Published by The Advocacy Committee of the
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Gullah's Story Worth Telling

The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, SC), July 12, 2004


Since the mid 1990's, Louise Cohen has helped bring performers to the Native Islander Gullah Celebration, Hilton Head Island's monthlong tribute to the unique culture created on the Sea Islands by enslaved Africans and their freed descendants. But Cohen herself was reluctant to tell the stories she knew. Then she started seeing the life she grew up with on Hilton Head Island disappearing -- wildflowers and bird song gone and the Gullah language was going too.

Now Cohen has been a storyteller at the Celebration for 5 years and she wants to create a Gullah museum in her family home. Her great-grandfather Will Simmons lived on the property, in a house toward the back. He could not read or write, but dictated family history to ensure his progeny would know their roots. He fought in the Civil War, Cohen said.

"This is who I am," said Cohen, whom African-American-targeted publication Pathfinder Travel Magazine gave its "Keeper of the Culture" award for 2003. "What I'm doing is important to me because it is me. It took me a long time to realize that."

Subjects Covered: education, personal storytelling, storytelling festivals

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