The St. Johns Cultural Council, the organization that promotes arts, culture and heritage in St. Augustine, has announced a Gullah Geechee Heritage Festival that will be held on December 3, 2022. The SEA Community Gullah Geechee Heritage Festival will celebrate 450 years of West African influences on the St. Johns County communities of Spuds, Elkton, and Armstrong through music and dance performances, cooking and craft demonstrations, and presentations from a variety of cultural organizations.

“We’re delighted to partner with SEA Community to present this event to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of some of our county’s first inhabitants,” says Christina Parrish Stone, executive director of St. Johns Cultural Council. “St. Augustine’s Black history has changed our nation and inspired the world, and we hope this festival, in addition to our year-round programming, will continue to shed a light on the important contributions of residents of West African descent.”

Festival performers include the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, a group of direct descendants from slavery who perform a traditional ring shout that consists of counterclockwise dance-like movements, singing and rhythmic beating; Doug Carn, an American jazz musician from St. Augustine; and Amy Alysia & the Soul Operation, a group performing blues, jazz and soft rock. The Nan Nkama Pan African Drum and Dance Ensemble will perform and provide instruction to visitors.

Cooking demonstrations will be held by Chef Matthew Raiford, a descendant of the Freshwater Gullah Geechee of Coastal Georgia and author of the cookbook Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth Generation Farmer, which he will also be signing for guests. Andrea Cayetano-Jefferson of Gullah Sweetgrass Baskets will demonstrate basket weaving techniques, and organizations including the National Park Service, the St. Johns County Libraries and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor will be on hand to provide additional information and activities for all ages. The event will be held from 12 – 5 PM at Armstrong Park and is free to attend. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

As part of the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor, St. Johns County preserves and interprets the history of the Gullah Geechee people at attractions like Fort Mose, the first legally sanctioned, free African settlement in what is now the United States; the Lincolnville neighborhood, a historic neighborhood established by freedmen after the Civil War, that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center, a museum exhibiting the community’s rich Black history.

This event benefits the SEA Community Resource Center and is supported by the St. Johns Cultural Council and the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council.

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