The Susie King Taylor Women’s Institute and Ecology Center and its partner organizations, Sankofa African American Geechee Heritage Trail of East Liberty County and Midway First Presbyterian Church, are grateful for the coverage of the 2018 Susie King Taylor Mami Wata Rising International Conference.
The two-day conference was a tremendous success. While cities like Savannah and Boston claim Taylor’s presence in their town, we should be most proud as she made it very clear in her 1902 memoir that she was born 30 miles south of Savannah on the Grest Plantation on Isle of Wight in Liberty County.
The Institute convened Mami Wata Rising International Conference to make her legacy known to the world and to bring the world to Midway, Georgia. We had attendees from Chicago, Ill., Fayetteville, N.C., Atlanta, Brunswick, Macon, Savannah, Charleston, S.C., and Decatur, Ala. Already we have been contacted by local cultural experts as well as possible presenters from London, England, Liberia, West Africa, and Austria (University of Graz) in Europe with an interest to present at next year’s Susie King Taylor Mami Wata Rising International Conference which will be held right here in Midway, Susie King Taylor’s hometown.
On day one of the conference, we were honored by the presence of Midway’s Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Clemontine Washington and Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Lovett.
Gilbert Walker, a Chatham County law enforcement officer, Civil War re-enactor, and blacksmith artist shared the story of his great-great grandfather who served with Susie King Taylor in the 33rd United States Colored Troops during the Civil War.
Following that presentation, Elyse Butler of the Georgia Historical Society expressed the exciting news of preliminary plans to erect a historical marker in Liberty County dedicated to Susie King Taylor.
The keynote speaker Dr. Clarissa Myrick-Harris connected Susie King Taylor and the Gullah Geechee culture and healing practices to Africa and the African diaspora.
In addition, attendees were elated by the “edutainment” of traditional African American music provided by local artists Daniel Fleming and Sandra Sheffield. Attendees also experienced appetizing low country faire provided by Phillip’s Seafood. And the Marriott Fairfield Inn in Hinesville is to be commended for such great lodging accommodations for the conference attendees.
Also, many thanks to the River Edge Family Support and Autism Services in Macon, for sponsoring Jereme Kemari Patterson, a special needs teenager with an opportunity to attend the conference. It was simply a joy to meet him!
On the second day of the event, we were especially thankful to Commissioner Marion Stevens (District 1) and Liberty County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Shyheim Carter who provided protection and traffic escort at the 5 a.m. commemorative march from Jones Creek to the bridge on Isle of Wight Road and back where Gullah Geechee storytelling was shared and delicious grits and gumbo were served at sunrise.
Mid-morning at Midway First Presbyterian Church, the day began with a film “The Language You Cry In” that ties the Gullah Geechee language as remembered in a song by Harris Neck residents to a Mende funeral song in a village in Sierra Leone. Buddy Metzger, president of the Mulberry Grove Foundation in Savannah, attended the conference. “I thought that it was so fascinating how the Gullah Geechee language was traced back to the small village in Sierra Leone, West Africa,” he said.
There were three very informative presentations. Jo Coleman of Coastal Family Counseling presented her experiences as a former exchange student to Accra, Ghana, and continued liaison to the Divine School for orphaned children in that country. Stacy Ashmore Cole of Brunswick gave a talk on finding and naming slaves in the last will and testaments of Liberty County slave owners. “To me, this project is about justice,” said Cole.
And Rose Stevens Mullice, a “binyah” (Geechee translation “been here”) and retired clinical social worker who is a longtime Gullah Geechee genealogist, connected the historic African American Midway First Presbyterian Church cemetery to post-Civil War community-building and family histories.
The food bazaar offered delicious barbecue and fried fish. Several attendees opted to take the Eco Tour as a way to understand the environmental influences and details that impacted Susie King Taylor’s life over 170 years ago and the lives of enslaved people in Liberty County.
The conference really showcased the shared histories of black, white and native peoples in this county since its beginning as a Royal Colony under General James Oglethorpe in 1752.
As the executive director of the Susie King Taylor Women’s Institute, I can truly say that, in addition to advertisement for the event, your coverage was beneficial as part of the general public education process relating to the history of Liberty County’s Gullah Geechee native daughter Susie King Taylor.
One of the reasons that we were able to reach our target numbers for attendance and education is due in part because of Coastal Courier’s commitment to hometown news.
Thank you very much!
Hermina Glass-Hill, MHP
Susie King Taylor Women’s Institute & Ecology Center