Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - On Saturday, February 17th at 5pm, Aunt Pearlie Sue and the Gullah Kinfolk will perform at the Connelly Center Cinema on the campus of Villanova University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The performance will recognize the important link between Philadelphia and the Sea Islands of South Carolina during slavery and Reconstruction. The performance is free and open to the public, refreshments will be provided, and offerings are welcomed.
Philadelphians were crucial to the transition of enslaved Africans to American citizens on the Sea Islands of South Carolina. Ten thousand slaves, known as Gullah Geechees, were emancipated on November 7, 1861. Philadelphians quickly arrived to the Sea Islands with the goal of assisting the local African American population. Laura Towne—a Quaker missionary, abolitionist, and Philadelphian—established Penn School on St. Helena Island to educate Gullah Geechees. Her efforts are called the “Port Royal Experiment” and were key to Reconstruction’s planning across the American South. In addition, Philadelphia was a key site for slaves escaping the South through the Underground Railroad.
For this performance, Aunt Pearlie Sue and the Gullah Kinfolk will bring the story of Gullah Geechees to the City of Brotherly Love. The Gullah Kinfolk are one of the premiere Gullah Geechee performance groups in the United States. The group’s latest film, Circle Unbroken: A Gullah Journey from Africa to America, was broadcast nationwide on PBS. The Gullah Kinfolk are led by Anita Singleton-Prather, an acclaimed musician, storyteller, and actress. Singleton-Prather was awarded the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, and recently honored by the United Nations, for her work with Gullah Geechee heritage. This performance opens the Gullah Kinfolk’s “Reconstruction . . . Untold Story” tour, which will continue in Washington, D.C. and throughout Black History Month.
An exhibition displaying Gullah Geechee art and items related to the trans-Atlantic slave trade will accompany the performance. These artifacts include Union Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman’s uniform and items from slave ships in the collection of Villanova University. In addition, a Russian Orthodox hymn choir will follow the Gullah Kinfolk, to recognize 1861 as a time of liberation for 25 million serfs during the Russian Empire.
“It is a good thing when brethren come together in unity,” says Anita Singleton-Prather. “This performance is an example of Mother Africa—the origin of all civilizations—bringing together her children from the rice fields of West and Central Africa, the abolitionist circles of historic Philadelphia, and the islands of South Carolina.”
“This is a God event,” says Father John Perich, Rector of the St. Herman of Alaska Church Parish and one of the event’s organizers. “We are able to recognize the historical connection between two locations not only during Black History Month, but also during President’s Day weekend. While people may not associate Philadelphia and the South Carolina Sea Islands, our goal is to show how Reconstruction and the quest for freedom brought them together.”
For more information about the performance, contact Annetta T. Stowman at (610) 888-4458.
For more information about Aunt Pearlie Sue and the Gullah Kinfolk, visit www.facebook.com/AuntPearlieSueAndTheGullahKinfolk, or call (843) 263-5229.