North Carolina Rice Festival Comes to Leland

TeCora Galloway

The 2022 North Carolina Rice Festival was an experience I will never forget!  This is history, heritage and education all rolled up into one event.

The purpose of the rice festival is to educate people about the rich culture that is Gullah Geechee, and I witnessed pure curiosity amongst the people that showed up to the festival Saturday. One woman was confused as to why rice wasn’t being sold at the festival, and it was a beautiful opportunity to educate someone on the history of our land.

The Festival started with a dinner on March 4th where we were introduced to Ron and Natalie Daise, the stars of “Gullah, Gullah Island, which was on Nickelodeon from 1994 to 1998.  The series is based  on the Gullah-Geechee people and their culture and was filmed in the Lowcountry of the South Carolina Sea Island.      I grew up watching “Gullah, Gullah Island,” so it was a treat to meet figures from my childhood.

Speaking with County Commissioner, Frank Williams, he commented, “It’s always good to see anything that remembers our history. Brunswick County is a great place, and anything that brings more people here is a good thing.”

You can’t talk about the North Carolina Rice festival without mentioning the artists who attended.   There was a lot of Gullah Geechee cultural art  like basket weavers.  Basket weaving is a big part of Gullah Geechee heritage, and there were at least three basket weaving booths there!  Actually, watching a basket being made was amazing.  The work was intricate and delicate at the same time.

As George Beatty Jr, Chairman of the North Carolina Rice Festival Board of Directors mentioned in the past, the North Carolina Rice Festival is  also about reconnecting African Americans in this region with their culture and history.  DNA test kits were available and when processed will be matched with the largest DNA database of African tribal groups from different regions of Africa so people will really understand their heritage.

An overarching theme of celebration  was that African American slaves came from the west coast of Africa and many of the traditions and culture we have practiced through generations, mirrors that which was practiced by  those West African people.   Being exposed to ring shouters, Gullah Geechee storytellers, and basket weavers was all a reminder that our culture was not lost in slave trade, and African Americans  have rich history to be proud of.

George Beatty speaks to the crowd

Overall, it was a great turnout, and according to the NC Rice Festival website, we can all look forward to another Rice Festival next year, March 3-4 2023!

Come and learn.  Come and sing.  Come and enjoy!