“The pride which the cassique of Kiawah took in his harbor and his country was responsible for the settling there of the first English colony in South Carolina. The same pardonable pride is still characteristic of the inhabitants….”
– Alexander S. Salley, published 1911, Narratives of Early Carolina 1650-1708
The people of Charleston, in 1920, so revered the city that they channeled their fierce pride into the founding of the Preservation Society of Charleston, the oldest community based historic preservation organization in America. Originally called the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, it was founded by Miss Susan Pringle Frost and a small group of individuals who were concerned about the future of the circa 1802 Joseph Manigault House, which was eventually restored. Frost was an active suffragette and thought to be the first woman realtor in Charleston.The descendants of the African slaves of the Lowcountry, known as the Gullah Geechee along the Sea Islands explain it like this: “It’s in their relation to the land that their culture is made most manifest.” says Queen Quet, of St. Helena Island. “This land is living. These waterways are living. The oak trees are living. Even snakes that most of us don’t wanna see comin’, they’re living. For us, everything you touch, everything that you encounter, has certain energy to it. And that energy is very real, and you have to know how to respect that energy.”
So, we who live here now, like America, a blended nation, are this mixture and more, of course, a creole of cultures, adding to the original Native Americans, the Amerindians, the Africans who were brought from Angola and the Gola tribe of Liberia as slaves, and the early English and Huguenot settlers. It is a blend of people who love this land, who continue to be loyal and proud of the place. Particularly on the island of Edisto where I live whose obvious dedication and determination to stay in the realms of the natural and undeveloped seems to speak to the present. A place that feels this sacred seems to be more and more important, and rare. And, uniquely, we share the palpable energy of loving what is one of the most beautiful and unique places on earth.
Not only is the land brimming with life right now; spring and her symbols of hope are sprouting everywhere as the sting of winter fades. On this Easter weekend, people of all cultures gather at the sunrise on Edisto Island to watch the sun rise over the ocean. Black and white and brown people stand together. Our gathered, many colored clergy officiate on a tall parade float, under angels of white seagulls flying overhead.
Quietly standing together, we affirm this sunrise of new beginnings and our commonality in a place that many of us believe, is like no where else on earth.