Keep What We Got

By:  Vanessa Rivers

I’ve recently watched a segment on “Vice News,” “History of Gullah Geechee Nation,” about how the people living on former plantations, specifically on the Islands that border South Carolina and Georgia, who are trying to preserve their land and subsequently their Gullah Geechee culture.  They are the descendants of Central and West Africans who were enslaved together on these isolated sea and barrier islands.  Somehow, during the Civil War, many Black people bought the land that they were enslaved upon, and this land has been passed down through the years.  This land is their home, this land contains their roots, not to mention those enslaved who are buried there.  Today that land is classified as “heirs property” which means that it is jointly owned by all members of the family.   These islands were undesirable to whites because of the alligators, mosquitoes, lack of roads, etc., so no one cared that black people owned it, UNTIL, someone decided to develop on it.   Hilton Head was the first island to be developed.  They built hotels, golf courses, restaurants, etc., turning the place where the Gullah Geechee lived into the recreation spot that it’s known for now.   The “colonizers,” I mean, “developers,” didn’t pay the owners a fair value of the properties worth, or those who didn’t want to sell, ended up losing their land due to massive increases in property taxes, and some had their land stolen using loopholes in the system.  Isn’t it ironic that these black people are trying to save the same land, that their enslaved descendants worked on, to make white folks rich, to turn around and be cheated out of that land, to make white folks rich, again, aww, “the gift that just keeps on giving.”

Based on several studies, we know that land and home ownership is the way to build wealth, and when its passed down, it then creates, “generational wealth.”   We also know that “redlining” where in the case of home ownership, banks wouldn’t loan money for mortgages, to black people.   Depending on how you look at it, it was a way to “fence” us into one area, or to keep us from spreading out to other areas, those occupied by whites.  Either way, it accomplished its intended result; preventing black people from being able to own land or homes, no passing down, therefore, no “generational wealth.”

This brings me to my point: KEEP WHAT WE GOT!!!  I am grateful that my father had the forethought to purchase some land, as small as it was, but to purchase something, to pass down.  I plan on doing everything in my power to keep that land, to pass down to my children.  I hopefully have instilled in them, that “property = wealth.”  We will never be able to overcome our problem of not having “generational wealth” if we don’t purchase, and then pass down, its as simple as that.

Think about this:

  • Families, come together, don’t allow another piece of land or a home to be taken because no one will pay the taxes, or there’s a dispute on who should pay the taxes. If need be, you can always fight over that later.
  • Don’t sell just because you are approached by a buyer, until you’ve done your own research about the proposed developments in the area, and what a fair price should be.    You never know, they may be trying to “low-ball” you, just think how mad you’ll be, when you pass by that new mall, knowing that you got peanuts for your land.

Bottom line, it’s important for us as Black people to fight to hold onto whatever heritage and culture that we have, and to protect those assets passed down to us, by forever being on the look out to add to them, so that we can build our individual and collective “generational wealth.”



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