Flames are kindled in a newly built firepit and music plays loudly and jubilantly as guests arrive to the Seashore Farmer’s Lodge on Sol Legare, a small slice of Gullah heaven nestled amongst marshland near Backman’s Seafood and Mosquito Beach. It’s only a moment away from the Folly Beach bridge, which black people were unable to cross during the Jim Crow era — just one of the many important community facts you’ll learn during the Visit the Gullah Geechee Live Airbnb Experience.
I chose to go on this particular Experience because of the description’s live music mention, but what the organizer and seventh-generation Gullah descendent Willie Heyward, Jr., (but he goes by his Gullah name, Halo), has in store for these three-hour-plus events encompasses so much more. Yes, there’s music: Halo, who says the music he produces is a form of “Kemetic vibration” with “naturopathic properties,” kicks off each session with a Gullah address followed by the island tones — songs “coupled with a rhythmic rendition of instrumentals and compositions.” Geechee Nation, a collective of young people with varied musical talents, also participates.
But it’s not just music, the entire Gullah story comes to life when you step foot onto these sacred grounds; and that story is powerful, unshakable. You hear it, you taste it, you see it, and you feel it. You feel it in your bones.
Listen to the firepit-side storytelling of the Gullah land’s storied past: the strength, struggles; the unbelievable, familial bond of community. See artifacts in the Lodge through an informative tour. Watch a battle reenactment. Taste the island’s fresh seafood prepared before your eyes with skill and care. Hear ghost stories; sense the ghosts. It’s all part of this experience.
The true beauty of these Saturday afternoons comes with all the collaboration clearly at work. Halo presents it with the permission and help of elders who grew up here as well as the assistance of a collective and consulting firm called Gullah Gold LLC. Community collaborators/activists Local Pulse and Preserve the Gullah (PTG) also assist and support.
The centerpiece of the Experience, of Sol Legare, is the Lodge. Opened in 1915, it is now a living museum of the land’s dark and rich past, preserved thanks to the monumental efforts of Ernest Parks, who was raised on Sol Legare. Parks is also a reenactor of the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first sanctioned African American Union Army regiments. In 1863, the 54th fought the Battle of Sol Legare, and through this special Experience, guests can witness the reenactment.
James Brown, a third-generation neighborhood resident and professional storyteller, says he grew up with the building as a monument. “A staple, an anchor in this neighborhood,” he says, with the bonfire crackling behind him as nets of oysters fresh from the island’s pluff mud are laid down on the grass, hosed down. “This Lodge was once a schoolhouse, a dance hall, movie theater, but more importantly, what this building was, it was African Americans’ sanctuary.”
It is still that and so much more. This Experience is both heavy and joyful in its truth, each one organically bespoke. But most of all it is powerful, an experience that stays with you.
A special event set for Sat. Nov. 24 at 2020 Sol Legare Road feature an oyster roast from 12-6 p.m. to raise money to continue outreach. Expect DJs, live music, bonfires, vendors, reenactments, and food — endless local oysters, crab, and shrimp boils. Gullah Gold will get festive for on Sat. Dec. 8 from 3-6 p.m. at the Seashore Farmers Lodge (2022 Sol Legare Road). $25.