Generations of Love, Heritage, and Grace
February 2023 Issue
by Edwina Hoyle
Photography by T.R. Love, T.R. Media World
Three strong, independent women have a deep bond cemented by their love of one another, their ancestry, and their land in the Lowcountry. Della Campbell and her two daughters, Lola and Latrice, are modern, professional women whose Gullah heritage dates back to the early 1820s on Hilton Head Island.
Della taught at Hilton Head Elementary School for 34 years, serving as a guidance counselor her last 10. While in school, Latrice remembers being asked if she would become a teacher like her mother. “I always said no because they make no money,” she said. In college she studied business, and her job in Rochester, N.Y. was in human resources. “That was my original career, and teaching is my second career. I taught a class in Bible study, and I felt like if I made a difference, then I have success. So, I went back to school to get my certification. Teachers touch lives in ways that last the rest of the children’s lives.” Latrice is a 6th grade math teacher at Hilton Head Middle School, as well as a minister at Queen Chapel A.M.E., just like her great grandfather, Solomon Campbell. “His roots carry on and flow into Latrice,” Della said.
Lola studied law in Washington, D.C. after her undergraduate studies and worked in New York for 12 years practicing financial law. She returned to Hilton Head in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic because she is able to work remotely. Lola said she’s very glad she came home with her 10-year-old son, Jaylen, because it allowed her time with her father, Solomon C. Campbell III, before he died in October of that year. “My father gave Jaylen nuggets of survival tips—fishing, cooking and gardening. I didn’t know how special our culture is until I left,” Lola said.
Latrice stated, “COVID is looked at as a negative, but I see it as a positive. I have a closer and greater relationship with my sister. And it created an opportunity for three generations to be together. “Jaylen thinks he’s the man of the house,” Della said. “We’re teaching him about his roots. I want him to get the same values my daughters got: take care of family, be kind and take care of this property—it’s been in our family for generations. We stick together, and whichever way they go, I’m going to go. We will raise him to be a good and kind husband for someone.” Latrice added, “There are three of us raising Jaylen. We speak in unity, one voice. It’s just something we do.”
The sisters agree they were raised by strict parents and now appreciate their upbringing. “Under my roof, under my rules,” Della said. Lola added, “Father had a bigger bark, but mother was tougher. We could get away with more with him. Mother would always say, ‘Wait ‘til you have a child! You might be taller than me, but I’m still your mother!” Latrice added, “And she’d tell us ‘If I didn’t correct you, I wouldn’t care.’ She was strict, but in hindsight it was a valuable lesson.”
Della continued, “I gave them what my mother gave me. She was a strong woman and what she taught me, I brought to my children. Instill in them the qualities you look for and let them know they could go to the top of the world, but to do it with love, respect, and good grades. Keep them grounded so they follow the right path. If they do wrong, tell them to think about what they did and ask how they could have handled things differently. My job is to create the right path.”
All three women agree that their strength also comes from their Gullah heritage which is very spiritual. Latrice said, ”You thank God for all things. Both my grandmother and mother leaned and depended on God.”
Lola concluded, “There are three things that make our culture special. First, the praise house is the anchor of our community. Second, it takes a village. We grew up with neighbors, uncles, aunts, and cousins who were like second parents. And there are spiritual lessons in success. It couldn’t have happened without God’s blessings. We have strength in numbers, strength of self, spirituality, resourcefulness, and the confidence to go forward and be whatever we want to be. We learned this from our parents and grandparents.”
A Community Staple—Spanish Wells Produce Stand: When Della retired, she worked with her husband, Solomon, the owner of Spanish Wells Seafood & Produce, until his death. She now manages it herself. “We get seafood from local boats and buy produce from farms on St. Helena and in Georgia. The produce stand has been here for more than 30 years. My brother-in-law, Wesley Campbell, started it when he was only 14 or 15. Then my husband and son ran it.”
Have You Been to BINYA, the NEW Gullah Gift Boutique? A new addition at the produce stand is Binya, an entrepreneurial dream of Lola’s, who always wanted to open a gift shop. Lola sells art, sweetgrass baskets and jewelry made by local artisans, as well as local spices, marinades, seasonings and unique Lowcountry gift items.
Stand to Table: Della says they follow traditions passed down through their ancestors regarding food, especially for holidays and special occasions.