Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Williamsburg County government recently dedicated Gullah Geechee welcome signs on the roads entering the county. The Wayfinding signage announces to drivers that they are traveling along the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. The signs are located on US 521 and SC 261 and represent two of 50 signs placed along the Corridor.
On June 23, the most recent sign located at the Williamsburg County line near Andrews was dedicated. Williamsburg County Supervisor Stanley Pasley and attorney Billy Jenkinson attended the dedication. “To have the Corridor well-identified along the approaches is very important to them and very important to visitors in the area,” said Jenkinson who serves with Allen on the board of the African-American Historical Alliance. “We’re particularly proud that Michael Allen who is one of ours, is so involved in this work and it’s gratifying to know that folks in Kingstree and Williamsburg County have done so well and brought so much to the state.” Pasley agreed saying he is happy the county is part of the Corridor. “We’re excited about the fact that the Corridor begins in Williamsburg County,” said Pasley. “I know a lot of work has been done in order to get the recognition and we’re happy that now its being identified and acknowledged in Williamsburg County. The fact that it is in Williamsburg County can certainly enhance our tourism pursuits.”
The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor extends from Wilmington, North Carolina, to St. Augustine, Florida. The Corridor was established in 2006 by federal legislation through the efforts of Congressman James E. Clyburn and signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The legislation is one of Congressman Clyburn’s proudest achievements. “The sites, sounds and tastes of the Gullah/Geechee culture have been slowly vanishing along the coasts of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida,” stated Clyburn in a message posted on the Gullah Geechee website. “Stories and traditions of this fusion of African and European cultures brought long ago to these shores have been slipping away along with the marsh and sand that are disappearing because of the encroachment of developments and the pressures to assimilate into the “modern” world.”
Kingstree native Allen played a major role in bringing the establishment of the Corridor as well as founding the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Commission where he is vice president. “This is an exciting moment!” said Allen, community partnership specialist for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. “These signs will let visitors know that they are in a unique and special area of our country. An area where they can experience the culture, crafts, foods, language, festivals, and rice heritage of Gullah Geechee people, whose technological skills about rice production, built and defined the landscape, cities and wealth or our country. And when formal partnerships develop with community organizations, individuals, and government agencies, then that will be the day a more full experience will be realized. The experience will be one in which Gullah Geechee people and community members will ‘tell we story’ in our own ways and through our own points-of-view. The excitement will continue to grow and grow.” Allen is currently directing efforts to develop a management plan that will guide the operations of the corridor for the next decade. The signs have been approved through the Department of Transportation Offices of each state. Counties may purchase additional highway signs from Interstate Signways for alternate routes to Gullah Geechee communities and sites.