The 24th Annual Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration
Meet Courtney Young, Cora Miller, Carmen Young and Kerrie Brown. These four ladies, with the help of many others, are powerhouses working behind the scenes to bring the 24th Annual Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration to life. This month-long festival will showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Gullah people and their history on Hilton Head Island through 19 different events from January 29-February 28. The Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration programming includes a variety of events—some ticketed and some by donation—that will allow visitors to experience the Gullah culture first-hand through music, dance, food, art, storytelling, history and culture. If you haven’t been intrigued by the Gullah culture and the historical relevance it provides to this part of the country, you will definitely be enamored once you “bin bit by da spell!”
What does The Hilton Head Gullah Celebration mean to you? The Gullah Celebration is a platform for native islanders and our friends from neighboring areas to showcase their art, food, music and crafts. Having this platform means that we have an authentic space to share the things that have been passed down in our families for generations.
For someone unfamiliar to the Gullah culture and what it means to the Lowcountry, what would you tell them? It’s one of the most authentic opportunities to see living history. Gullah culture is not linear, instead it is robust and colorful. In fact, we believe it is one of the things that makes the Lowcountry so special. You can taste the culture in the food, see the culture in the art and hear the culture in the music.
Gullah elders are so wise, especially the matriarchs. Tell us some Gullah wisdom you have used in putting this festival together: “Tank ya”, which means ‘thank you” is the wisest thing we use in putting the festival together. Those two simple words let all the participants, volunteers and patrons know how much we appreciate them. We believe it’s one of the things that keeps them coming back.
What are some of your favorite events during the festival? We love absolutely all the programs and events throughout the month, but our long-time favorites include The Gullah Market, our two-day outdoor festival, Arts Ob We People Exhibit and Sale and the Gullah Heritage Music Series.
How important is it to today’s Gullah descendants to keep Gullah traditions alive? It’s of the highest priority. For many years Gullah were expected to not celebrate their traditions, but today it’s different. Today we want everyone to know how unique and special Gullah culture is and the immeasurable influence it has had on the Lowcountry and American culture in general.
Tell us more about Freedom Day: Freedom Day is one the many events that we partner with our local friends to host. Our Freedom Day partner is Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park. The annual event offers tourists and friends a look at where freedom began and the important role that our beautiful island has played in the “American Freedom Story.” This year’s event will be Saturday, February 1, and will explore the blueprint for voting rights that were established in Mitchelville and down through the eras of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights and today!
Are all of the events throughout the celebration open to the public? Yes, all the events are open to the public.
What are you most excited about for this year’s festival? We are most excited about the first ever Gullah Tales and Songs on February, 23. The Singer, Songwriter and Gullah Preservationist Ron Daise will present Gullah tales and songs about how things came into being, freedom stories and regional folktales. Seating is very limited.
Calendar of Events
During All of February: Arts Ob We People: Winter Exhibition and Sale
Saturday, Feb. 1st – Thursday, Feb. 6th:
Hilton Head Island Back In The Day: Through the Eyes of the Gullah Elders
Saturday, Feb. 1st: Ol’ Fashioned Gullah Breakfast
Saturday, Feb. 1st: Freedom Day
Tuesday, Feb. 4th: Family and Friends Day
Friday, Feb. 7th: Gullah Heritage Music Series featuring Male Quartets
Saturday, Feb. 8th: Taste of Gullah
Thursday, Feb. 13th: Paint and Sip
Friday, Feb. 14th: Gullah Heritage Music Series featuring Gospel Classics
Saturday, Feb. 15th: Gullah Institute Presents: How to Preserve Gullah Culture, Heritage, and Family Heirlooms
Saturday, Feb. 15th: Gulf Outing
Saturday, Feb. 15th:
The Gullah Market and Block Party: An Arts, Crafts, and Food Expo
Friday, Feb. 21st:
Gullah Heritage Music Series featuring The Voices of El Shaddai
Sunday, Feb. 23rd: Gullah Tales and Songs With the Legendary Ron Daise
Thursday, Feb. 27th: Paint and Sip
Friday, Feb. 28th: Gullah Heritage Music Series-—Closing Night
Visit gullahcelebration.com/gullah-events to see full event details.