Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Voice: Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston (1963-2012)
Singer/Actress Singer Whitney Houston died on February 11 in Los Angeles. The cause of death is still under investigation. Houston was 48-years old. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Whitney Houston was the most awarded female artist of all time with an astounding 415 career awards as of 2010. Houston sold over 170 million albums and singles worldwide. Some of her biggest hits came off of herself-titled debut album Whitney, I’m YourBaby Tonight and The Bodyguard. She starred both in movies (The Bodyguard, Waiting To Exhale, The Preacher’s Wife) and TV (Cinderella). Houston and pop star Bobby Brown divorced in 2007 after 14 years of marriage; they have one daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

Please be advised that I have moved, I received a call from God, the Chief Architect the other day, and He informed me that my new home was complete.

You all knew that I had been working on my new residence, sending up my timber, packing up and getting ready to go. I know that my house needed some finishing touches and that the Chief Carpenter, Jesus Christ had to inspect it and give me the final approval. On Saturday, February 11, 2012 around 3:55pm He let me know that my home was complete and that it was ok to move in. So He told me to go ahead and change my address.

Well, my new home is finished and what a sight it is to behold. It is located on an exclusive estate area behind a beautiful pearly gate. It is just over the other side of serene celestial shore. Of course, you know the streets are paved with gold and every day is Sunday, just like you've been told. Trees with twelve manners of fruit grace my garden here, and I can walk and talk with my Master with not a worry or care.

I lived in a home built by man, for only a short time, but my new home is so much better than any other place I've ever lived. There is peace here, joy, happiness, no pain, no heartaches, no strife or discontentment, only sweet serenity. I can dine at the Master's bountiful table and listen to a Heavenly choir and best of all, my Heavenly Father is all His Glory.

Oh yes, I have my own designer here who has fitted me with my very own white robe and wings. I could go on and on about my new home, but instead, I'm going to pray that you get to move here yourself one day. Before I go, let me give you my new address:

Whitney Elizabeth Houston.

1963 Heavenly Way.

Godstown, Heaven 71727.

P.S. I don't have a telephone, but you can always call on GOD. If you don't know His number, read your BIBLE, it's listed on every page.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The 54th Massachusetts Regiment

In January 1863, Secretary of War Stanton finally gave John A. Andrew, the abolitionist governor of Massachusetts, authorization to form regiments that could "include persons of African descent. . ." The governor had long been an advocate of raising black regiments from the free black population. Like most abolitionists, he felt the surest path to citizenship for black Americans was for them to be allowed to fight and die for their freedom and their country.

Andrew chose the white officers for the new black regiment from wealthy families prominent in the abolition movement in his state. These families could also be counted on to help finance the enlistment and outfitting of the troops. He solicited the aid of Frederick Douglass and other well known black abolitionists in attracting the cream of the black population for the new regiment. Two of Douglass's sons joined the regiment. Given the considerable opposition in the North to the idea of making soldiers of blacks, the new regiment was seen as a good test of the fitness of black men as soldiers and citizens. Supporters of the regiments spared no expense in the effort to prove that blacks were equal to the test.

The 54th Massachusetts Regiment was the first black regiment recruited in the North. Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the 25 year old son of very wealthy abolitionist parents, was chosen to command. On May 28, the well equipped and drilled 54th paraded through the streets of Boston and then boarded ships bound for the coast of South Carolina. Their first conflict with Confederate soldiers came on July 16, when the regiment repelled an attack on James Island. But on July 18 came the supreme test of the courage and valor of the black soldiers; they were chosen to lead the assault on Battery Wagner, a Confederate fort on Morris Island at Charleston. In addressing his soldiers before leading them in charge across the beach, Colonel Shaw said, "I want you to prove yourselves. The eyes of thousands will look on what you do tonight."

More than a century after the war the Fifty-fourth remains the most famous black regiment of the war, due largely to the popularity of the movie "Glory", which recounts the story of the regiment prior to and including the attack on Battery Wagner.

Fascinating Fact: Black soldiers were paid $10 per month, $3 less than white soldiers.

54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
The Storming of Ft Wagner-lithograph by Kurz and Allison 1890.jpg
The 54th Massachusetts at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863
Active March 13, 1863 to August 4, 1865
Allegiance United States (Union)
Branch Union Army
Type Infantry
Size 1,100
Nickname 54th Massachusetts Regiment
Engagements American Civil War
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw
Colonel Edward Needles Hallowell
The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that saw extensive service in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment was one of the first official black units in the United States during the Civil War. The 1st South Carolina Volunteers (Union) recruited from freed slaves, was the first Union Army regiment organized with African American soldiers in the Civil War, though many had fought in the American Revolution and the War of 1812 on both sides.










Statue of Massachusetts Gov. John A. Andrew, who authorized the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
The regiment was authorized in March 1863 by the Governor of Massachusetts, John A. Andrew. Commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, it was commissioned after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton decided white officers would be in charge of all "colored" units. Colonel Shaw was hand picked by Governor John Andrew. Governor Andrew also selected Norwood Penrose "Pen" Hallowell as the unit's second in command, a rank of Lieutenant Colonel.[1] Like many officers of regiments of African-American troops, both Shaw and Hallowell were promoted several grades, both being captains at the time. The rest of the officers were evaluated by Shaw and Hallowell. Many of these officers were of abolitionist families and several were chosen by Governor Andrew himself. Lt. Col. Norwood Hallowell was joined by his younger brother Edward Needles Hallowell who was eventually appointed major in the regiment and would later command it after Shaw's death. 24 of the 29 officers were veterans, but only six had been previously commissioned.
The soldiers were recruited by white abolitionists (including Shaw's parents). These recruiters included Lieutenant J. Appleton, also the first man commissioned in the regiment, whose recruiting efforts included posting a notice in the Boston Journal and holding a recruiting rally held in Joy Street Church and in which speakers Edward L. Pierce and Wendell Phillips encouraged free blacks to enlist for the regiment. This recruitment group was later known as "The Black Committee".
The 54th trained at Camp Meigs in Readville near Boston. While there they received considerable moral support from abolitionists in Massachusetts including Ralph Waldo Emerson. Material support included warm clothing items, battle flags and $500 contributed for the equipping and training of a regimental band. As it became evident that many more recruits were coming forward than were needed the medical exam for the 54th was described as "rigid and thorough" by the Massachusetts Surgeon-General. This resulted in what he described as the most "robust, strong and healthy set of men" ever mustered into service in the United States. Despite this, as was common in the Civil War, a few men died of disease prior to the 54th's departure from Camp Meigs.
By most accounts the 54th left Boston with very high morale. This was despite the fact that Jefferson Davis' proclamation of December 23, 1862 effectively put both African-American enlisted men and white officers under a death sentence if captured. The proclamation was affirmed by the Confederate Congress in January 1863 and turned both enlisted soldiers and their white officers over to the states from which the enlisted soldiers had been slaves. As most Southern states had enacted draconian measures for "servile insurrection" after Nat Turner's Rebellion the likely sentence was a capital one.
Although the 54th left Boston hoping to fight for the Union on May 28, 1863, it started off performing only manual labor. The regiment gained notoriety in a raid on the town of Darien, Georgia, after being ordered to loot and burn the town by Col. James Montgomery. However, the 54th's participation in this raid was minimal and reluctant and Colonel Shaw initially objected to what he called a "satanic action".
The regiment's first battlefield action took place in a skirmish with Confederate troops on James Island, South Carolina, on July 16. The regiment stopped a Confederate assault, losing 42 men in the process.

Depiction of the attack on Fort Wagner in the painting The Old Flag Never Touched the Ground
The regiment gained recognition on July 18, 1863, when it spearheaded an assault on Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina. At this battle, Colonel Shaw was killed, along with 29 of his men. 24 more later died of wounds, 15 were captured, 52 were missing in action and never accounted for, and 149 were wounded. The total regimental casualties of 272 would be the highest total for the 54th in a single engagement during the war. Although Union forces were not able to take and hold the fort (despite taking a portion of the walls in the initial assault), the 54th was widely acclaimed for its valor during the battle, and the event helped encourage the further enlistment and mobilization of African-American troops, a key development that President Abraham Lincoln once noted as helping to secure the final victory. Decades later, Sergeant William Harvey Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor for grabbing the U.S. flag as the flag bearer fell, carrying the flag to the enemy ramparts and back, and saying "Boys, the old flag never touched the ground!" While other African-Americans had since been granted the award by the time it was presented to Carney, Carney's is the earliest action for which the Medal of Honor was awarded to an African-American.

The Battle of Olustee
Ironically, during the week leading up to the 54th's heroic sacrifice near Charleston, simmering racial strife climaxed in the New York Draft Riots. African-Americans on the city's waterfront and Lower East Side were beaten, tortured, and lynched by white mobs angered over conscription for the Union war effort. These mobs directed their animosity toward blacks because they felt the Civil War was caused by them. However, the bravery of the 54th would help to assuage anger of this kind.
Under the command of now-Colonel Edward Hallowell, the 54th fought a rear-guard action covering the Union retreat at the Battle of Olustee. As part of an all-black brigade under Col. Alfred S. Hartwell, they unsuccessfully attacked entrenched Confederate militia at the November 1864 Battle of Honey Hill. In mid-April 1865, they fought at the Battle of Boykin's Mill, a small affair in South Carolina that proved to be one of the last engagements of the war.

Pay controversy

The enlisted men of the 54th were recruited on the promise of pay and allowances equal to their white counterparts. This was supposed to amount to subsistence and $13 a month. Instead African-American soldiers were paid $10 a month with $3 withheld for clothing, equaling $7 in the end of the month. (White troops had nothing withheld from their monthly pay for clothing.) Colonel Shaw and many others immediately began protesting the measure. Although the state of Massachusetts offered to make up the difference in pay, on principle, a regiment-wide boycott of the pay tables on paydays became the norm.
After Shaw's death at Fort Wagner, Colonel E. N. Hallowell took up the fight to get back full pay for the troops. His second in command, Lt. Col. Hooper, took command of the regiment on June 18, 1864 after Hallowell was granted permission to proceed North to press the claims of the regiment for equal pay in person. After nearly a month Colonel Hallowell returned on July 16. Finally the U.S. Congress took action and on September 28, 1864, the men of the 54th were paid from enlistment, most after 18 months of service.
The Congressional bill authorized equal and full pay to those enlisted troops who were free men as of April 1864. Of course not all the troops qualified. Colonel Hallowell, a Quaker, rationalized that because he did not believe in slavery he could therefore have all the troops swear that they were free men. Before being given their back pay the entire regiment was administered what became known as "the Quaker oath." Colonel Hallowell skillfully crafted the oath to say: “You do solemnly swear that on or before the 19th day of April 1864, no man had the right to demand unrequited labor of you so help you lord.” Hallowell wrote a typo in his hand-written transcript of the oath and actually said "1861" while administering the oath.
Refusing their reduced pay became a point of honor for the men of the 54th. In fact, at the Battle of Olustee, when ordered forward to protect the retreat of the Union forces, the men moved forward shouting, "Massachusetts and Seven Dollars a Month!" Unknown to them, Congress had just voted to pay colored troops the same as white troops.


Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment by Augustus Saint-Gaudens
The regiment was disbanded after the Civil War, but retains a strong legacy. A monument, constructed 1884–1898 by Augustus Saint-Gaudens on the Boston Common, is part of the Boston Black Heritage Trail. A famous composition by Charles Ives, "Col. Shaw and his Colored Regiment", the opening movement of Three Places in New England, is based both on the monument and the regiment.
Colonel Shaw and his men also feature prominently in Robert Lowell's Civil War Centennial poem "For the Union Dead" (1964); Lowell invokes the realism of the Saint-Gaudens monument:
Two months after marching through Boston,
half the regiment was dead;
at the dedication,
William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes breathe.
Later he unflinchingly looks at Shaw's and his men's death:
Shaw's father wanted no monument
except the ditch,
where his son's body was thrown
and lost with his "niggers."

Detail from Saint-Gauden's original tinted plaster model
A Union officer had asked the Confederates at Battery Wagner for the return of Shaw's body but was informed by the Confederate commander, Brigadier General Johnson Hagood, "We buried him with his niggers." Shaw's father wrote in response that he was proud that Robert, a fierce fighter for equality, had been buried in that manner. "We hold that a soldier's most appropriate burial-place is on the field where he has fallen". As a recognition and honor, at the end of the Civil War, the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, and the 33rd Colored Regiment were mustered out at the Battery Wagner site of the mass burial of the 54th Massachusetts.
More recently, the story of the unit was depicted in the 1989 Academy Award winning film Glory starring Matthew Broderick as Shaw, Denzel Washington as Private Tripp, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Jihmi Kennedy and Andre Braugher. The film re-established the now-popular image of the combat role African-Americans played in the Civil War, and the unit, often represented in historical battle reenactments, now has the nickname The Glory Regiment.
Years after the film was made, it came to light that the word Glory was used by one of the men of the regiment. First Sergeant Robert John Simmons, of B Company, was a twenty-six year old Bermudian clerk, probably from St. George's, believed to have joined the 54th on 12 March 1863 (Many black and white Bermudians fought for the Union, mostly in the U.S. Navy.)
Simmons was introduced to Frances George Shaw, father of Col. Shaw, by William Wells Brown, who described him as "a young man of more than ordinary abilities who had learned the science of war in the British Army". In his book, The Negro in the American Rebellion, Brown said that "Frances George Shaw remarked at the time that Simmons would make a 'valuable soldier'. Colonel Shaw also had a high opinion of him." Sgt. Simmons was mentioned in an 1863 article of the Weekly Columbus Enquirer, which described him as "a brave man and of good education. He was wounded and captured. Taken to Charleston, his bearing impressed even his captors. After suffering amputation of the arm, he died there." The newspaper also described him as saying that he fought "for glory": One of the negroes is a remarkably sprightly fellow from Bermuda where he was educated as a soldier. His position is that of an Orderly Sergeant, but he has lost an arm, and probably one leg will go.
A third of the 'glory' for which he says he came to fight, being thus amputated, he will in the future be a wiser man. The others are a mongrel set of trash and very fair representatives of the common type of free Northern negro." Simmons, who would be specially mentioned by Shaw's successor, Col. Hallowell, and who had been awarded a private medal, died in August 1863, following the attack on Fort Wagner.

Monday, July 11, 2011



Abraham, a Black Seminole Leader in the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). The Indians called him "Souanaffe Tustenukke," a title indicating membership in the highest of the three ranks of war leaders. He is wearing typical Seminole dress and holding a rifle.
The Black Seminoles are a small offshoot of the Gullah who escaped from the rice plantations in South Carolina and Georgia. They built their own settlements on the Florida frontier, fought a series of wars to preserve their freedom, and were scattered across North America. They have played a significant role in American history, but have never received the recognition they deserve.
Some Gullah slaves managed to escape from coastal South Carolina and Georgia south into the Florida peninsula. In the 18th century Florida was a vast tropical wilderness, covered with jungles and malaria-ridden swamps. The Spanish claimed Florida, but they used it only as a buffer between the British Colonies and their own settled territories farther south. They wanted to keep Florida as a dangerous wilderness frontier, so they offered a refuge to escaped slaves and renegade Indians from neighboring South Carolina and Georgia. The Gullahs were establishing their own free settlements in the Florida wilderness by at least the late 1700s. They built separate villages of thatched-roof houses surrounded by fields of corn and swamp rice, and they maintained friendly relations with the mixed population of refugee Indians. In time, the two groups came to view themselves as parts of the same loosely organized tribe, in which blacks held important positions of leadership. The Gullahs adopted Indian clothing, while the Indians acquired a taste for rice and appreciation for Gullah music and folklore. But the Gullahs were physically more suited to the tropical climate and possessed an indispensable knowledge of tropical agriculture; and, without their assistance, the Indians would not have been able to cope effectively with the Florida environment. The two groups led an independent life in the wilderness of northern Florida, rearing several generations of children in freedom—and they recognized the American settlers and slave owners as their common enemy. The Americans called the Florida Indians "Seminoles," from the Spanish word cimarron, meaning "wild" or "untamed"; and they called the runaway Gullahs "Seminole Negroes" or "Indian Negroes." Modern historians have called these free Gullah frontiersmen the "Black Seminoles." The Seminole settlements in Spanish Florida increased as more and more runaway slaves and renegade Indians escaped south—and conflict with the Americans was, sooner or later, inevitable. There were skirmishes in 1812 and 1816. In 1818, General Andrew Jackson led an American army into Florida to claim it for the United States, and war finally erupted. The blacks and Indians fought side-by-side in a desperate struggle to stop the American advance, but they were defeated and driven south into the more remote wilderness of central and southern Florida. General Jackson (later President) referred to this First Seminole War as an "Indian and Negro War." In 1835, the Second Seminole War broke out, and this full-scale guerrilla war would last for six years and claim the lives of 1,500 American soldiers. The Black Seminoles waged the fiercest resistance, as they feared that capture or surrender meant death or return to slavery—and they were more adept at living and fighting in the jungles than their Indian comrades. The American commander, General Jesup, informed the War Department that, "This, you may be assured, is a negro and not an Indian war"; and a U.S. Congressman of the period commented that these black fighters were "contending against the whole military power of the United States." When the Army finally captured the Black Seminoles, officers refused to return them to slavery—fearing that these seasoned warriors, accustomed to their freedom, would wreak havoc on the Southern plantations. In 1842, the Army forcibly removed them, along with their Indian comrades, to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in the unsettled West.
The Black Seminoles, exiled from their Florida strongholds, were forced to continue their struggle for freedom on the Western frontier. In Oklahoma, the Government put them under the authority of the Creek Indians, slave owners who tried to curb their freedom; and white slave traders came at night to kidnap their women and children. In 1850, a group of Black Seminoles and Seminole Indians escaped south across Texas to the desert badlands of northern Mexico. They established a free settlement and, as in Florida, began to attract runaway slaves from across the border. In 1855, a heavily armed band of Texas Rangers rode into Mexico to destroy the Seminole settlement, but the blacks and Indians stopped them and forced them back into the U.S. The Indians soon returned to Oklahoma, but the Black Seminoles remained in Mexico, fighting constantly to protect their settlement from the marauding Comanche and Apache Indians. In 1870, after emancipation of the slaves in the United States, the U.S. Cavalry in southern Texas invited some of the Black Seminoles to return and join the Army—and it officially established the "Seminole Negro Indian Scouts." In 1875, three of the Scouts won the Congressional Medal of Honor—America's highest military decoration—in a single engagement with the Comanche Indians on the Pecos River. The Black Seminoles had fled the rice plantations, built their own free settlements in the Florida wilderness, and then fought almost continuously for fifty years to preserve their freedom. It is little wonder they should provide some of the finest soldiers in the U.S. Cavalry.
Today, there are still small Black Seminole communities scattered by war across North America and the West Indies. The "Black Indians" live on Andros Island in the Bahamas where their ancestors escaped from Florida after the First Seminole War. The "Seminole Freedmen," the largest group, live in rural Seminole County, Oklahoma where they are still official members of the Seminole Indian Nation. The "Mascogos" dwell in the dusty desert town of Nacimiento in the State of Coahuila in Northern Mexico. And, finally, the "Scouts" live in Brackettville, Texas outside the walls of the old fort where their grandfathers served in the U.S. Cavalry. These groups have lost almost all contact with one another, but they have all retained the memory of their ancestors' gallant fight for freedom in the Florida wilderness. In 1978, Dr. Ian Hancock discovered that elders among the Texas Scouts still speak a dialect of Gullah—140 years after their ancestors were exiled from Florida and as much as 200 years after their early ancestors escaped from rice plantations in South Carolina and Georgia! In 1980, this writer found that elderly people among the Oklahoma Seminole Freedmen also speak Gullah, while many younger people remember words and phrases once used by their grandparents. Both the Oklahoma and Texas groups, though deeply conscious of their Florida heritage, were unaware of their connection with the Gullah in South Carolina and Georgia. They did not know precisely where their slave ancestors had come from before fleeing into the Florida wilderness. The Oklahoma Seminole Freedmen still possess a rich traditional culture combining both African and American Indian elements. They continue to eat rice as a characteristic part of their diet, sometimes applying a sauce of okra or spinach leaves—like the Gullah, and like their distant relatives in West Africa.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Religious Music: The African Roots

Music and religion in Africa act as a singular enterprise. Between the two, there is no separation of sacred, secular, music, vocals, or instruments. Often, religious music incorporates call and response patterns as well as improvisation. Spirit possession commonly occurs during a sacred song while at the same time dancing becomes trance-like. Drums play a central role in the both the song and dance. Music reflects the beliefs of the community, sends prayers to particular gods of worship and calls on spirits to influence personal actions. Religion establishes a code of African ethics to define the community and its actions.

A New Community, a New Music, a New Religion

Gullah provides one of the clearest examples of African American syncretism and an original interpretation of religion with the combination of spirituality with communal harmony, solidarity, and accountability. Methodist missionaries were the first to introduce Christianity to African Americans during slavery. Gullahs converted Christianity into their African world view and used the new religion to justify oppressive forces, stimulate the community culture, and focus the vision of freedom. Methodist influences continued through 1844 and then Baptist faith took over as the main contributor to Gullah religion.

Preaching and praying done in plantation houses led to the development of praise houses. Praise houses function both as a place of worship and as a meeting area.

Spirituals began in the praise houses. In Africa, spirituals were a means to continue the oral history, and spirituals developed within the Gullah culture as a confirmation of acceptance in Christian churches. Through the singing of spirituals, slaves found an avenue to release feelings of joy, hardship, and hope. Spirituals often had double meanings, and much like the transmission of oral histories in Africa, they acted as ways for slaves to communicate with each other.

Spirituals vary widely from region to region but the basic structure remains the same regardless of the geographic location. An "anthem" of the Gullah people is New Jerusalem.

Along with spirituals, shouts also emerged in the Praise Houses. Shouts begin slowly with the shuffling of feet and clapping of hands (but the feet never cross because that was seen as dancing, which was forbidden within the church). Then the tempo picks up and during the dance, the shouters often become possessed and drop to the floor in exhaustion.

Since most Christian churches forbade the use of drumming, slaves incorporated the use of hand clapping and feet stomping in order to keep musical time. This often intricate hand clapping and stomping distinguishes Gullah music and laid the roots for modern African American music.

From Gullah to Freedom Movements

The song "We Shall Overcome" relates back to Gullah and slave spirituals. The song can now be found in many different versions, but originally the song was entitled "I Will Overcome." "I Will Overcome," also known as "I Will Be Alright" started to evolve around the 19th century. The song talks of victory in competition with a new friend. The song originated outside of Charleston on John's Island, S.C. The version "We Shall Overcome" was first used in 1945 by striking tobacco workers in Charleston.


Out of Slavery and into the City: Charleston

What are these songs, and
What do they mean? I know
little of music and can say
nothing in technical phrase,
but I know of something of
men, and knowing them, I
know that these songs are the
articulate message of the
slave to the world.

At the end of slavery, African Americans made an effort to sever ties with the white churches, and new churches began to develop in Charleston, including the Morris Brown A.M.E. At this time, Baptist and Methodist religions were the most popular among African Americans. It is in these churches that the influence of hymn-lining continues. The hymn-liners compose as they go and hold the responsibility for the creation of spirituals that exist today. At this time of movement, hymns began emphasis social concerns, combining past slave spirituals with the songs developing out of freedom and its own hardships.
Following emancipation some people refused to sing spirituals because they reminded them of slavery. Spirituals became more accepted after they began to more closely resemble European music. The new spirituals were neither African or European. When the spirituals began to lose their authentic form, and became more like anthems, and concert pieces. Spirituals became more refined to be sung in large concert audiences. While the authentic spiritual did not disappear it lost its influence to the more mainstream form of music and religious song.
The Jenkins Orphanage Band members attribute much of their early training to their experience in the church. The first songs performed by the band were spirituals. Each spring the band would travel through the North and end their tour in New York at the First Abyssinian Baptist Church.
This movement to the city transformed and changed the role of religious music by allowing others to view it as unique. At the same time, spirituals and other religious music came to embody a truly African American sound.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Part of our country’s growing trend toward ethnic self-awareness has been a renewed interest in Gullah, the colorful language and accompanying lifestyle that once flourished on the South Carolina sea islands from Georgetown to Daufuskie.

Researchers reported that as late as 1979, 100,000 South Carolinians spoke Gullah. Current estimates count 7,000 to 10,000 people speaking Gullah at home. Without intervention, the Gullah language will soon live only in scholarly textbooks and on fragile academic recordings.

The origins of Gullah date back to a sad chapter in America’s past. When slave traders sailed to West Africa and stuffed their ships full of men, women and children to be sold as slaves to Southern planters, Gullah was conceived. As that black culture meshed with the white, Gullah was born. A thick, lilting mix of African and English dialects, it started as a makeshift second language used among the sea island slaves, and it slowly evolved into the unwritten native tongue of their descendants.

Oddly, slavery and the antebellum South fed energy to the language. Gullah served a very practical transitional purpose, and its use and culture actually developed during those years. After the Civil War, however, the separation between the black and white cultures became highly exaggerated for nearly a century and a half. Cut off from the cultural homogenization that occurred everywhere else in America, life along the sea islands changed very little. Sea islanders still fished the coastline, shrimped the marsh, hunted for game in the woods, and spoke their native tongue unashamedly.

Gullah stubbornly survived in this splendid isolation, until the world rediscovered the islands and invested millions of dollars to develop them as resorts. Suddenly, bridges were built that introduced paved roads, indoor plumbing, better education, and access to higher paying mainland jobs. Gullah became thought of as “bad English”. Soon it was something to be ashamed of or denied. Then television, the greatest homogenizing influence of all, came along and nearly snuffed the language out altogether.

Finding true Gullah today is like finding gold. Its rare, and its kept hidden from “outsiders”. Still, there are a few islanders determined to keep it alive. There still are those who knit their own fishing nets, who still cook the Gullah recipes and serve their families whole meals fresh from the sea. Thankfully, there are those who take what’s left of the sweetgrass from the riverbanks and fashion baskets of great skill and beauty – just like their ancestors did back in Sierra Leone.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


God expects us to use our gifts and because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are many parts of one body, and we belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift of showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

God gives us our spiritual gifts. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

Spiritual gifts build up the body of Christ. Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Spiritual gifts ought not be denied nor overemphasized. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophesies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.

God distributes spiritual gifts according to his will and he has confirmed the message of truth that he delivered through angels, by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009



Greed creates disagreements. Greed causes drama and fighting but trusting the Lord leads to prosperity. The Pharisees had greedy hearts. Only sorrow awaits the teachers of religious law and Pharisees. Hypocrites are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are filthy and full of greed and self-indulgence. Christians should avoid being greedy. There should be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among us. Such sins have no place among God's people. The bible tells us that people full of greed will not enter heaven. God assures us that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit his kingdom. A greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Leaders of the church must not be greedy. An elder must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money.