Ade Ofunniyin, PhD is the Founder/CEO of Gullah Society. He was born on the Eastside of Charleston, South Carolina and grew up in Harlem, New York, where he developed his interest in African history and culture, theatre, art, and historic preservation. He is the grandson of the legendary Charleston Blacksmith Philip Simmons.
Dr. Ofunniyin is a Cultural Anthropologist engaged in activist anthropology and transformational theatre. He states, “my performing and working in theatre groups and on projects within my Harlem community changed my life and gave me opportunities to think outside of the box of my limited life experiences. It is my hope that theatre, art, and community engagement, focused on cultural enrichment, economic empowerment, and management of our cultural resources will provide similar kinds of experiences for members of our community.”
While Gullah Geechee culture continues to be a curiosity to tourists and visitors, representations of Gullah Geechee culture remains tainted and misunderstood because of insufficient research and continued use of old negative stereotypes. The formative and intellectual intention of Gullah Society is to transcend the existing paradigms and define what is real in our communities and lives.
Gullah Society is a tax-exempt non-profit organization (501c3) created to provide meaningful representations of Gullah Geechee culture to the public. Gullah Society will preserve, promote, and perpetuate Gullah Geechee culture and traditions in the United States and the diaspora. We will utilize scholarly research, literary, visual and performance arts, cultural crafts and the works of skilled artisans to inform, connect, and empower Gullah Geechee communities and the public.
Gullah Society was established to enhance and facilitate the mandate of the Gullah Geechee Corridor Commission and the Gullah Geechee community at large. We seek to demonstrate, display, and discuss the broad range of practices and principles that emerged as a result of the diverse African origins of Gullah Geechee people, the intense interaction among people from different language groups, and generations of isolation in settings where enslaved Africans and their descendants were the majority population.
Gullah Society will highlight the historical and cultural development of Gullah Geechee people and the contributions made by enslaved Africans and their descendants to the fabric of life in America. Our approach to examining Gullah Geechee culture is polymorphic, as we understand that Gullah Geechee communities are multidimensional and dynamic. Each community is different and brings its unique qualities to the tapestry.
We are committed to developing people with the capacity to facilitate and manage the cultural resources associated with Gullah Geechee history and traditions. Gullah Society intends to be the “coordinating entity to inventory, collect, document, and archive cultural and historic resources.” We will assist in “restoring, rehabilitating, and maintaining structures, sites, historic districts, and cultural landscapes.” Furthermore, we will assist in developing training modules that will provide Gullah Geechee people with skills in “identifying and preserving sites, historical data, artifacts, and objects associated with Gullah Geechee people and culture for the benefit and education of the public.” We are particularly committed to issues around land use, especially “lack of access to traditional areas, recreation sites, seafood harvesting access areas, burial grounds, and religious sites.”