CHOW Chat: Queen Quet on Ocean as Cultural Heritage
Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine is chieftess and head-of-state of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, a people whose history and way of life are inextricably tied to the ocean. Queen Quet has worked tirelessly to sustain the Gullah/Geechee culture and in doing so has advocated around the world for environmental justice and sustainability.
We asked Queen Quet about her participation in Capitol Hill Ocean Week and about the cultural ties between the Gullah/Geechee people and the ocean.
We are honored to have you participate in Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2021. What do you think about this year’s conference?
I am honored to be a part of CHOW! I believe that the 2021 CHOW Conference will set a precedent in the environmental community since it will serve as a model of JEDI in action as it relates to protecting our ocean and the Great Lakes.
The culture and history of the Gullah/Geechee people are deeply intertwined with the ocean. Can you describe how these cultural ties affect the Gullah/Geechee people’s stewardship of the coasts and the ocean?
I always let people know that “De land da we famlee and de wata da we bloodline.” Since water is sacred to the Gullah/Geechee Nation and we literally live in the Atlantic Ocean, as we steward the ocean, we insure our survival. If the ocean dies our cultural heritage dies.
As the leader of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, you have been involved in international discussions on culture and the environment at such forums as UNESCO, the UN Ocean Conference, and the UN Climate Change Conference. How can sharing your story on the world stage benefit how the global leadership responds to environmental crises like climate change?
Sharing the cultural and knowledge of the Gullah/Geechee Nation on international stages and platforms has allowed those focused on various aspects of climate change to realize that cultural heritage has to be part of the adaptation and resilience plans that are done. Dollar cost averages can never calculate the cost of the cultural heritage of a community and the people that live it. The people are priceless and we are seeking to heal the lands and waters in order to protect people. Continuing to share this can allow more opportunities for global collaboration and for resourcing of the Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Plan and our Gullah/Geechee Ocean Action plan.
You are part of the Advisory Group that shaped the CHOW conference agenda. What did you learn from your fellow Advisory Group members and their approaches to ocean and Great Lakes conservation and justice, equity, diversity and inclusion?
I learned that there are others within the United States that are also passionate about insuring that cultural communities are protected and that my fellow CHOW Advisory Group members are willing to stand up and insure that diverse voices are heard so that a wide range of people that have been excluded from these conversations are now included in them in a REAL way. JEDI is not simply a hashtag or buzz phrase for CHOW Advisors. It is a lived experience that we can model for the rest of the world.
What is your favorite thing about the ocean?
In the Gullah/Geechee Nation, we have a proverb that say, “De wata bring we and de wata gwine tek we bak.” The ocean is a place that I love because it rejuvenates my soul. When I breathe in the ocean, I breathe in the power and energy of GOD and my ancestors that were brought across the Middle Passage which is the ocean. Breathing in the ocean and knowing it is me and I am it is my favorite thing about the ocean.
Finally, are there any particular sessions or plenaries at CHOW that you are looking forward to watching?
Given all the planning of CHOW, I haven’t yet looked at the schedule to note which sessions I will attend other than the ones I am on. I do know that of all things, I am looking forward to the opening ceremony honoring the land and the waters which will be led by indigenous leaders. I look forward to the spiritual guidance and blessings forthcoming from the opening ceremony.
Mark your calendars for the Exploring the Intersection of International Policy and Communities plenary at Capitol Hill Ocean Week at 4:00PM to 5:00PM EST on Wed., June 9th, 2021. Read more about the panels here. Register for free at capitolhilloceanweek.org.