St. Helena Island resident Marquetta Goodwine, known by the Gullah/Geechee Nation as Queen Quet, was presented the Living Legacy Award by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History at the 87th annual Black History Month luncheon on Saturday. The awards program, sponsored by Farmers Insurance, was held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Goodwine is one of the 20 recipients of this distinction, all African-American women to reflect this year's Black History Month theme, "Black Women in American History and Culture." There were more than 180 nominations.
In 1996, Goodwine founded the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, an advocacy organization dedicated to the continuation of the Gullah/Geechee history, heritage, culture and language. During that time she was elected by her people as the first Queen Mother of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, and is thus referred to as Queen Quet, chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee nation.
Goodwine is the official spokesperson for the Gullah/Geechee nation, and in 1999 was the first Gullah to speak on behalf of her people before the United Nations in Genevè, Switzerland. Elder Carlie Towne, minister of information of the Gullah/Geechee nation, has traveled to the U.N. with Goodwine, and says Goodwine is an inspiration to the Gullah, both young and old.
"I have never met a person who can do as many things as she can do," Towne said. "Most people would find it too much. But she knows her purpose and she is focused on that purpose. We have been very proud to have her as chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee nation."
Goodwine was videotaping a cultural program at a Gullah/Geechee Nation cultural affair when Towne met her in 1999.
"My first impression was, this is somebody I would like to know even more," Towne said.
Goodwine is also the chairwoman of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor General Management Plan and expert commissioner for South Carolina, a 15-person commission that works in partnership with the National Park Service and the state historic preservation offices of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
As a result of much of Goodwine's work as a historian and preservationist, the "Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act," a bill that would provide $10 million in grant money over the next decade to support and preserve the Gullah/Geechee culture, was passed by Congress and signed into law in 2006.
In 2008, the South Carolina Senate recognized and honored Goodwine with a Senate resolution stating, "the Senate extends its profound gratitude to Queen Quet for her invaluable labors in preserving and perpetuating a vital, fascinating part of the Palmetto State's cultural heritage, and the members wish her much success in all her future endeavors."