Newsletter of the Sapelo Island
Cultural & Revitalization Society Inc.
Winter 2006 / Online Edition
help fund preservation, economic development
Sapelo Island Cultural & Revitalization
Society Inc. has been awarded four new grants
to assist the organization with its mission
to preserve the island’s Gullah-Geechee
A three-year award from the U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development will help SICARS
lay the groundwork for a Cultural Village interpretive
history center and affordable housing in Hog
from the state of Georgia and the River Branch
Foundation will help restore the Farmers Alliance
Hall this year, and an award from the National
Trust for Historic Preservation will help SICARS
implement a fund-raising plan for the project.
a look at the awards and how each will impact
the island community:
Rural Housing and Economic Development Grant
The three-year award is administered by HUD’s
Office of Rural Housing and Economic Development.
The $149,875 capacity-building grant is based
on the highest priorities in SICARS’ Strategic
Plan for economic development, affordable housing,
and the future sustainability of Hog Hummock
on Sapelo Island.
The grant will fund the following objectives:
Create a database or inventory of housing
stock, land ownership, leasing options, etc.,
to monitor and maintain projects and explore
alternative sites for housing and economic
funding needs into SICARS’ annual fundraising
plan using the HUD dollars to leverage project
implementation funds. Fundraising initiatives
are vital to effectively getting the housing/economic
development project off the ground.
Conduct feasibility studies and market analysis
for affordable housing and economic development
projects in Phase 1 of the Hog Hummock Community
Land Use Plan, specifically the Cultural Village
and affordable housing designed to support
employees/residents. Affirmative steps are
being taken to reach minority firms, women’s
business enterprises, and labor surplus areas
in bidding these studies.
Georgia Heritage Grant
SICARS’ Farmers Alliance Hall restoration
project is one of eight projects throughout
the state to receive the Georgia Heritage Grant
for fiscal year 2006.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue announced the $20,000
award in September, shortly before the11th annual
Cultural Day festival. The Farmers Alliance
Hall is the site of the event which includes
live entertainment, cultural demonstrations,
island cuisine, and arts and crafts vendors.
Georgia Heritage Grant Program is administered
by the Historic Preservation tion Division of
the Georgia Department Preservation Division
of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The program provides matching grants for development
and predevelopment projects which include stabilization
Statewide, the Georgia Heritage Grants totaled
modest ‘seed’ grants energize preservation
projects,” said Ray Luce, director of
the Historic Preservation Division of DNR, in
a printed statement about the award. “Our
communities and our state are richer because
of the state’s commitment to heritage
mission is to preserve the Gullah-Geechee culture
and history of Sapelo Island, the site of Hog
Hummock, one of the last intact, island-based
Gullah-Geechee communities in the United States.
Farmers Alliance Hall is a prominent historic
structure on Sapelo Island. It was built in
1929 by Geechee freedmen and the descendants
of slaves as a storage market for agricultural
products. The two-story wooden building also
served as a meeting place for three African-American
Masonic organization — the Most Worshipful
Prince Hall Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons;
The Order of the Eastern Stars; and The Evergreen
Lodge of the Good Samaritans.
When the restoration is complete next fall,
the Farmers Alliance Hall will be used as a
museum and continue to serve as an important
community gathering place.
River Branch Foundation
The Jacksonville, Fla,-based River Branch Foundation
primarily supports projects in the metropolitan
area, but beyond the city’s boundaries
is “involved in compelling projects which
promote the region’s educational and social
progress, its environmental improvement, and
the strengthening of its cultural life.”
The foundation awarded SICARS a $10,000 grant
for the Farmers Alliance Hall project. In addition
to the direct project support for the restoration,
this grant will help meet the 1:1 matching funds
required for the state grant.
National Trust Preservation Fund
The National Trust Preservation awarded SICARS
a $1,635 grant to help support the hiring of
a consultant to complete a Fund-Raising Implementation
Plan for the Farmers Alliance Hall. The National
Trust for Historic Preservation, chartered by
Congress in 1949, is a nonprofit organization
with more than 20,000 members. As a leader in
the national preservation movement, it is committed
to saving America’s diverse historic environments
and to preserving and revitalizing the livability
of communities nationwide. In 2004, the Trust
designated the Gullah/Geechee Coast as one of
America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic
grant was made possible by several generous
individuals who established the African American
Preservation Fund within the Trust. Funds are
awarded to nonprofit groups and public agencies
and must be matched dollar for dollar with public
or private funds.
Cultural Day memories
By Michele Nicole Johnson
SICARS Program Officer
coiled. Peanuts boiled.
Hot funnel cakes swirled as the Shouters’
Feet were a-stompin’. The stick man
Deep-fried this-and-that. Storytellers reaching
Tales of slavery. Songs of praise.
A glimpse of those bittersweet “good
Clear blue sky. Headwraps piled so elegant
… so high.
A taste of culture — African style.
The warmth, the pride as our ancestors smiled.
If you missed the sights and sounds of Cultural
Day 2005 — or if you simply want to feel
good all over again — the next Cultural
Day festival will be Saturday, Oct. 21, 2006,
on the grounds of the Farmers Alliance Hall.
go on sale in May. (Wear your dancing shoes.)
Day is SICARS’ annual celebration of Sapelo
Island’s Gullah-Geechee culture featuring
entertainment, crafts and Geechee cuisine.
festival was sponsored by Georgia Power, Coca-Cola
Bottling Co. of Brunswick and the Highland Research
and Education Center.
the 2006 Board Officers
Board officers and two new board members were
elected in September 2005. Ronald Johnson ends
his term as board president after 9 years of
service. Cornelia Walker Bailey replaces Larry
Johnson who resigned in August. Edna Holmes
replaces Andrea Dixon whose term ended. Former
board secretary Karen Grovner was re-elected.
Retired Lt. Col. in Air Force Reserve. Owned
chain of physical therapy clinics in Ohio.
Lives on Sapelo Island and on Hilton Head,
Mayor Pro Tem, City Commissioner in Brunswick,
Ga. Retired assistant principal and coach.
Herbert Jerome Dixon
Honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine
Corps. Has an accounting degree from Morgan
State. Makes sweetgrass baskets.
Gracie L. Chandler
Retired teacher/school media specialist who
lives in Jacksonville, Fla.
Member of Bethel Baptist Institutional Church.
Retired from the Cloister Hotel, Sea Island,
Ga. Involved with Garden Club, Eastern Star.
Sarah Frances DeLoach
Conducts tours of Sapelo Island and serves
as SICARS’ Volunteer Coordinator.
Medical billing/insurance specialist. Heads
Sunday School at First African Baptist, Sapelo
Customer Service Manager for the City of Brunswick.
Daughter of Eldora Cabral.
Cornelia Walker Bailey
Sapelo Island historian, storyteller and business
owner. Author of memoir God, Dr. Buzzard and
the Bolito Man.
Ronald L. Johnson
Jewelry designer and business owner in South
Florida. SICARS’ immediate past president.
Willie Mae Robinson
Retired Savannah State University assistant
professor of social work/administrative. Volunteers
with seniors, prison ministry.
Meeting, 10 a.m. to noon, Feb. 25, 2006. Agenda:
Committee reports, new business and announcements.
The SICARS committees include: Membership, Negotiating,
Finance/Audit, Events, Fund-raising, Governmental
Relations, Public Relations, Physical Assets,
Community Network, Tax Digest Research, Volunteers,
Library and Computer Lab, Youth Development,
Speakers Bureau and Genealogy Project.
of First Refusal
What is a Right of First Refusal?
A: A Right of First Refusal is an agreement
a property owner makes with SICARS. If a land
owner decides to sell his land and receives
an offer, he agrees to give SICARS the right
to match the terms and conditions of the offer.
Land retention and historic preservation is
SICARS’ mission. By signing a Right of
First Refusal agreement, a descendant who is
a land owner gives SICARS a fair opportunity
to acquire land in the community and protect
it from development by outside interests.
Once the land owner has an offer, how does it
A: The land owner must give SICARS written
notice about the offer. SICARS then has 90 days
to match the offer. This gives SICARS some time
to put together the money to purchase the land.
What if the terms and conditions are changed
by the landowner or a prospective purchaser
after SICARS has been notified?
A: The landowner must give SICARS written
notice of any changes in the terms and conditions,
including the price. SICARS then has 90 days
after receipt of the changes to match the new
proposal. If any offer for the property is revoked,
the land owner must notify SICARS within five
What happens if SICARS does not exercise its
right of first refusal?
A: If SICARS decides it will not exercise
its right of first refusal, it will let the
land owner know in writing and the landowner
is then free to sell the property. If SICARS
doesn’t respond within 90 days of receiving
the written notice, the land owner may proceed
with the terms and conditions set forth in the
written notice without any further obligation
How long does the agreement between SICARS and
the land owner last?
A: The Right of First Refusal runs with
the title to the property. In other words, it
is binding upon the current owner and his/her
successors and assigns. The agreement also is
binding upon SICARS’ successors and assigns.
Does the Right of First Refusal take away any
of the land owner’s rights?
A: The only right being given up is the
right to sell immediately. The land owner must
give SICARS 90 days to come up with the financing
to purchase the property. SICARS’ hope
is to be able to keep as many homes on the island
available and affordable to descendants as it
can. It is creating a Land Fund that can be
used to purchase property when it goes on the
market. Because there are so few acres of land
available on Sapelo, and the cost of land is
rising so fast, the Right of First Refusal is
a simple tool that can be used to give Hog Hummock
a chance to protect homes and land for its families
for the future.
How do I learn more?
A: Forms are available at the SICARS Center
and the staff is available to answer any questions
you might have.
Equity Trust (www.equitytrust.org). Investopedia.com.
The Three Rivers Regional Library System, of
which the Hog Hummock Public Library and Computer
Lab is a member, recently was awarded a $2,000
Networking Grant from the Georgia Public Library
Service/Library Services and Technology Act.
“And we spent it all in Hog Hummock,”
said Lee Moon,
Glynn County Library Information Technology
Specialist. The grant money was used to install
a battery backup and a firewall on the computers
in the community lab.
battery backup will keep the computers running
after a power outage. The firewall will help
keep hackers out of the computers.
so remote.” said Moon, referring to life
on Sapelo Island. “We can’t just
come over and fix problems. You live in a challenging
environment for technology.”
The Hog Hummock Community Playground recently
got a facelift thanks to volunteers from First
United Methodist Church in Gainesville, Ga.
Members of the church’s Methodist Activity
Center spent two days fixing and replacing playground
equipment. Island residents pitched in. Mary
Bailey and Ben
Hall of Sapelo Island coordinated
the project with the church volunteers who were
lead by Robert Sapp.
The playground is owned by the Hog Hummock Community
SICARS Genealogy Project Committee is updating
and correcting “Sapelo Island: The Black
Heritage,” a state-sponsored genealogical
study done in 1980. The study documented 44
black families living on Sapelo Island in 1870
and included “important members of the
committee will host a Genealogy Workshop at
10 a.m.-noon on March 18, to explain the family
tree research process. Details about the workshop
are still being planned. If you want to participate
on the committee or attend the workshop, please
call SICARS at (912) 485-2197.
Over the summer a Chicago-based television documentary
film crew spent several days shooting footage
and interviewing residents of Sapelo Island.
Will to Survive: The Story of the Gullah-Geechee
Nation, will air on television in February
as part of Wal-Mart’s Vision of Color
series. Go to blackvoices.aol.com/ voicesofcolor
for stations and air times. Also look for Sapelo’s
in film ads in the February issues of Essence
By Benjamin Hall
Hog Hummock Conflict Resolution
During the development of the Sapelo Island
Comprehensive Management Plan in 1997, it became
apparent that some provision should be included
to preserve the unique measure of self-governance
that we enjoy on the island, and reduce the
promotion of conflicting interests.
These interests were often narrow in scope and
generated an atmosphere of distrust and apprehension
among the various stakeholders on the island.
This realization formed the basis for creating
a conflict resolution committee that was charged
with the task of resolving differences among
the various parties in a way that is fair and
present structure of the committee consists
of two representatives from the Hog Hummock
Community, one from the Georgia Department of
Natural Resources, one from the University of
Georgia’s Marine Institute, and one from
the Reynolds Mansion.
of the challenges confronting the committee
is finding solutions to the parking problems
at Marsh Landing dock. Given the reality that
the parking lot at the western end of the Marsh
Landing dock causeway will not be enlarged,
it is appropriate that an attitude of tolerance
and patience be displayed during loading and
unloading of the island ferry.
new long-term lot is being constructed nearby,
but patience still will be necessary. This is
especially true when accommodating large groups.
Compliance with the three-day parking rule at
Marsh Landing will reduce congestion in the
parking area and increase safety for pedestrians.
Cooperation is required of everyone to reduce
confrontations and improve the overall ferry
Georiga Department of Natural
Creek bridge out for bid again
The Georgia Dept. of Transportation has put
the Dean Creek bridge out for bid a third time.
This round was set to close on Jan. 20. By Feb.
3, the Ga. Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR)
should have word from the Department of Transportation
about whether or not the contract was awarded.
If this attempt is unsuccessful, DNR will seek
short-term alternatives that will restore limited
vehicular access to the south end beaches.
the new ferry
GeoShipyard is on schedule in its construction
of the new Sapelo Island ferry. DNR representatives
have already made one visit to Geo’s facility
in New Iberia, La., and have plans to make additional
visits throughout the construction process.
The new ferry will be a catamaran design with
twin, electronically injected Caterpillar C-18s.
The ferry is going to carry 149 passengers as
the AnneMarie does, however, there will be seating
for each passenger. The cost of the new ferry
is about $1.5 million. Delivery is expected
by October 2006.
is seeking input on naming the new vessel. If
you have ideas about this, please send them
to Fred Hay (see contact info below). Time is
of the essence so don’t wait if you have
at Marsh Landing
If you live or work on Sapelo Island, you have
likely seen construction of the new parking
area just east of Marsh Landing, past DNR’s
residence on the north side of the road. Once
completed, this site will provide space for
those who require parking in excess of three
consecutive days. The parking spaces down at
the ferry dock will continue to be for short-term
parking for those who come and go on a daily
DNR is working with EMC Engineering to design
and repair the eroding causeway at Meridian.
The need to preserve the creek channel for barge
operations has limited DNR’s options for
construction. EMC will soon be back at Meridian
to conduct soil surveys. These surveys will
help determine what type of retaining structures
will best suit our site. DNR apologizes for
the inconvenience during this planning phase.
Please be patient as we move forward!
Hay is Sapelo Island Manager for the Georgia
Department of Natural Resources. He can be reached
(912) 485-2251 or email@example.com.
to be me, at last!
By Winnie C. Beasley
How shall I begin?Let me say that I never expected to find a place
in these United States where I could feel at
home — instantly. There was a sweet combination
of pride and peace that enveloped the air as
I walked the dusty roads bordered by sawtooth
palmettos, pines, sweet grass, and, of course,
persistent, curious, nearly invisible gnats.
These were interspersed with a sudden flurry
of welcoming butterflies that danced around
me. An occasional truck would pass and the driver
would wave as if he knew me. Unaccustomed to
the friendliness, I had to tell myself to return
the greeting whether or not I knew who it was.
I wasn’t from these parts, but I wanted
to be — desperately. From the very first
day, I wanted to call this solemn refuge of
groves of ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish
moss — home. Something about it just felt
once said that life is not measured by the number
of breaths we take but by the moments that take
our breath away. Such was Sapelo for me.
was with family’
My heart throbbed with happiness with every
encounter I made. Everyone appeared serene and
cheerful or, at least, hospitable to this stranger.
I stopped feeling like a foreigner the moment
I met Cornelia, a woman of great spiritual strength
and love and passion for Hog Hummock, home to
descendants of a single slave. Besides that,
Cornelia’s grandmother, sister and I share
the same name. That fact alone convinced me
I was family! Actually, from the moment I set
foot on the Sapelo Queen at Meridian, pursued
by seagulls, and met by Cornelia’s husband
at the island’s dock, I was home.
I spent some time in West Africa recently and
there I noticed that, in spite of the poverty
and deprivation, a soul-stirring spirit prevailed
among the people wherever I went. Even those
with no shoes walked tall and proudly as if
unaware of their plight of material insufficiency.
They smiled broadly with pearly white teeth
and greeted each and everyone with charm and
cheer and a special brand of sweet humility
the world would claim was nonexistent in the
land dubbed the “dark continent”.
Every mythical stereotype I had believed until
then was shattered during that visit. I delighted
in the community spirit, the love of their languages,
the food, the customs, the ancestral reverence,
the humor, the courtesies, the respect for elders,
the love of their children, the respect for
motherhood, the power of fatherhood, the profound
strength of the African male, the hard-working
ethic of all, the colors, the melodies, the
“call and response” songs, the talking
drums — all of these reminded me of the
best among Black folk in America.
Little did I realize that in one little corner
of the American soil I would find “little
Africa” on Sapelo — the love of
community, pride in their slave history because
those unfortunates were their family; respect
for the griot, knowledge of their ancestors
(by name) as well as their characteristics,
cast-netting, basket-weaving, Geechee, (a real
language, not broken English as some would have
us believe), resourcefulness, pride in their
endurance under hideous, inhuman conditions,
strength of character; a love of their land;
a song in their heart; a shout; a prayer on
their tongues; and an abiding faith in God and
all that He created.
All of these wonderful qualities were personified
on Cultural Day, a day I shall never miss celebrating
from this moment on, God willing. Everything
there is to love about Black folk and where
we’ve come from and who we are and who
we want our children to be bursts at the seams
on Cultural Day. That is Sapelo! Long live Sapelo!
I could spend the rest of my days there, I pray
God shows me a way to make it happen. Meanwhile,
I would count it a privilege to lend a heart
and a hand to helping to preserve Hog Hummock.
(The Farmers Alliance Hall is at the top of
the list.) I urge those of you who are able
to join me.
save Hog Hummock’s life! Horace Mann once
said, “Be ashamed to die before you’ve
won some victory for humanity.”
me what to do, and I’ll be there. Long
live Sapelo! My home sweet home!
Winnie C. Beasley is an Associate
Member of SICARS. She lives in Massachusetts.
The Griot welcomes articles, poetry and photographs
from SICARS members who have visited Sapelo
Island. Share your experiences and your memories.
Drop off stories at the SICARS Center; mail
them to P.O. Box 6, Sapelo Island, GA 31327;
or e-mail info to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our
fax number is (912) 485-2263.
“griot” (pronounced “gree-oh”)
is a storyteller/historian — and much
more — in many African cultures. These
individuals embody their ethnic heritage and
share its history through words, art, music