E s c a p e to F r e e d o m
The Life and Legacy of Georgia Geechee Susie King Taylor
A website created by the Susie King Taylor Women's Institute & Ecology Center for research and exhibition purposes.
Coastal Black Women's
Ocean Memory and Conservation Jamboree
December 2-3, 2020
Coastal Resilience Requires Education and Participation from Everyone
The Susie King Taylor Women's Institute and Ecology Center was honored to participate in Whale Week by launching The Coastal Black Women's Ocean Memory and Conservation Jamboree on December 2-3, 2020: a collaborative effort co-created by a dynamic group of women including the world renowned Whale Whisperer Michaela Harrison. These Earth-honoring women who reside on the Georgia coast co-created this event to coincide with Whale Week as a way to center their collective environmental traditions and diaspora consciousness at the forefront of their work. Of African American, Gullah Geechee, Native American, Louisiana Creole, Jamaican, and Trinidadian cultural heritage they expressed stories, memories, language, and spirituality connected to the ocean.
Whale Week, an annual conservation event, was organized in 2017 by Paulita Bennett-Martin of OCEANA along with Tybee Island Marine Science Center and Loop-It-Up. The 2020 calendar of events was Monday November 30 through Saturday December 5th. The organizers have welcomed the Susie King Taylor Women's Institute and Ecology Center as a new sponsor. The Jamboree committee carried out two full days of exciting activities! See below for information. For more about the plight of the North Atlantic Right Whale, download Oceana's fact sheet and watch Jeffrey Mittelstadt's documentary
DAY 1: ANCESTRAL LIBATIONS, BEACH CLEANUPS, OCEAN EXCURSION
On 2 December 2020, the Jamboree commenced with a libation ceremony and the first in a series of barrier island beach cleanup projects as well as an exclusive whale honoring excursion with world renowned Whale Whisperer Michaela Harrison in the estuaries around Jekyll Island. The ceremony included calling the names of two influential Gullah Geechee female ancestors. The first name called was Susie King Taylor (1848-1912) who was enslaved in Liberty County, Georgia and is celebrated as an educated self-liberator who escaped by boat during the Civil War and rescued by the Union Army and taken to St. Simons Island in Glynn County where she became the first federally funded teacher in the state. She eventually went on to become a nurse, entrepreneur, and domestic servant who was a contemporary of Harriet Tubman and Clara Barton. The second name called was American Beach heiress and environmentalist MaVynee "The Beach Lady" Betsch (1935-2005) for whom North Atlantic right whale #1511 was named in the 1990s. Recently, the Susie King Taylor Women's Institute and Ecology Center researched the current status of "MaVynee." Sadly, she was last sighted in 2012 and is believed to be deceased as a result of entanglement in 2009. (*See specific details for NArw #1511 in NOAA's 2016 National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) federal register.
DAY 2: WORLD RENOWNED WHALE WHISPERING WITH MICHAELA HARRISON
On 3 December 2020 the group sponsored Whale Whispering with Michaela Harrison for the official Whale Week event via Zoom. Harrison has been actively engaged in singing and telepathic communications with humpback whales off the coast of Bahia, Brazil. On her website she explains, "I am clear that not only is interspecies communication possible, it is necessary for what must be a collaborative effort to mitigate the effects of climate change on the ecosystems of the planet."
Susie King Taylor's Connection to the Water...
Born among the 'water people' on August 6, 1848, Susie King Taylor was a proud and courageous Geechee ooman (woman) from the Isle of Wight in Liberty County, Georgia.
The daughter of a house servant named Hagar, who was the daughter of a quasi-free entrepreneurial midwife named Dolly, who was the daughter of Susannah also a midwife, who was the daughter of Dolly who had twenty-one daughters and lived to be one hundred and twenty-one years of age in Savannah, Georgia, who was the daughter of an ooman abducted from Africa who had children with an indigenous man of which five sons fought in the American Revolution - Susie King Taylor reveled in historical and cultural memory in which water, among other things, was a constant natural presence and source of life - marine life, plant life, human life.
She was intimately acquainted with water, baptized in it, and navigated through it, and took her freedom on it. April 13, 1862 she stole away with family members into the darkest part of night and sailed down Grest River joining the Jericho River which meandered into the Medway River which opened into the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean.