Help Save Gullah Geechee Land-2018
Grate is a Plantersville native and a minister, who organized his Gullah Geechee relatives and neighbors to fight to save the beloved heirs property their families have owned since the end of the Civil War in the 1860s.
He's working closely with our non-profit (PAFEN) to ensure that Plantersville Gullah Geechee families can redeem their property that's already been sold.
But our ultimate goal is to prevent their ancestral homes and land from ever being auctioned again.
By Theresa White, Founder & CEO
The Pan-African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network, Inc. (PAFEN)
Disabled retiree Lillian Milton wasn't the first Gullah Geechee resident of Plantersville, SC to lose property through a Georgetown County Delinquent Tax Sale for not paying the controversial $250 annual assessment fee for a sewer line that she doesn't want--and has never connected to.
But she's the first person known to have suffered a stress-related heart attack over it, according to a widely-read BBC Magazine story published on Dec. 5, 2016.
"I am retired and I have already lost my house once to the tax sale because of this assessment," Milton told a Georgetown Times reporter in March 2016. " . . . somebody needs to step in and help us before we all lose our homes."
Our PAFEN Board of Directors heard the Plantersville Gullah Geechee community's call for help.
So, we've been quietly working behind the scenes to lend both technical, and financial assistance in coming weeks.
We also spread the word about the growing threat of Plantersville land loss around the globe via our Facebook Page, using both the BBC story, and a special Atlanta Black Star video website posted on its website on Dec. 9, 2017.
VIEW THE BBC MAGAZINE STORY & VIDEO HERE:
SEE THE ATLANTA BLACK STAR STORY HERE:
READ THE DETAILED HISTORY ABOUT HOW THE GULLAH GEECHEES IN PLANTERSVILLE GOT INVOLVED IN THE $250 SEWER ASSESSMENT PROPERTY TAX TRAP, IN THIS GEORGETOWN TIMES/SOUTH STRAND NEWS INVESTIGATION PIECE HERE:
Our non-profit Pan-African Family Empowerment and Land Preservation Network--which has helped to save more than $2-million worth of Gullah Geechee-owned land in S.C. since May 2015--is willing to go to the mat to help the Plantersville Gullah Geechee community.
But we need the financial support of our loyal gofundme donors, and the general public to redeem already sold properties; pay taxes to avoid delinquent tax sales; and launch a Gullah Geechee Land Legal Defense Fund.
Since January 2017, we've been working with Plantersville community activist/leader, Rev. Ben Grate, to develop both short-term and long-term strategies for saving the property of the land rich, but cash poor Gullah Geechee families whose land is in the crosshairs of real estate developers with deep pockets.
We're trying to raise a minimum of $500,000 to make that happen--while continuing our various assistance programs for Gullah Geechees, and other people of African descent.
FUNDS NEEDED TO HELP GULLAH-GEECHEE LANDOWNERS AVOID HOMELESSNESS & DISPLACEMENT
If they lose the land they own now--they face a very depressing future:
*Either they'll become homeless.
*Or they'll remain permanently displaced because they'll never be able to earn enough money to replace the beautiful land--some valuable waterfront property-- that's been passed down to them by their ancestors
PLEASE MAKE AN IMMEDIATE TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION TO OUR HELP SAVE GULLAH GEECHEE LAND CAMPAIGN to support our much-needed financial and technical assistance to families in crisis!!!!
Beaufort, SC resident Michelle Lewis received $5,523.00 to save her lifelong home, which was sold at the 2014 Beaufort County Delinquent Tax Sale.
Alfornes "Alfonso" Brown of the Grays Hill Community received $702. 78 to pay the taxes on his mobile home current through 2016. His check was presented by "Sway of the Siren" author Laurie K. McCall, a loyal PAFEN donor.
Among other tax payments totaling more than $1,800, Grays Hill resident Shatwanna Fields received $806.22 to redeem her mobile home lot sold at the 2016 Beaufort County Delinquent Tax Sale. Her check above was presented by PAFEN First Vice Chair Stephen A. McHayle, a native of Jamaica.
Burton resident Michelle Haygood received $2,399.47 to redeem a home and land she co-owns with her father, Willie. The property was sold at the 2014 Beaufort County Delinquent Tax Sale. Her check was presented by PAFEN Founder & CEO Theresa White.
CONTINUING BATTLE FOR BLACK-OWNED LAND
Gullah Geechees and other Black-Americans have been, and are still being cheated out of their land far more often than most Americans realize.
In 2006, the Associated Press published the findings of its 18-month investigation which revealed a pattern of African-Americans being cheated out of their land, or run off it through methods, including intimidation, trickery, forged deeds, violence, arson, and outright murder--in 107 documented land takings in 13 southern and border states.
Crooked judges and law enforcement officials were involved in several of the cases uncovered by the AP.
In 2012, the Geechee people of Sapelo Island, GA had to fight off a McIntosh County tax reassessment that resulted in more than 500% tax increases for almost all of the Hog Hammock community's less than 50 families.
Incredibly, Annie Watts, 73, saw the tax bill for her three-room, 1-acre Sapelo Island homestead rise from just $362 to $2,312, according to The New York Times.
Currently, we're working with Hilton Head Island's Native Islander Gullah Community; the S.C. Chapter of the National Action Network; and the new HHI Chapter of NAN to get land use restrictions loosened that keep Gullah Geechees from subdividing their land among relatives, and using it for economic development.
The graphic video below--which is narrated by Gullah businessman Taiwan Scott--shows how Town of Hilton Head Island officials have been neglecting the needs of Native Islander Gullah taxpayers since the town was incorporated in 1983.
And here's some of the media coverage about PAFEN's work with Hilton Head Island's Native Islander Gullah Community:
RENTERS FACE DISPLACEMENT, TOO
Gullah-Geechee renters are also facing displacement, and the difficult search for new affordable housing in record numbers due to gentrification in cities including Savannah, GA , and Charleston, SC.
In Charleston, according to a Dec. 23, 2014 article in the Black-owned newspaper, The Charleston Chronicle, the city's Black popuation was plummeted from 70% to just 28% since 1980!
THE PAN-AFRICAN FAMILY EMPOWERMENT NETWORK'S MISSION
One of the PAFEN's main goals is empowering people of African descent with the educational, organizational, and financial tools necessary to protect their ancestral homes, family-owned land, and farms from being lost through delinquent tax sales; gentrification; new developments and resorts; and skyrocketing property taxes.
We also aim to ensure that African peoples understand that land and home ownership are key to building wealth to pass from one generation to the next, as well as important stepping stones to breaking the cycle of generational poverty.
CULTURAL HERITAGE CORRIDOR
The Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor was established by Congress in 2006 through the tireless efforts of Gullah-Geechee leaders like Marquetta "Queen Quet" Goodwine of St. Helena Island, SC.
Powerful back-up and legislative leadership was provided by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the first African-American elected to Congress from South Carolina since Reconstruction. He's currently the third highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. House.
The Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is marked by distinctive roadsigns from Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, FL.
It seeks to preserve and protect the culturally-unique Gullah-Geechee people, whose blended West African, Native-American, and European culture features some of the purest traditional African cultural retentions in the New World.
"Unless something is done to halt the destruction, Gullah Geechee culture will be relegated to museums and history books, and our nation's unique cultural mosaic will lose one of its richest and most colorful pieces," observes the National Trust for Historic Preservation website.
Because many of their families live on valuable waterfront property on beautiful sea islands stretching from North Carolina to Florida, untold numbers of Gullah-Geechee people are being forced to sell land their families have owned for generations due to skyrocketing taxes.
LANDOWNERS NEED TRANSITIONAL FUNDS
Fortunately, here in Beaufort County, SC the Beaufort County Council has made it possible for all taxpayers to pay their property taxes in six equal installments--rather than one often hard to obtain lump sum payment.
The problem is that taxpayers have to be current on their tax bills by Jan. 15--in order to start making the estimated installment payments on the next year's taxes by February 15.
Gullah-Geechee families have tried to raise funds to pay their taxes by many methods, including fish frys; bake sales; raffles; yard sales; timber harvesting; payday and finance company loans; and the online sale of products like the Sapelo Island Geechee Red Peas Project.
But they still need help from other sources.
$500,000 GOAL IS JUST THE BEGINNING
Our long-term goal is to raise $5-million to assist Gullah-Geechee families with buying back property that was sold at delinquent tax sales before the "one year and a day" redemption deadline; providing training on various aspects of lowering property taxes and making property pay for itself; and giving one-time tax payment grants to allow families to make the transition to installment tax payments.
Any donation that you can make will be greatly appreciated, and publicly acknowledged on the Pan-African Family Empowerment Network website--unless you request to remain anonymous.
Please give as generously as possible. No donation is too small, or too large:)
We're a 501c3 tax-exempt organization, and will issue receipts that can be used for tax-deductions.
Thanks in advance for your much-needed support!
Theresa White, Founder & CEO
The Pan-African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network, Inc.
St. Helena Island, SC
Disabled Sheldon, SC resident Harry Singleton didn't have $250 to pay his share of the property taxes due on the heirs' property formerly owned by his late grandfather. Plantersville Community senior citizen Doretha Bromell's mobile home had been sold at the 2017 Georgetown County Delinquent Tax Sale. She needed $864.36 to redeem it.
And Hilton Head Island widow Jackie Chisolm Wright was stressed about coming up with $6,352.14 to redeem the comfortable home she'd co-owned with her late husband Stanley. But she got an unexpected blessing that saved her family's house and land.
RECORD-SETTING YEAR ALREADY
Taylor-Johnson, Singleton, Bromell, and Wright are just 4 of the 25 families that the Pan-African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network has saved property for since Jan. 10, 2018.
Thanks to the end of the year generosity of donors like you--including Kristin Wedam, Laurie McCall, Candice Adewole, Pamela Kinney, Nancy LeMaster, and two beloved angel donors who want to remain anonymous--the PAFEN has spent $25, 533.88 to prevent the loss of Gullah-Geechee land valued at a record-breaking $1,633.800!!!
While the PAFEN gets the credit for saving Gullah-Geechee homes and land at risk of being lost due to unpaid taxes, the real heroes and heroines of this success story are our compassionate, and generous donors.
So, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making our life-altering work possible!
Your gifts to the PAFEN's "Help Save Gullah-Geechee Land" campaign are truly making a difference in the lives of the families, who no longer have to worry about becoming either homeless, or permanently displaced from their ancestral property.
Almost everyone we've helped is excited about learning new methods of sustaining long-term ownership of their property, rather than selling it under duress because they can't afford to pay the taxes.
Senior citizens are especially interested in learning about property tax exemptions and reductions linked to age, disability, and owner-occupation. As a result, the PAFEN will be conducting several special outreach activities in senior citizen centers this year.
We'll also unveil our first "PAFEN Taxpayer Empowerment Information Kiosk" at the Plantersville Community Center in Georgetown County, SC in March. Each PAFEN kiosk will contain property tax-related forms and applications, as well as useful literature from organizations such as the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Heirs' Property Preservation, and S.C. Legal Services.
Contact info will also be provided for USDA programs that generate income to pay property taxes; start or expand farms; and repair or purchase new homes.
Your financial and moral support has made all of this possible. And the impact will be felt for generations to come.
But our work is still not done. More families are contacting, or are being referred to us for help weekly.
Currently, we're trying to raise another $14,000 to help new families who've requested assistance after hearing about how we've helped others.
If possible, please make a tax deductible contribution to our "Help Save Gullah-Geechee Land" campaign by no later than Friday, March 3rd at 5 p.m. ET.
Your options for donating include using this gofundme link; mailing a check to PAFEN at P. O. Box 706, St. Helena Island, SC 29920; or online via our website: https://panafricanfamilyempowermentnetwork,org.
As always, your donations of any size will be much-appreciated and used wisely.
Thanks in advance for your loyal support.
Peace and Blessings,
That's the assessed value of Gullah-Geechee-owned property in South Carolina that the Pan-African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network saved from being lost through delinquent tax sales in 2017.
Here's the breakdown by county:
BEAUFORT COUNTY: $19, 852.73 spent--Property valued at $443,600 saved.
COLLETON COUNTY: $837.15 spent--Property valued at $318,400 saved.
GEORGETOWN COUNTY (ALL IN PLANTERSVILLE COMMUNITY): $13,147.21 spent--Property valued at $234,500 saved.
HORRY COUNTY: $4,112.97 spent--Property valued at $48,600 saved.
We're deeply grateful to all our gofundme, and other donors to PAFEN's "Help Save Gullah-Geechee Land" campaign, for both your financial and moral support. We couldn't have done it without you. You're the real heroes, and heroines of this success story!
Needless to say, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge that our largest redemptions/tax payments of the year--$11,001.92 for two Gullah families on Hilton Head Island--were made possible by the generosity of the collective $11,200 donation of the 100+ Women Who Care Hilton Head Island. It's the largest single donation we've ever received! (See attached photo.)
In behalf of the Gullah-Geechee families we helped to spent the holidays without worrying about losing their homes and land--WE ONCE AGAIN THANK ALL OUR DONORS. WE REALLY CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH.
But we still need to come up with about another $22,000 to help the families still on our waiting list immediately.
Unfortunately, some of those families are facing two stressful upcoming deadlines here in Beaufort County: The Jan. 3, 2018 deadline for making redemptions before new late fees and interest are added. And the March 17, 2018 redemption deadline before their 2017 property tax bill is added to the cost of keeping their property from changing ownership to the winning bidder at the 2017 Beaufort County Delinquent Tax Sale.
Karen Wedem and an anonymous donor were the first to respond to our recent year-end appeal to "Help Save Gullah-Geechee Land." We definitely appreciate their critical financial support in this moment.
Although today is the last day of 2017, it's still not too late to make a tax deductible gofundme donation online before midnight (12 p.m. ET), and receive a receipt within 5-minutes.
Or if you choose to, you can donate online via the PAFEN website and check out our new evolving design at: https://panafricanfamilyempowermentnetwork.org.
I look forward to updating you about the "Help Save Gullah-Geechee Land" campaign in 2018.
You all have my prayers for a safe, healthy, prosperous, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
But the miracle that saved her late parents' estate never would've happened without the support of concerned "Help Save Gullah-Geechee Land" donors like Susan Goldstein, Alex MacDonald, Sarah Florini, Georgina Cullman, Christine Crawford, J.D. Horn, and a loyal friend who wants to remain anonymous.
To say that Brandy--who recently lost her job--was happy is an understatement. She was ecstatic. Grateful. And humbled by how blessed she was to finally receive the help she so desperately needed.
So, Brandy truly had something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day!!!
Below you'll find the "thank you" video that Brandy and her friend Eugene Webb created to let you know how much your support is appreciated. And needed by others.
You'll enjoy reading The Georgetown Times story about the Pan-African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network's redemption of Brandy's family property. It was published the Friday after Thanksgiving, and remained one of the most popular stories read online for the entire weekend. It's definitely a heart-warming story. Here's the link:
HISTORIC DONATION AT HISTORIC VENUE
And I have more good news: The 100+ Women Who Care Hilton Head Island presented us with the largest single donation we've ever received on Nov. 30th!!!
The dynamic women's group presented us a collective donation of more than $10,000 (with a few more checks still to come) at the historic site of Mitchelville--America's first self-governing Freedmen's Village.
Mitchelville was created on HHI in 1862 by Union General Ormsby Mitchel, to help prepare the newly freed West Africans--who were not yet U.S. citizens-- to live independently of their former masters.
The 100+WWCHHI donation is earmarked to pay the property taxes of HHI Gullah families, who're descendants of the "First Families" of the freedmen who lived in Mitchelville.
$3-MILLION WORTH OF PROPERTY SAVED
Because of the generosity of our donors, since May 2015, we've been able to save Gullah-Geechee-owned land in Beaufort, Colleton, Georgetown, and Horry counties with an assessed value of just over $3-million!!!
But we're not resting on our laurels. Many more land rich, but cash poor families need both our technical assistance, and financial support to maintain ownership of their property.
Your donations to the "Help Save Gullah-Geechee Land" campaign will always be much appreciated, and well spent.
SUSTAINING LONG-TERM OWNERSHIP
We do far more than just assisting families with paying their delinquent taxes, and redeeming property sold at delinquent tax sales.
We're also working with them to unsure long-term ownership of their property. Among the tools we're using are our partnership with the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce, which provides free budgeting and credit repair classes that prepare our clients to make the transition to paying their taxes through the Beaufort County Installment Payment Program.
We also refer clients to the Center for Heirs' Property Preservation to clear the title to their heirs' property; and I represent the PAFEN on the Town of Hilton Head Island Gullah-Geechee Land & Cultural Preservation Task Force.
Additionally, our first Annual STAND4LAND TAXPAYER EMPOWERMENT WORKSHOP was held on July 29, 2017. Attendance was open to S.C. taxpayers of all races, who wanted to learn about a variety of programs and services available to help them reduce taxes, and use their property to generate income to pay taxes, among other things.
Serving as presenters during the powerful one-day workshop hosted by St. John's Lutheran Church on Lady's Island were: Beaufort County Auditor Jim Beckert; Jasmine Brown, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Heirs' Property Preservation; Steve Patterson, a Forester II for the Center for Heirs' Property Preservation; Larry Holman, President of the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce; Liani Bessinger, an Affordable Care Act Navigator & Counselor with the Black Chamber; Beau J. Sorenson, Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations--Area Two, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service; Elliott Tait; a Staff Attorney for S.C. Legal Services; and Nickie Toomes, Senior Area Specialist, USDA Rural Development.
FAMILIES STILL NEED HELP
During this season of giving, the PAFEN's "Help Save Gullah-Geechee Land" campaign presents a meaningful opportunity for you to help a family in need avoid becoming either homeless, or permanently displaced--and get a 2017 charitable contribution deduction on your federal income taxes.
Our growing waiting list for assistance contains more than 15 families that we need to raise about $22,000 to help before Jan. 3, 2018, when additional late fees and interest will be added to their tax bills.
Please do what you can do help between now, and Dec. 15th, which is the cut-off date for receiving gofundme deposits to our bank account before the end of 2017.
If you choose to make tax deductible donation to help a Gullah-Geechee family after Dec. 15th, there are two options available: You can either mail a check to PAFEN, P. O. Box 706, St. Helena Island, SC 29920, or donate online via our website https://panafricanfamilyempowermentnetwork.org.
Thanks in advance for your much-needed support.
And Happy Holidays to you and your family!!!
All of her grand-parents are deceased. Both of her parents have passed way. And she's an only child who doesn't have either a husband, or children.
Sadly, in exactly 24 days--without your help--she'll lose her beloved childhood home forever. That's when the one-year redemption period for the two-bedroom, one-bath house that she grew up in near Myrtle Beach, SC will expire,
If Brandy can't come up with the entire $4,112.97 by then, Ronald Lamont Davis will become the new owner of the Beaty property. The property has an assessed value of $48,660--$41,560 for the 1-acre of land, and just $7,000 for the house, according to the Horry County Treasurer's Office.
Brandy's father, Roy Beaty, passed away in 1991; and her mom, Lois, died in 2015, leaving a grieving Brandy to try to figure out to make home repairs she couldn't afford.
Feeling overwhelmed by the leaking roof, and foundation issues, Brandy moved in with friends, and lost track of the bills related to her parent's estate.
Several months later, the small, but comfortable home Roy and Lois Beaty purchased for their family in 1985 was sold at the Horry County Delinquent Tax Sale on Dec. 5, 2016.
Unfortunately for their daughter, the Beatys died without a will--which resulted in Horry County Treasurer Crystal Montgomery telling Brandy that she couldn't redeem the property because she wasn't the legal owner of record.
Before Brandy could get a lawyer to straighten out the deed issue ahead of redeeming her family's home and land--she almost got killed in a work-related automobile accident.
Unable to work from October 2016 to August 2017, Brandy, now 37, used up all her savings; racked up $46,000 in medical bills; and still didn't get the deed issue resolved so she could redeem her family's home.
A LUCKY BREAK
During the final weeks of Brandy's recovery from her traumatic auto accident, she stumbled across information about the 2017 STAND4LAND Taxpayer Empowerment Workshop, which the Pan-African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network held on July 29th at St. John's Lutheran Church on Lady's Island.
She wasn't able to attend our workshop, but contacted me later to see if we could help her redeem her property. I said we would.
Below you'll find a candid photo of Brandy's family home, and a video of her talking about why it's precious to her. She's obviously upset about losing the main link she has left to her parents.
Brandy's currently at the top of our waiting list because her redemption period is ending, while the 1-year redemption period for several others on our waiting list has just begun.
SWIFT RESPONSE NEEDED
Because gofundme only deposits donations to our account once a month, timing donations to be made by no later than the 15th of each month is very important.
Otherwise, we won't receive your donations until the final week of the following month (in this case December)--far too late for us to help Brandy save her home.
Whatever you can spare to help us save Brandys family home will be greatly appreciated. Just remember that if you're going to donate via gofundme, your donation must be made by no later than 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 15th.
Two other options for donating to our "Help Save Gullah-Geechee Land" campaign are: Mail a check to: PAFEN, P. O. Box 706, St. Helena Island, SC 29920, or donate online via PAFEN's website at https://panafricanfamilyempowermentnetwork.org. Just go to the bottom of the Donations tab, and use the yellow button there to make a tax deductible donation. You'll receive an online receipt from PayPal within 5 minutes. And we'll get your money within 24-hours.
Your donation--regardless of size--will be both much appreciated, and well spent.
MONEY WELL SPENT
I'm pleased to announce that the PAFEN is on track to reach the $3-million worth of Gullah Geechee property saved milestone for our ambitious "Help Save Gullah Geechee Land" campaign by the end of 2017.
So far this year, we've spent $22,835.17 to save Gullah Geechee-owned homes and land assessed at a whopping $698,600!!!
Of that sum, the largest amount of property was saved in Colleton County--$318,600; the second largest amount was saved in the Plantersville Community of Georgetown County--$234,00; and $145,700 was saved right here in Beaufort County.
FIRST REDEMPTION ON HILTON HEAD
Included in the total spent in for Beaufort County is our first redemption of a Gullah-owned property on Hilton Head Island.
We paid $550.81 to redeem a 1-acre tract of land on Aranda Way off Wiley Road, which turned out to be an easement to some property formerly owned by the late Elliott Mitchell of Hardeeville, SC, his cousin Willie J. Young of Levy, SC, and Atty. William Jenkins of Hilton Head Island.
Beaufort County Delinquent Tax Sale redemptions on HHI have historically been out of our price range because they usually cost several thousand dollars.
But this year, we were fortunate to find a property that we could afford. The historic redemption was paid for primarily with several donations earmarked to help a HHI Gullah family by a handful of our supporters, who're also members of the 100+ Women Who Care Hilton Head Island.
Because Elliott Mitchell died 9 years ago and the tax bill was addressed to his post office box in Hardeeville, it took several weeks to finally track down one of the former owners of the Aranda Way property. it was popular Gullah businessman Willie J. Young, owner of Willie Young's Upholstery & Fabrics, which is located in the historic Gullah Stoney Community of HHI.
Young said he appreciated us redeeming the property. And he promised to find the rightful owner of the easement he and his partners owned before the housing market tanked back in 2008. He believes that the tax bill was incorrectly kept in their names.
Young also stated that the easement may actually belong to the Town of Hilton Head Island, which was planning to pave it several years ago.
There'll be more good news to share in our next update.
I pray that everyone will have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Thanks in advance for your generous support,'
Thank you for your work Theresa (and others).
This is fantastic documentation of who you are and what you are doing. Several of my referrals have made donations but probably did not cite GGG as their source of info about this. Had my own money order prepared but had to convert it to an emergency