By Fotini Sisois
Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, shared her wisdom with the University of Florida community on Thursday, Oct. 17. She incorporated humor, stories, personal anecdotes and traditional song into the lecture.
“I never do PowerPoint because I come into spaces to make a point,” she said.
The Gullah/Geechee people are descendants of Africans who were enslaved on the rice, indigo and Sea Island cotton plantations of the lower Atlantic coast. Gullah/Geechee have strong cultural ties to West Africa and distinctive arts, food, music and language, which is a unique creole spoken in their communities in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina. An author, lecturer, artist and activist, Queen Quet is the founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, an advocacy organization that seeks to preserve Gullah/Geechee culture. She is a directorate member of the International Human Rights Association for American Minorities and the International Commission on Human Rights and has represented these groups, as well as the Gullah/Geechee Nation, at the United Nations.
Queen Quet spoke on Thursday as part of the College of Public Health and Health Professions’ Dean’s Scholar Lecture series, which was co-hosted by the college’s department of environmental and global health. Eric Coker, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor of environmental and global health, is a member of the Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank, and helped bring Queen Quet to UF.
“She came here primarily to begin a dialogue regarding environmental and cultural sustainability in the Southeast, especially the sea islands of the southeastern U.S., and to discuss topics such as ocean acidification and resort development and how these are impacting the Gullah/Geechee community,” Coker said.
This was not the first time Queen Quet has visited UF, but it was her first time speaking to a UF Health audience. She came in September 2018 to speak with the linguistics, criminology and anthropology departments and was eager to come back and share her message with even more students and faculty and to speak on topics focused on public health and environmental health.
During the lecture, Queen Quet spoke about how we as urban people should take better care of the Earth. She said that our building habits are causing damage to the Earth.
“Maybe you need to replace Western thought with that of the indigenous people,” she said.
Following the lecture, Queen Quet opened the floor for questions. The audience was interested in gaining insight on Queen Quet’s opinions for maintaining a connection with the Earth, and they also were interested in learning how the Gullah/Geechee have maintained awareness of their surroundings for so many years.
Queen Quet encouraged the audience to advocate for sustainability within their own communities and to help her and the rest of the Gullah/Geechee people continue their fight.
“We have to divest from selfish individualism and start to look at the world as what it is: one big sphere, one place that we all live on,” she said.