Coastal Black Women's Ocean Memory and Conservation Collective
The Susie King Taylor Women's Institute and Ecology Center is honored to collaborate with a collective of Black women eco-activists who are taking interest in, responsibility for and care of the beaches, waterways, and whales of their environment in the Georgia Sea Islands while honoring the ancestors of the region. In December 2020 the group co-created and co-sponsored The Coastal Black Women's Ocean Memory and Conservation Jamboree to align with and participate in Whale Week efforts to bring awareness to the endangered whales who migrate to the southeast coast to calve each winter. Future efforts are planned.
Who We Are...
Hermina Glass-Hill is the Executive Director and founder of the Susie King Taylor Women’s Institute and Ecology Center, located in former enslaved woman and Civil War nurse Susie King Taylor’s hometown of Midway, Georgia. She is an environmental advocate affiliated with Georgia Interfaith Power and Light and Savannah Presbytery’s M.K. Pentecost Ecology Fund.
Patt Gunn is the CEO of Underground Tours, co-owner of the Savannah Gallery in Slavery and Healing and Co-Founder of the Center for Jubilee, Reconciliation and Healing, a nonprofit social justice change agent on the coast of Georgia.
LaTanya Abbott-Austin is the President of the Robert S. Abbott Race Unity Institute, a non-profit organization named after her great-grand Uncle, Robert S. Abbott, a son of former slaves, who went on to found the Chicago Defender newspaper in Illinois and became among the most influential African American publishers of his time. The Institute promotes racial and religious harmony between people of multicultural backgrounds.
Bridget Battle is a librarian and a globetrotter. A native Savannahian with family roots in Louisiana and Martha’s Vineyard, the water has always played a prominent role in her family’s history. Having traveled the world, including living in Kazakhstan and Abu Dhabi, she has seen first-hand the impact the ocean has on many cultures and is honored to be a part of The Coastal Black Women's Ocean Memory and Conservation Jamboree.
Karima Bilal is an early childhood educator in Savannah who uses a holistic approach incorporating Expressive Art practices and Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports to promote social-emotional learning. She brings this holistic approach to her environmental activism.
Bethany J. Campbell
Bethany J. Campbell is a descendant of Gullah Geechee people, owner of So You Never Forget Tours, offering private walking tours of Savannah’s history and sights (678-361-6635), and a community gardener.
Helen R. Ladson
Helen R. Ladson is a cultural preservationist and poet, and a docent, mentor and leader with the Historic Harrington School, a restored 1920s structure that was the main source of education for three African American communities on St. Simons Island. Check out her website here.
Tasha Wei is a food justice activist with Farm Truck 912 in Savannah, a doula, a plant forager, and the Outreach and Education Coordinator Forsyth Farmers Market in Savannah. She is a graduate of Harvard University with a background in Anthropology and Public Health.
What We Think
Helen R. Ladson
Cultural preservationist and poet, Helen Ladson has always enjoyed living on Georgia’s coast. A natural water baby, she has always enjoyed getting soak and wet, yet never learned how to swim. Her reverence of nature has grown over the last decade once discovering that, like her, even the tiniest grain of sand is important to the Universe as a whole. She has always felt a connection to manatees, whales, and seahorses. Salt water has always been her favorite because of the taste and the wonders it does for her skin. She has always felt that mermaids exist and were the saviors of the enslaved African descendants who were thrown overboard. It is her extreme honor to be a part of this fellowship of Water Women who share in the same joy.
LaTanya Abbott-Austin was honored to receive an invitation to join this group of illustrious black women to help co-create the “Black Women's Ocean Memory and Conservation Jamboree” paying homage to their ancestors during Whale Week 2020. This invitation initiated a deep, soul stirring introspection. She resides in the beautiful Golden Isles of Coastal Georgia. Her paternal family traces back eight generations on St. Simons Island, GA. She never really considered herself an “outdoorsy nature” person, however, she searched for the reason her heart always held a deep reverence, respect, and connection to the environment and other living things. As a child and young adult her mother grew the most beautiful flowers, plants, fruit trees, and a bountiful vegetable garden. On road trips her father would name the different trees, and birds along the way. He also loved to fish and hunt to spend time in nature. She realized that her love for people dominated the first half of her life while nurturing her children, family, friends and sometimes strangers left little time to intimately commune with nature.
She considers water to be the elixir of life, and attributes water as one of her founding tenets to livelihood. Her senses surrounding water were heightened during an Abbott Institute tour of Igbo Landing at Dunbar Creek where 75 Africans who were intended to become Slaves marched themselves back into the water as part of a mass suicide in protest by choosing death over enslavement. In retrospect, she realized that in every prior season from birth to present, she has been surrounded by the elixir of life from Coast to Coast. Born in picturesque San Diego, California, off the Pacific Ocean also known as the Mama & Papa of the earth’s oceans, then being raised the first decade of her life in the lush tropical island of Oahu in Hawaii, and finally being planted here in the Golden Isles of Georgia and raised on Shangri-La Ave (which means paradise on earth) in Glynn County which is the mainland just off the Atlantic Ocean, was not an accident.
Patt Gunn is a storyteller: "I am the Dawta' of Susie Golden Gilliard, the Granddawta' of Ada Shellman Golden and the Great-Great Granddawta' of a Freed Slave, Princess Shellman from McIntosh County, Georgia. I am the proud Mother of two Amazin' Dawtas', Imani Saran and Ayana Sala' Gunn and a host of 'Dawta-Friends' from across the U. S.
"My 'soulcraft' is 'truth-telling' and 'Wata' - the ocean is where I gain my strength. I am honored to be among this intergeneration group of some of the most 'Gifted Sistahs' on the GA coast as we take this 'eco-journey' on the ocean with the 'Whale Whisperer's, Michaela Harrison! What an honor. Indeed!
"My art of weaving Master Gullah' Geechee stories of the African American journey from slavery to freedom from the Georgia coast comes from my Creator and My Ancestors' guiding hands.🌾
"I was raised with ten siblings by phenomenal parents who instilled a philosophy that 'Education is Empowerment and the Road to Independence!'
"If U asked me what my 21st century motto is I would simply say, 'Walk circumspect, and always, in any situation, bring value - never take it away!'
Hermina Glass-Hill believes: "The holistic principles of deep ecology pull us (healers, storytellers, singers, teachers, midwives, deep sea divers, citizen scientists, and racial and food justice activists) to honor our ancestors and the Ma'afa, and to do our part in caring for and sustaining the Earth, ourselves, and all living things including the North Atlantic right whales. And, climate change crises and rising sea levels require that we work together, not on silos.
"Testify...Black women including our foremothers have always been ecologically and environmentally conscious in traditional, esoteric ways. From Africa through the Ma'afa/Middle Passage and centuries of Enslavement they were/are Earth keepers, Water savers, aura/air purifiers, temperature gaugers, life givers, life sustainers, and healers of one another, our communities, and the entire planet. The difference is spirituality, rituals, memory, freedom, and equity."