Help Save Savannah's Black History
After learning that the stories weren’t being collected, particularly in the Chatham County area, I got to work. Then I realized that I couldn't do it alone.
Krak Teet (formerly called We Speak Fuh We) is an anthology: a collection of our elders' struggles, victories, and cultural inheritances (including medicines, recipes, and physical and spiritual survival tips).
"It’s history you don’t want to lose because see, you don’t have too many witnesses to explain it. Most of the witnesses is gone." -Steven Williams, 81 years old
Granddaddy and great-grandma's black-in-the-day stories are crucial puzzle pieces to the history of the city, the state, the country, and the world.
Each edition contains oral histories of African Americans over 80 who are either from Savannah or moved here many decades ago.
[84 years old – East Savannah]
"I caught hell coming up. My mother died when I was four years old. I watched my daddy cut her. My granddaddy had me go out to the woods to get some spiderwebs to stop the bleeding. When I got back, they had don’ carried her to the doctor. That’s where she died. The doctor told my mama’s daddy to have my daddy arrested for murder, but he never did.
My daddy would leave for days and weeks at a time, leaving me and my little sister by ourselves. I remember tryna fry some fish one time and I dropped the pot and burned her. But sometimes we wouldn’t have nothing but some sourgrass to eat.
My granddaddy on my daddy’s side had 1700 acres of land that he bought after slavery. They had them lil houses kind of all around, and there was a big house. You could tell it was plantation, but anyway, he owned a sto’ too. And instead of paying me, he figured he’d get the work out of me for free. That’s why I left. I didn’t go for it. I let my sister go for it. One day, I told my sister to tell my grandfather to lend me $10. And you know, he gave it to me. When he woke up that Monday morning, I was gone…"
Updated Release Date: Fall 2018
$25 up = an autographed copy (signed by editors, writers, and artists)
$100 up = an autographed copy + website/social media acknowledgement
$500 up = an autographed copy + website/social media acknowledgement + personal invitation to the release party
$1,000 up = everything above + acknowledgement in the book
$10,000 up = everything above + you can write the foreword
[80 years old – East Savannah]
"I went to a few marches, but my mama wasn’t too happy about it. She would say, “You’re not going and that’s it!” When she said be in, you had to be in. They were really afraid back then, you know? The Ku Klux Klan have come in our neighborhood, down West 34th street, by where the House of Prayer was, by West Broad. I can remember them having a cross and walking with it. It was something else, you know?
We had two hospitals here in Savannah for blacks. It was Charity Hospital and Georgia Infirmary, which was where the Senior Citizens building is now on Bull Street. That’s where my mama worked as a nurse for many years…"
Interrogating our histories and writing our own stories is yet another way that we resist racism, oppression, and half-truths.
It's also how we instill a sense of pride and identity in future generations while also preserving a language and way of life.
With your help, we can make sure Savannah's Black history and culture is recorded and shared in its most wholesome form for generations to come.
Who I Am
I’m Trelani, mama of So Fundamental , which I started in 2012 to help people write their stories. I create safe spaces–online and in person–for teens and grown folk to explore and express their thoughts and ideas through writing.
I’ve worked with various organizations including Savannah State University, The Deep Center, Jepson Center for Arts, The City of Savannah, The Life Design Agency, and The Black Women’s Life Balance and Wellness Institute, assisting over 1,500 people in writing and showcasing their stories.
I graduated from Savannah State in 2012 with a degree in Political Science then SCAD in 2016 with a Master's in Writing. In addition to teaching the art of storytelling, I've published five books and ghostwrote a few more.
Now I want to use my experiences to give back by leading a project that explores Savannah's roots and culture, while financially supporting its writers and artists.
Only for ten weeks though, and I'll be back with even more skills under my belt. I earned the fellowship up in D.C. at the Library of Congress that I'd been hoping, wishing, and praying for.
Here's the congratulatory statement from the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor:
"Congratulations to Savannah writer and community historian, Trelani Michelle Duncan on winning a 2018 Peter Bartis internship with our research partners at the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center. Trelani is an original member of our Gullah Geechee Research Consortium and a dedicated volunteer with our Freedom's Eve | Watch Night and the Emancipation Proclamation initiative.
We were thrilled to bring news of the Bartis internship program to our GGRC members because of its emphasis on working to give community members the chance to build professional experience in the domains of archival and programs-related work -- and with a stipend for living expenses in Washington. Trelani's community work involves recording elders' memories and facilitating writing workshops for Savannah high school students.
In summer 2018, the AFC at the Library of Congress will host its first two paid interns as part of a program established through a generous gift from the late AFC staff member Peter Bartis (1949 – 2017). These positions will introduce interns to the research collections at the AFC and the Library; help develop critical skills related to documentation, archival practice, and cultural heritage research and programs; build knowledge about the fields of folklore, ethnomusicology and oral history; and offer mentorship opportunities with senior folklorists and ethnomusicologists."
#2: Just returned from an amazing conference in Durham called Black Communities. Learned a lot more on accessing and recording black history, and I've already pulled my sleeves up and put it to work with this Krak Teet.
#3: I've partnered with The Penn Center on St. Helena Island to interview their former students, who are now elders, and it's being filmed! Hella exciting!
#4: I started an Instagram page. Follow: @KrakTeet
#5: I applied for a few fellowships to learn how to turn these interviews into professional podcasts. Cross your fingers and make a wish at 11:11 that I get the one I really want.
#6: Please consider becoming a patron! I started a Patreon account so that you can contribute on a monthly basis. Whatever amount you set it for, even if it's one dollar, bless you and thank you.
Here's the link: https://www.patreon.com/trelani
At the funeral, his former classmates of Haven Home Industrial School were asked to stand. Seeing those 12 or so men and women so proudly raise to their feet and share a peek into their story confirmed for me that my work wasn't finished. There are more narratives and perspectives to preserve.
I'd already gotten the nudge to interview more people before that particular moment, but I was hesitant. "I'll just start a second edition." I didn't want to extend my deadline and disappoint y'all (or myself) and blah blah blah, but Spirit (and the people) told me otherwise.
Today was yet another nudging. Through my teaching with the Deep Center, I was blessed with the opportunity to meet Queen Quet of the Gullah Geechee Nation (Google her if you aren't familiar and be prepared to have your mind blown).
Her response to We Speak Fuh We: Here's my info. Call me tomorrow.
Of course, there's no way I can capture them all. It's impossible. But there are at least seven more elders in the meantime that I gotta gotta get--one of which is former mayor Otis Johnson.
The original February 2018 release date for the book is now pushed back to this Fall.
I'm still working, still checking in with ALL of the elders, still connecting and networking, researching, and writing.
Please continue to support this project. Share it with those around you, and, of course, donate. We're almost to the finish line!
P.S.: If you'd like to read the first 60 pages, let me know and I'll gladly email you a copy. I promise you'll love it.
Love and light,