Marie Laveau and the Gullah Geechee
What is Pan African tradition in the Diaspora? Come learn Marie Laveau and the Gullah Geechee
The New Orleans style of voodoo derives from the cultures of Benin’s Dahomey Empire, the Yoruba and the Akan. It is an Afro-creole tradition. Creole is a Portuguese word meaning “home born”. It does not mean people of a lighter skin tone. Therefore Afro-creole refers to the Afrakans born into the system of slavery. Because of this unique blend, New Orleans style of voodoo is better termed Gri Gri.
The Gri Gri tradition has a long history of female leaders. Marie Laveau, a interracial immigrant from Haiti, is the most famous priestess of this tradition.
Marie Laveau lived in a time when hierarchical racial striation was the way to gain economic and social privileges. People were divided into skin hues and hair textures such as octoroons and quadroons.
The closer one looked to the European standard the better off their life seemed to be. This model of division was carefully explained in the Willie Lynch program.
She decided to do something different. She did not use her skin shade to gain favor from the oppressive social structure. Instead she created an empire.
She trained priests, priestess, root workers and gri gri men. She also created an underground surveillance system derived from her hair salon businesses. With this strategy, she empowered other woman economically and gathered necessary information from the gossip of her wealthy clients.
Marie Laveau embodied the very definition of womanist. She believed in herself and showed respect to other women and their talents and abilities beyond the perceived boundaries of race and class.
She was a mother of nine children and named one of her daughters Marie Laveau II the successor to her empire. With activism, entrepreneurial spirit, and a solid Afrakan spiritual foundation she empowered the men and women of her culture.
Gullah Geechee Nation
Another culture with a unique blend is the Gullah Geechee Nation. Geechee culture is a blend of Igbo, Fula, Mende and other Akan ethnic groups. They were kidnapped and imprisoned on the island of Gullah off the coast of the Carolinas and exploited for their agricultural knowledge to cultivate rice and other cash crops.
The Gullah Geechee culture was born from the efforts of these Afrakans to remember and relive their traditions. The word Geechee is derived from the Ogeechee River in Savanah Georgia.
The movie Daughters of the Dust gives an excellent illustration of the Geechee people’s efforts to keep their culture alive in the face of transition. It highlighted the migration to the Northern States of many Gullah Geechee people.
Due to the work of the Queen Quet, the current head of state for the Gullah Geechee Nation, and others the Geechee culture is now globally recognized.
In the spirit of Marie Laveau and the Gullah Geechee Nation, the effort to remember, remind, and relive our unique Afrakan traditions is an important part of retaining the soul of the Mother.
“Hunnh mus tek cyare de root fa heal de tree” ~Queen Quet