Thursday, January 20, 2005

Visit and volunteer at National Parks

After visiting Brunswick, GA for a dance performance this weekend (Savage Jazz Dance Co was excellent! [see comments]), Kwadjo and I stopped by St. Simon's Island. We were on a mission to find Ebo Landing (see comments), but ended up visiting Fort Frederica National Monument. It was beautiful and I didn't even know it was there!

The National Park Service began in 1916 and administers 385 areas hosting 270 million visitors each year. There's something for everyone: National Battlefields, National Lakeshore, National Parkways, National Cemeteries. Hot Springs National Park, AR is part of a city, and I'm an alum of Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. These parks provide a wonderful opportunity to get out and learn something and enjoy nature, often for not much money. Consider visiting one. Even better, consider volunteering at one. Here are some of the opportunities that are available:

* The Volunteers in Parks (VIP) program offers a way for volunteers to "help in such a way that is mutually beneficial to the National Park Service and the volunteer." We met a lot of these friendly and helpful VIPs when we camped at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. One of them even taught me to catch a sand flea!

* The International Volunteers in Parks program offers "more than one hundred individuals from all over the world training in park management, wildlife research, environmental education, etc."

* The Artist in Residence program operates in 29 parks and "offers opportunities for two-dimensional visual artists, photographers, sculptors, performers, writers, composers, and craft artists to live and work in the parks."

We had a wonderful weekend, in part because of our visit to a National Park. The volunteers there were very helpful in locating information on Ebo Landing and clearly loved the work they did. Consider visiting and volunteering at a National Park. You're sure to have a ball!


Karama said...

I most remember Ebo Landing from the movie Daughters of the Dust, so I was eager to visit the actual site. We think we got close, but evidently the exact location is on private property and there is no marker (though the local historical society is planning to erect one in the coming year). Here's some information I found online:

1 - "The Igbo were the Biafra people who came to the southeastern United States, where their story lives on.  St. Simon’s Island in northeastern Georgia has an area known as Ebo Landing, with the telling story of a group of Igbo who committed mass suicide rather than be enslaved. The locals on the island still speak of a transcendental “ghostly” presence of the Igbo to this day. In the Lowcountry, one can hear the Gullah tongue, known as the “slave language,” containing vocabulary and linguistic association with the Igbo language. This and other cultural traits, particularly the arts, are both an enduring inheritance in the southeast of a noble and proud people that chose, in their forced yet new home, to bring good from evil, and also as a constant signpost and reminder of this historical violence to human dignity and its perpetual scar."

2 - "Ebo Landing is an interesting and historically significant place.  People from Igboland (the "g" is silent) (now known as Nigeria) had been brought into Savannah and were sold as slaves.  They were purchased by two families from St. Simons Island, who had them brought to the island on a boat called the Morovia.  The captain's own slave was the first to commit suicide by drowning in Dunbar Creek, a tributary of the Frederica River.  At this point, the Igbo Chief started chanting "the sea brought me and the sea will take me home".  The other slaves joined in the chant.  Instead of walking onto the bank and a life of slavery, the Igbo Chief walked into Dunbar Creek, followed by the remaining slaves.  Even though this happened in May of 1803, they say you can go to Ebo Landing at night and hear the chant and the chains."

3 - "At Ebo Landing, on St. Simons Island, Many years ago a group of chained slaves supposedly were being held on the beach (having just arrived on the slave smuggling ship The Wanderer), the slaves made a suicide pack. Rather than live their lives in irons they ran, chained side-by-side, into the water and drowned. It is said that their spirits haunt the place; you can hear the heavy irons clatter as they sprint from the beach for the water."

Now you see why we wanted to find it.

Karama said...

Savage Jazz Dance Company features a friend of mine. I loved the show and Keiron had an excellent performance. Kudos y'all! Read more about Savage Jazz here and here.

Karama said...

For more on this regions and particulary the people of Sapelo Island, check out this article a by Kwadjo Boaitey.