|Cousin Evelyn Greer in Harris Neck, credit NY Times|
Unlike the violent destruction of similar communities like Rosewood in Florida and Greenwood in Tulsa Oklahoma, Harris Neck's demise was government sponsored and was a disturbingly common practice in the South during the worst period of our country's brutal and often bloody racial history. In all three cases, the sad commonality, is the loss of culture and a common homeland where traditions could have been passed down through the generations.
To this end, Cousin Evelyn and many of the aging former residents of Harris Neck are actively engaged in trying to reclaim the land for the future. Before they pass on, they want to be able to call it home again.
Addendum: Many local environmental groups are firmly against returning Harris Neck to the Geechee community. Rather than working with the Harris Neck Land Trust to maintain the environmental integrity of the the land (integrity already compromised by the airstrip) and to share knowledge, these local groups have chosen to actively thwart the community's reclamation efforts. Feelings are also quite hostile toward the Harris Neck Land Trust and the Geechee community in nearby Savannah as evidenced by the comments section of an op-ed piece in the Savannah Morning News by Reverend Robert Thorpe (also my late grandmother's cousin).
Because much Gullah/Geechee land is located on prime waterfront real estate, there is a long history of both overt and covert attempts to displace communities who have lived (and toiled) continuously upon these lands since slavery times. Add to that problems of environmental justice where entire coastal communities were literally dumped on with toxins. The question becomes then, how can environmental groups and Gullah/Geechee communities work together to preserve the land and what policies can protect these communities who are a fundamental part of American history worth preserving.