Rich History

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photography // MIRACLE LILLEY

creative direction // KIAH MCBRIDE

location // HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA


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I thought of a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t go.

Too busy. Too tired. Too broke. Too far of a drive. A million and one excuses flipping through my head like a sizzle reel. Yet all it took was for me to find that one reason for me to go—a much-needed weekend getaway with my best friend and her family, one that was sure to be filled with good laughs, good food, and good stories to tell.

Sold.

A couple of weeks later I was flying down I-75 towards the Carolina coast. As a North Carolina native, I’m no stranger to South Carolina beaches. But while Myrtle Beach was a regular destination in my youth, Hilton Head Island has remained a foreign place to me. Though it ain’t quite the same as jetsetting across the globe, I’ve found that the most beautiful places exist in our own backyards, or in this case, a four-hour drive south of Atlanta.

The most beautiful places exist in our own backyards.

I watched as sugar maples transformed into live oak trees dripped in Spanish moss—a sight so intriguing yet simultaneously creepy as I recounted ghost stories told from Savannah graves less than an hour away. Some centuries ago my ancestors died for me to walk barefoot on these sandy white beaches.

Before vacationers flocked to the island every summer, free Gullah families (descendents of West African slaves from the Gula tribe of Liberia and Sierra Leone)

settled on the island and held their own.

They were the first ex-slaves to earn wages in exchange for their labor. They owned land and fished to feed their families; probably not much different than the crabbing we did from the Harbour Town pier. 

Back then they gathered in 396 square foot homes on a quarter acre of land. On this particular weekend we spread ourselves across a 3,600 square foot vacation home. Their history is so rich that they afforded us this luxury.

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And I can’t help but wonder if, some time ago, they too were shooting the shit over a game of Spades and bowls of Goulash and Jambalaya. Knowing that this was the place that Gullah Gullah Island was based off of makes me appreciate the show of my childhood more.  I still sing the theme song in my head.

Lets all go to Gullah, Gullah Island,

 Gullah, Gullah, Gullah, Gullah!

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Two days wasn’t enough time for a true vacation, but it was just enough time for me to reconsider living inland. I’m a child of the water, I come alive when I’m just footsteps away from it. It’s hypnotic, a reminder of the ebbs and flows of life. That tides do turn, and in my case, hopefully for the better.

And because of that, it’s imperative for me to leave. Because unlike the Gullahs, who bury their dead along waterways so that their spirits can be carried back to the motherland with which they were stolen from, I’m not ready to go home. I have too much to do, too much to accomplish, too much purpose—I have my own history to make.