We are living in precarious times in our state and nation, yet I believe that the Black community understands we also live in a time of tremendous opportunity. It’s one reason in 2018, the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce was founded.
After years in politics, corporate jobs, community advocacy and operating a small business, it was time to get serious about my economic uplift and of our beloved community. And surprisingly, it also meant getting serious about political and community advocacy. It took growth to understand that one cannot be accomplished without the other.
So, I started the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce with the mission to raise global awareness, profitability and sustainability of African American businesses and other entities in the Gullah community. We also believed our advocacy had to focus on the environment, addressing climate change and education about the career and business opportunities in green, renewable energy.
We did not know that when we started our Gullah Geechee Chamber journey that through advocacy we would become environmental leaders in South Carolina.
We didn’t know that we would plan Black Lives Matter marches and protests holding elected officials accountable for their racist social media postings.
We didn’t know that our advocacy for careers and business opportunities in green, renewable energy would lead to the understanding that our state-owned utility, Santee Cooper is broken and has not made substantial, investment in the Black community.
But we did know that it was time to get educated, motivated, and activated regarding economic uplift and environmental activism.
We can vote. We can become entrepreneurs. We can protest. We can create business plans. We can march. We can support local Black businesses. And we can also talk to neighbors, go to town hall meetings, call an elected official, write a letter to the editor, volunteer for a nonprofit in your community.
We can inform and strategize. Civic engagement is any and all of this. Not everyone can do it all, but all of us must do everything we can.
Our path is economic uplift and environmental activism. But it takes a movement of engaged individuals learning about local, state, and federal issues and policies. It takes holding our elected officials accountable. In the words of the late legendary activist John Lewis, it takes “Good Trouble. Necessary Trouble.”
So, in the days and weeks ahead, I want to share with you the work and advocacy of the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce and the actions we are taking to impact South Carolina. But more importantly, I want to hear from you. What are your issues, aspirations, dreams, and advocacy? What are you doing to impact the issues and policies impacting our state? Let’s work together to make this happen. Contact Marilyn Hemingway at Marilyn@GullahGeecheeChamber.org.