Historic City News has learned that, in a letter of notification dated May 6, the Office of the Secretary of the Interior has approved the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Management Plan; opening the door for the National Heritage Area to begin implementation of its projects and programs.
St Augustine is the south-most point in corridor, which stretches north to Wilmington, North Carolina and is the only one of 49 National Heritage Areas that promotes the living culture of an African American population.
The plan approval is the culmination of over six-years of effort that originally did not include St Augustine or St Johns County. Through efforts spearheaded by local cultural activists like Derek Boyd Hankerson, James Bullock, Kathy Fleming, and others; the Gullah Geechee Commission was induced to hold their first public planning meeting in St Augustine in February, 2010 — an opportunity for commissioners to learn about the important role St Augustine played for the Gullah Geechee people.
The Gullah Geechee Commission was convinced to extend the Corridor to include St Johns County, due to the location of the Fort Mose Historic State Park and other significant connections to the Gullah Geechee culture.
“We are overjoyed that the Gullah Geechee Corridor’s Management Plan finally has been approved, and that St Augustine has the opportunity to be a part of it,” Hankerson told Historic City News on learning of the approval. Three years ago, Hankerson said in an interview with Historic City News that St Augustine and St Johns County’s inclusion in the Corridor, “could provide millions of dollars in economic impact for this area, including travel, tourism and economic development”.
The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor was established by federal legislation in 2006. The Gullah Geechee Commission began developing the management plan in 2008 which was completed in 2012. From information gathered during 21 public engagement meetings throughout the Gullah Geechee Corridor in 2009, commissioners formed the management plan’s approach and framework.
According to Ronald Daise, Chairman of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, the Commissioners are ready to partner with grassroots and civic organizations, state and local governments, businesses and individuals to implement programs that will empower and enlighten Gullah Geechee people to sustain their culture.
Prospective partners should strive to develop partnership applications that encompass programs and ideas that will promote education, documentation and preservation, and economic development — among Gullah Geechee people and within Gullah Geechee communities.
Partnership applications to the Gullah Geechee Commission are available online at the Corridor’s website, and in management plan documents at public libraries throughout the Corridor.
Applications may be submitted online or mailed to: Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission, 284-A King Street, Charleston, SC 29424. The dates of the initial application review period will be announced following the November 2013 quarterly meeting in Conway, SC.
The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and the Gullah Geechee Commission’s only fiscal partner, will begin receiving financial donations to assist the Commission to reach its goals and vision on July 1. At present, tax-deductible donations to the Gullah Geechee Commission may be made at the Corridor’s website.