HONEY BEA'S Books
Honey Bea's Gullah -Geechie Books and Readings
I am the author of two books, Honey Bea’s Everlasting Gift and Honey Bea’s Gullah Stew Fuh De Spirit which are both dedicated to the Gullah Geechie heritage of South Carolina.
The Honey Bea's Everlasting Gift book is based on recollections of stories told to me by my mother, Honey Bea and stories that were told to her by my great, great, grandmother, “Maah.” It begins on a plantation in Abbeville, South Carolina during the end of the Civil War era and takes us through some of Honey Bea’s situations in Charleston during the Civil Rights era and then through Lolabelle’s perceptions of their lives and hers and some issues that affect African Americans today. This is 3 books in one and was written in part by 3 generations. It spans 6 generations. A part is in the Gullah Geechie dialect with interpretation at the end of the book. It tell how situations were dealt with through prayers and persistence and how they reached their victories. This story, along with the key of prayer is Honey Bea’s everlasting gift to us.
The Gullah Stew Fuh De Spirit book is a book of short gullah geechee stories, poems, sayings, and family recipes.
Both are available on the Xlibris, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble site.
The wait is over. May the work I’ve done, speak for me. May the work I’ve done, speak for me.
When I’m resting in my grave, there is nothing that can be said,
May the work I’ve done, speak for me.
May the life I’ve lived, speak for me. May the life I’ve lived, speak for me.
When I’m resting in my grave, there is nothing that can be said,
May the life that I’ve lived, speak for me.
Greetings everyone. That song was one of my grandmother, Honey and my mother, Bea’s favorite songs. I want my ancestors’ lives to forever speak through me as I share a part of SC’s Black History and my Gullah- Geechee heritage.
I want to ask a few of the young people… what are your aspirations… what do you want to be. Those aspirations were next to impossible during my ancestor’s time, but because of their battles and their history, they made it possible for future generations to be able to dream and to become more than they were.
My name is Lorna Isabelle Gethers Coakley, and I am an author and Gullah Geechee reader from Mt. Pleas, SC. My pen name is Lornabelle Gethers, and when I am performing Gullah, I am Honey Bea’s Maah, who was also my great-great grandmother who was born into slavery in 1855.
Maah helped raise my mother, who was old enough to be my grandmother, and all of my life I heard the wisdom of Maah’s Gullah sayings from my mother and other older relatives and so I was inspired to write about it.
Not everyone who is my age had a mother who was nurtured first handed by someone who was born into slavery well over 100 years ago and who saw the changes of that era and thereafter. For that reason I decided it was up to me to help keep our Gullah Geechie heritage and my ancestor, Maah alive.
I am the author of two books, Honey Bea’s Everlasting Gift and Honey Bea’s Gullah Stew Fuh De Spirit which are both dedicated to the Gullah Geechie heritage of South Carolina. My readings are in Gullah so please feel free to write down any questions of anything that you do not understand and I will gladly answer them later.
Often Gullah sayings, songs and oral stories were also passed down from generation to generation and they held wisdom as well as humor. They were often filled with the faith of the motherland combined with the faith that they learned to embrace upon their arrival here. Many of their tales, songs, and poetry were also sprinkled with their religious beliefs.
Some of the stories would also have tales about the boogey man or the hag which many really believed existed. I grew up hearing a lot of talk about hags and I, myself believed that they really were hags until well into my adult life, so there is a poem that touches on that also.
I do the Gullah readings as a part of my history and my heritage and also to honor my ancestors. It may sound uneducated to many, but I know that the Gullah geechee people had to be some of the smartest in this country in order to hold onto their traditions and heritage through all of the trials and tribulations that came with living here during those many years and to be able to survive as well as live so connected when many others lost that very same connection.
The origin and traditions of this group are an important piece of South Carolina's historical puzzle and by exploring this history and development, one gains a fuller picture of South Carolina's past.
Before getting into the Gullah readings, there is something that I want the people of my ancestors to always remember. And that is … that they should always hold on to the tools of power that the ancestors esteemed and fought and prayed for.
They are … 1. Faith in God. 2. Education. 3. Your right to Vote. And lastly…. 4. Your history and heritage.
At one time those things were forbidden to my ancestors. Always remember that if someone did not want the ancestors to have a right to something that they themselves already had a right to, then it was because it more likely than not held great power and it should not be carelessly dismissed or forgotten.
Besides all of the other things that were held from the ancestors or forbidden either during slavery or reconstruction, the small period which followed shortly thereafter, those are the four things that stand out in my mind.
#1. Freedom of worshipping God freely in their own manner.
Many times slaves had to worship under the watchful eyes of the master to make sure that it remained in the framework that they was allowed. Slave holders were afraid that if the slaves got together the discussions would revolve around freedom or revolt. Because of this, they had to sing gospel songs that had double meanings… songs of freedom under the guise of religion only. They sang songs such as “Steal away, oh steal away. I aint got long to stay.” Meaning that there was going to be a stealing away or that a journey to freedom was in the works.
Or they would sing… “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho, Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came a tumbling down.” Meaning that the walls of slavery would come tumbling down.
Or they would sing, “Wade in the water, wade in the water children, wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water.”… Meaning something of action or movement was at the forefront.
The ancestors had an unerring trust in God and it was their faith that allowed them to believe that if he allowed Moses to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt, he could do the same for our people and they would also be freed.
The second thing... Education… As you know, the education of reading and writing was forbidden. The masters were afraid that if the slaves could read or write they would have more access to freedom. They could possibly write their own passes or maybe they would read about other people who were free which would in turn, also enlighten them. Also, if a person could read and write, it would have to be that they had to be more than just the savages that many wanted to believe that they were and they would be known to be just as intelligent as the oppressors.
And also writing could possibly give them posterity for all time, by leaving an indelible mark of intelligence on society long after they were gone. This was the case of one in the instance of a SC slave called, Dave the slave potter, who was known to write poetry and sign his name on the lovely large-mouthed clay pots that he made, even though it was forbidden. Over 100 years later we still have his art with his jars and his signature writings.
And 3… Having the right to vote without any hindrances and obstructions. Voting was important to our ancestors after finally becoming free. During the reconstruction period around the 1870s, voting put many African Americans into congressional and senatorial seats for the first time.
Even some Postmasters appointments depended on the vote because they were often appointed by the president of the United States.
Because of the African American’s vote during the reconstruction era, the period following the emancipation of slavery, there were men elected like, Benjamin A. Boseman who after completing his third term as Congressman, he became the first black postmaster of Charleston, appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1873.
The ancestor’s votes also elected South Carolinians such as Joseph Hayne Rainey, the first African American ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. And former congressman, George Washington Murray who is the late cousin of contemporary African American congressman, James Clyburn. He was the last African American congressman that was voted in during the 1890s and there was no other until Congressman Clyburn during the 1990s almost 100 years later.
And there were also senators and congressmen like the three Roberts… Robert Delarge, Robert B. Elliott, and our very own honorary Charlestonian, by way of Beaufort, Robert Smalls, who previously had become the first black captain of a vessel in the service of the United States during the Civil War, who had freed himself, his crew and their families from slavery on May 13, 1862, by confiscating and commandeering a Confederate transport ship, through the Charleston harbor, and sailing it to freedom beyond the Federal blockade.
His example and persuasion helped convince President Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the Union Army and he became a member of the SC House of Representatives and later also, the SC Senate.
During this era there were quite a few riots caused specifically to take away the voting rights of African Americans like the Phoenix riot and the Cainhoy riot, which took place right outside of Charleston.
And there was also the Hamburg riot which took place in upstate SC in what was once an all-black town. It is believed that segregationist, and one of the founding fathers of Clemson University, Ben E. Tillman was a participator in that riot as well as an implementer in the execution of an African American senator by the name of Simon Coker.
When Reconstruction ended in the late 1800s, African Americans lost the right to vote in SC and my ancestors went through almost one hundred additional years of repression. Many of that era, which was almost 100 years before the Civil Rights era as we know it, lost their lives all over the right for African Americans to vote and that included those of the ancestors’ descent as well as white empathizers.
And lastly, 4… please know where you came from. That way, if someone tells you that you are nothing, you will know who you are and you will know that this could not be so.
My ancestors are of African descent and that is the place that is the mother of all civilization and the place of the beginning of all mankind. They are descendants of kings and queens and in them there was greatness and a spirit of overcoming any obstacle. The ancestors taught me that this was a part of my history and my heritage. And it had to be known and passed on to the future generations to let all know that you are something no matter who tells you that you are nothing.
I would like to now share with you one of my poems that is titled: Mossas Say We Nuttin, But We Know We Somethin
Mossas say we nuttin,
But we know we somethin.
They say we come yah from nuttin, So they treat we like nuttin,
They take we way from we home like nuttin, They chain we like nuttin,
Call we cargo like nuttin,
Trow some of we overboard like nuttin, They sell we like nuttin,
They buy we like nuttin, They whip we like nuttin, They work we like nuttin, They rape we like nuttin,
Treat the baby we gee im like nuttin, They kill we like nuttin,
They tell we, we nuttin, But we know we somethin.
They can’t take away we somethin, to make we fuh be their nuttin, Cause we know we be somethin and somethin be in we.
We know kings and queens be in we, We know royalty be in we,
We know majesty be in we,
We know all the wisdom of all the worlds be in we,
We know the beginnings of this universe and life be in we, We know all kinds of gifts of we mind be in we,
We know all the strength of we hands be in we, We know the power of we words be in we,
So we hide im in we heart so we cah hold on to we somethin, We pass im on down to we chillun so they know we somethin, We don’t let mossas know bout all of we somethin,
So we tell all we kin in secret so they know bout we somethin, Cause if Mossas know they goan try fuh take we somethin, If they know they goan try fuh beat out we somethin,
If they know they goan treat all of we somethin, like the nuttin they been fuh tell we that we fuh be.
Tenk God we know ee ain’t fuh truit and we dey dey yet fuh gut we somethin deep down in we,
And we gee im to we chillun fuh keep im fuh go on down to all of we roots and we trees.
Nuttin can wash away all of we somethin, not even all the water round the ships they breng we on, thru on all of them seas.
After all they been fuh do to we somethin, fuh try fuh make im fuh be their nuttin, we still fuh got all of we somethin dey dey yet down in all of we.
In the homes of the Gullah people of Mt. Pleasant, families also knew how to make light of everyday situations. Life could be hard, but in their homes there was also a lot of faith and a lot of joy as well as a lot of passing down of traditions through stories, food, and the crafts from one generation to another. They were skilled in the creation of African styled handicrafts and it is shared also the beautiful sweetgrass baskets and quilts that are craftily made.
And the food… you talk about good food. No matter what was happening outside of the home, nothing could beat having a laugh or two with each other while they prepared and cooked their tasty meals that were made with lots of love.
And later they would all sit down to enjoy all of that good cooking of various Gullah stews over lots of rice. Their meals consisted of rice and included the livestock that they raised, the plentiful seafood of the lowcountry, as well as the fruits and vegetables that grew plentiful in this fertile land.
Allow me to share a little on the historical and geographical background of the Gullah Geechie culture. Along the southeastern coast of the United States there is a narrow strip of land which is known as the Gullah-Geechie Corridor. This region, includes Mt. Pleas and Charleston, as well as Beaufort and the Sea Islands along the coast of SC, and GA and it extends mainly from Jacksonville, NC all the way down to Jacksonville, FL, as well as extending inland for about 100 miles.
Living in these areas are African-American people who are descendants of mainly West Africans brought here during slavery. In the past, they lived in small farming and fishing units, and formed a tightly knit community. Because of the geographic location and strong sense of community, the Gullah have been able to preserve more of the African cultural heritage than any other group of African Americans.
This culture has survived slavery, the Civil War, and the emergence of the modern American culture.
Gullah was originally spoken by the second generation of slaves as their mother tongue.
Contrary to the belief still held by some, Gullah is not merely broken English or a dialect. Gullah is a language in its own right. It has the rich, soft sounds that fall so easily from the Gullah tongue and it is often spoken softly, with a rolling rhythm.
Since this language is an English-derived creole, it sounds like English, but it is seasoned with a certain flavor of the West African.
The ancestors spoke this creole language similar to the Krio of Sierra Leone, and the words of the Gullah are a blend of sorts with English and with words from West African languages reminiscent of its pidgin stage.
Many of the elders in the homes of the Lowcountry still speak variations of the original creole language known as Gullah, although pure Gullah is seldom heard anymore. And as our elders pass away much of the language is lost with them.
This is my way of keeping the language alive and keeping those elders with us because I love the Gullah language “just dry long so.”
Sometimes it is good to just reflect on the journey that God has brought us through. I think of how he has brought our people and I sing this song. Please feel free to join in with me.
Look where He’s brought me from. Oh look where he’s brought me from. He brought me out of darkness and I’m walking in the light. Oh look where he’s brought me from.
The ting that I want fuh do right now, be fuh share another poem if that fuh be all right wit hunna chillun. (You children/people.)
I Gee God All the Praises
I gee God all the praises jess fuh one more day, I gee im all the tenks more than my words cah ever say.
Ee breng me tru danger, many seen and unseen, Ee get me from dirt and ee make me fuh be clean.
Ee pick me up out the miry clay, I gee im all the tenks more than my words cah ever say.
If I had ten thousand tongues, I couldn’t praise him enough, Ee smooth out them days that use fuh be so rough.
Lord look where ee done breng me from, I gah praise im from now till kingdom come.
When I tink of ee goodness and all ee breng me tru, I sing hallelujah cause ee all feel brand new.
In this yah next one I want fah tell hunna chillun bout them folks that be fuh bring bone and be fuh carry bone too. Hunna chillun know what I be fuh talk bout? Them kind ah folks be two –faced.
They Be Fuh Bring Bone and Fuh Carry Bone
Them folks that be fuh bring bone and fuh carry bone too,
Be the one that hunna gut fuh feed wit a long handle spoon.
Aint fuh do nuttin, but fuh cause confusion and fuh instigate trouble.
Aint know God fuh see what ee fuh do and one day ee gah get double.
They aint care who they fuh talk bout if it be they tita or they bubba.
They gut fuh talk bout me, hunna, and all ah one another.
They grin in hunna face, and ee aint fuh care a bit,
Their words they gah trow, and aint know who ee be fuh hit.
Them kinda folks hunna gut fuh gee im to the Lord,
Cause ee talk about we and ee use ee words like a sword.
Ee cut goin in and ee cut goin out,
Ee aint never know when fuh shut up ee big mout.
Doan hunna worry and doan hunna fret,
Ee gah meet that again, on that ee cah bet.
Doan hunna fuss and doan hunna care,
Ee guh meet im again so hunna aint gut fuh swear.
From ee head way down to ee big ole toe,
Mark my words now, ee guh reap what ee sow.
Them folks that be fuh bring bone and fuh carry bone too,
Make sure hunna aint fuh be one of im that fit in that they shoe.
All of y’all done hear we old people fuh talk bout the hag? Well I want fuh tell hunna what I gwine fuh do if one of im try fuh mess wit me.
Doan Let the Hag Come Fuh Ride
Doan let the hag come fuh ride hunna tonight, If ee come yah fuh me ee gah be a good fight.
I gah find me a broom full of that they straw, And look out fuh im while ee hee and ee haw.
Gah make sure I trow down some of that dey salt, If ee get stuck out ee skin ee ain’t gah be my fault.
The git fuh im cause that’s what ee need fah get, Try fuh ride all of we folks fuh git all ah we bret.
I been the baby in my family, and hunna know, ee ain’t no mama that want nobody fuh mess wit they baby chile.
Who Mella with Hunna
Who that be fuh mella with hunna now? Gut that lip poke out with a big ole frown.
Aint crack ee teet fuh laugh nor fuh smile, Who be fuh mella with hunna all the while?
Get me a switch off that hickory tree, I gah whip im fuh sure when hunna fuh tell me.
Ee could dance and dodge jess as much as ee please, Ee could get down and beg me on ee ole rusty knees.
Now that I know, ee gah get it fuh sure, Mella my gal, I done tell him before.
Ole ranky tank sef, jess fuh mella my chile, Pick on my lil gal, that fuh be he style.
He betta find somebody that be he ownt size, Mella im again, next time I’ll knock out ee eyes.
Folks ain’t been fuh have a lot back in them days, but what they did have, they usually ain’t been fuh mind sharing. But once in a blue moon, hunna might run cross somebody who aint been like fuh share This yah song be bout old stingy, that be call Hunna Dis and Hunna Dat.
Hunna Dis and Hunna Dat
Hunna dis and hunna dat, Hunna done tief my ole tom cat.
Frock tail gal jess as greedy as can be, Don’t vite me no more, fuh me fuh come eat.
Hunna eat the corn, and gee me the husk, Hunna eat the bread and gee me the crust.
Hunna eat the fish and gee me the bone, Hunna aint know when fuh leave me ’lone.
Hunna eat the meat and gee me the skin, That be how ole stingy dey dey begin.
Aint crack ee teet fuh gee me a smile, Hunna treat me bad all the while.
Hunna eat the stew and leave me the bowl, Hunna aint care ’bout a livin soul.
Hunna drink the tea and leave me the cup, Hunna aint no good fuh me fuh come sup.
Sometimey sef, just as moody as can be, Hunna aint fuh gee me no sympathy.
Hunna dis and hunna dat, Aint even leave me a lil bit of fat.
Hunna dat and hunna dit, Aint even leave me none of ee spit.
Gullah Sayings and Words of Wisdom from Honey Bea’s Maah
Maah would say: “Hunna can’t done dis yah world. Dis yah world ill done hunna.” Honey Bea would say. “You can’t done this world. This world will done you.” Maah: “Jess famemba ole flame easy fuh ketch.” Honey Bea: “Just remember that an old flame is easy to catch.”
Maah: “Dog got four foot, but ee can’t be fuh go but one path.” Honey Bea: “A dog has four feet, but he can’t go but one path.” Maah: When hunna hand fuh be in de lion mout, hunna gut fuh ease im out.” Honey Bea: “When your hand is in the lion’s mouth, you have to ease it out.” Maah: “Mornin due to a dog.” Honey Bea: “Good morning is due to a dog.” Show manners to everyone.
Maah: “Doan take basket fuh carry watta.” Honey Bea: “Don’t take a basket to carry water.”
Maah: “Famemba, dog gut money, ee buy butta.” Honey Bea: “Remember that when a dog has money, he buys butter.” You know that dogs don’t need butter, so it is an unnecessary waste to buy just because he now has money.
Maah: “Eery dog got ee day, today fuh me, tomorrow fuh hunna.” Honey Bea: “Every dog has his day, today for me, and tomorrow for you.” Maah: “An famemba, finga aint nebba wan fuh point at ee sef.” Honey Bea: “And remember that a finger doesn’t ever want to point at itself.” Maah: “An famemba, cat aint gut no bizness in a dog fight.” Honey Bea: “And remember that a cat doesn’t have any business in a dog fight.” Maah: “Hunna gee the chicken corn fuh hold.” Honey Bea: “You gave the chicken corn to hold.”
Maah: “Hunna jess gut yah.” Honey Bea: “You just got here.” This is said to a young person who thinks that he knows more than his elders. Maah: “Every donkey say he cubby a race house.” Honey Bea: “Every donkey says that his young one is a race horse.” Every parent thinks highly of his own child and considers him to be greater than he is.
Maah: “Let my ears eat grass.” Honey Bea: “Be quiet.” Let it be as quiet and as still as it is when animals are grazing and eating grass.
*“Just dry long so” means without any real reason except that I can.
Before I leave hunna chillun, I want fuh tell y’all bout this yah story bout a lil boy and I gah hope that hunna chillun gwine fuh learn a lil sometin. This yah story call, The boy that been fuh fall out the bed.
The Boy That Been Fuh Fall Out the Bed
I been fuh want fuh tell hunna one more little story that my preacher been fuh tell me. This yah one be real short and this yah one be bout a little boy. This yah little boy been he maah only little chile. Hunna know when ee ain’t gut but one cubby, hunna want fuh make sure ain’t nuttin bad fuh happen to im.
Hunna ain’t even want nobody fuh mella with him and hunna ain’t even want him fuh bump he little head or fuh nobody fuh mash up on he big toe.
Well every night that maah been use fuh make sure fuh tuck she little boy in the bed. Fore she been fuh leave him, she use fuh put him way in the middle of he bed so he ain’t beenga fall out tru the night time whilst he be fuh sleep. She been fuh do that all the time whilst he been real little and even when he been fuh get a little bit bigger.
Well after a while and by and by that boy been fuh get so big, that he maah tell him that he could start fuh put he own sef to bed. Every night that boy start fuh put he sef to bed and he take care jess like he maah use fuh do and put he sef way in the middle of the bed so he ain’t beenga fall out tru the night time whilst he be fuh sleep.
That been fuh go on fuh a long time fuh some time. Then one night he maah been fuh hey a big ole thump like ee been somethin that been fuh fall on the floor. That maah been fuh run in that little boy room so fast – just like lickity split. When that maah get in she boy room, she see him on the floor and he jess been fuh rub he little head. He maah ask him what been fuh happen and how he end up on the floor. He said, “Well maah, I guess I fall out cause I jess been fuh stay too close to the edge.” She give she boy a big hug and help him fuh get back up there on that big bed. She tell him, “From now on make sure hunna don’t stay too close to the edge. Hunna got fuh get in there deep and fuh make sure hunna stay in there deep lessen hunna gonna fall out again.”
Well my good preacher been fuh say that we got fuh learn from that little boy. When hunna get fuh be a Christian, don’t stay too close to the edge or hunna gah fall out. Hunna got fuh get deep in the middle of God word and spend time fuh pray with him and praise him. Hunna got fuh go to church and listen to the preacher preach God word and we got fuh put the word to work fuh we. Hunna got fuh make up hunna mind that the places hunna use fuh go, hunna ain’t gah go no more. The tings hunna use fuh do, hunna ain’t gah do no more. The tings hunna use fuh say, hunna ain’t gah say im no more. And some of the people hunna use fuh be with, hunna ain’t gah be with them no more. That be the only way hunna gah stop from stay too close to the edge and fuh keep from fuh fall out of that bed of safety.
I would like to close with a prayer.
Thank you for your time and may God richly bless each of you. Please allow me one more song as I leave and please join in with me.
How many of you are familiar with the song, Jacob’s Ladder? That is a song about going up to a higher relationship with God as a soldier in his army, but for me, that also means going up to a higher standard of living than my ancestors before me while using what they have given me. I want to challenge the young people to become an army of achievers… where the norm becomes to be a successful business owner, a lawyer and especially one with his own law firm, a doctor, and astronaut, etc…
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder. We are climbing Jacob’s ladder. Soldiers of the cross. Every round goes, higher and higher every round goes, higher and higher, every round goes higher and higher. Soldiers of the cross. Do you think I’ll make a soldier? Do you think I’ll make a soldier? Soldiers of the cross.
Look where He’s brought me from, Oh, look where He’s brought me from. He brought me out of darkness and I’m walking in the light, look where he’s brought me from.
Lornabelle Gethers Lornabelle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Books are available at the various websites: Xlibris, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, Google books.com, etc.
Honey Bea’s Everlasting Gift is also available at the Charleston Visitors Center and at the Market Street Bookstore and at the Charleston County Library at the downtown Charleston, SC location and the Mt. Pleasant, SC location.