Gentrification is a dirty word tied to the increasing number of young, white adults moving into urban areas. They often push out older Black residents due to higher rent. However, gentrification isn’t limited to cities — it’s also rampant in the Gullah-Geechee Corridor, the coastal region of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.

One of the lasting remnants of the Atlantic slave trade is the Gullah Geechee. They are the descendants of formerly enslaved West Africans who made barrier islands their home following their emancipation in 1865. As a result, South Carolina Lowcountry developed into a distinct strip of coastal land with its own cultural identity separate from the interior of the state. 

Lowcountry artist Ment Nelson spoke with Blavity about how Gullah-Geechee culture has influenced his art. Nelson has become a popular artist on Twitter and Instagram, because of his thought-provoking posts that educate people on South Carolina’s history. Some of his work was even included in the Smithsonian National Museum’s traveling exhibition “Crossroads: Change in Rural America,” which wrapped last month. His social media posts essentially serve as a digital archive to help keep the Gullah-Geechee culture alive.

Nelson lives in Varnville, South Carolina, which is located near Georgia’s barrier islands. With a population of roughly over 2,000 people, it has all the trappings of quintessential small-town America. The 30-year-old shared that he believes his family’s roots in the peach state are connected to the local Gullah Geechee, explaining how learned a lot about his past while attending community functions, like fish fry gatherings. His relatives’ heavy accents still maintain strong traces of the distinctive Gullah language, a dialect that’s historically made up of English and West African languages like Krio, Mende and Vai. He also grew up eating a rich diet of red rice, okra soup, fired chard, oysters and crabs.

Read more at Blavity.

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