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  • Writer's picturerondaise09

The Poem That Outlined My First Book Continues to Impact Others

My poem, “Forgotten Moments,” has appealed to many since its publication in Reminiscences of Sea Island Heritage, Freedmen on St. Helena Island in 1986. Its lines subdivide the book’s oral histories, spirituals, and historical photographs.



 

           Hot off the press, my wife Natalie and I recited “Forgotten Moments” to audiences near the opening of our theatrical production, “Sea Island Montage.” We toured the country for years with our two-person performance that vivified the book’s documentation of Sea Island lifestyles.




            That performance script, still using “Forgotten Moments,” was revamped to “Dream Weaving, Gullah Geechee Stories and Songs” for our cultural performance revival after “Gullah Gullah Island” ended its production. I recite the poem in numerous presentations and am honored that listeners continue to be awed by its truths.



            In 2022, a member of a design team for an exhibit in Kingstree, SC, about the African American history of Williamsburg County saw an online presentation during the pandemic in which Natalie and I recited "Forgotten Moments." She requested permission to display the poem in the developing exhibit “because it resonates with what we are trying to do -- lift up Black voices and share stories that have in many cases not been saved and preserved.” “African Archives of Williamsburg” opened on June 21, 2023. I look forward to viewing it.

           

The album of nine selections mixes spoken word, vocals, chants, and fiery improvisational jazz to portray the hidden history of Gullah Geechee culture. Beginning with my recitation of “Forgotten Moments,” the project resonates with instrumentation by members of Ranky Tanky and project coordinator Matthew White to songs sung by members of Voices of Gullah. The songs are infused with narrations about the songs’ meanings and cultural ties, and my recitation of excerpts of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the enslaved ancestors of Gullah Geechee people in communities known today as the federal Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.



            I’m excited to be included in the lineup for the Spoleto 2024 concert performance of “Lowcountry Live: South Carolina Music in the Gullah Tradition” in Charleston, SC on Sunday, June 2, at 9:00 p.m., at College of Charleston Cistern Yard.



 

            Natalie and I began our “Awakening of the Ancestors” performance on February 17, 2024, for the IAAM Faith-Based Programming. Guests were enthralled!

 

Of particular interest to me, I included "Forgotten Moments" among other original writings in the libretto of “Sankofa: Return and Get It.” With score by Steven Errante, the concert debuted February 4, 2023, with the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra, Wilmington, NC.

It is my hope that opportunities arise to perform “Sankofa: Return and Get It” with symphony orchestras around the world. Its spirituals, stories, and poem showcase the history, strength, and legacy of Gullah Geechee people – and will be an instrument for “nurturing strength and hope for the future.”



Reminiscences of Sea Island Heritage, Freedmen on St. Helena Island, as a republication in Paperback, is available at www.Etsy.com/shop/GeecheeLiterature.


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