Gulah Geechee, South Carolina, gentrifier

The Gullah-Geechee Community Is Fighting To Protect Their Land From Gentrifiers In South Carolina

The historic Gullah-Geechee people have been one of the most successful Black communities at preserving the cultural connection to their homeland of Central and West Africa post-slavery. Although boasting a total population of approximately 1 million and their own dialect and distinctive foods, the Gullah-Geechee people have found themselves at the center of a battle for the land they’ve called home in South Carolina for centuries.

According to Blavity, St. Helena Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina, has been safe under the Cultural Protection Overlay (CPO), which has protected the Gullah-Geechee community by limiting the ability of commercial developers to encroach since the 1990s.

An investor is determined to overturn the law to build a golf course and a gated community, putting thousands of acres of land in jeopardy and opening the door for next-level gentrification. This fight would be the latest in a decadeslong battle for Gullah-Geechee land, much of which has been repurposed throughout several coastal islands in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Community members have been holding public hearings to convince Beaufort County Council to reject the developer’s changes.

One resident, 93-year-old Josephine Wright, has gained the national spotlight over the fight to retain her family’s land and stave off greedy real estate companies. For her cause, $300,000 has been raised to help toward lawsuits, with notable figures like Kyrie Irving and Snoop Dogg donating in support. In one of the more stunning cases of the ongoing gentrification of Gullah-Geechee land, Hilton Head—the South Carolina island where hundreds of the community’s people had lived since the Civil War—was converted into a popular resort and golf destination. Legal complaints filed by developers continue to make it a saddening possibility that a vast majority of Gullah-Geechee land can and will be repurposed before the fight ends.

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