Nigeria. While we were at this village, all the students could relate to what the villagers believed in because they practiced Candomble. We got to speak with a high priestess of the village and we got the honor to speak with the King of the village. Even being at the African Village Oyotunji, it all related back to Savannah and the large slave population that it possessed at one point in history.

I am extremely grateful that I was able to go on this Immersion Trip because of the amount of information that I learned and the experience that I gained that I would not of gained if I didn’t go to Wabash College.