As coastal cities and states strategize ways to protect residents from climate change impacts, they would be well-served to talk with members of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. These are the people, descendants of enslaved Africans, who live among a string of islands stretching along the Atlantic seaboard from Jacksonville, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla.
As you might imagine, this means that their homes and businesses are on the front lines of any violent weather attack striking the U.S. from the southeast. Almost 150 hurricanes hit these states between 1851 and 2013. And yet the Gullahs and Geechees have found ways to preserve their culture and ways of living for generations.
Their chief spokesperson is Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine, the founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, which advocates on behalf of the nation’s members when politicking with other heads of state. She is a consultant to the U.S. Department of the Interior and also the National Park Service, making sure that these islands, which supply much of America’s seafood, aren’t overlooked in policymaking.
Queen Quet has a saying: “De wata da bring we an de wata gwine tek we bak.” That means, she explained to me in August, that people and businesses (since courts say corporations are people too) must “live in balance with the land and water in such a way that we will be able to sustain life for future generations.”