Assessing the health impacts of increased urban sprawl due to water contamination

COMMUNITY LEAD

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st.helenasc

Beaufort County, South Carolina

St. Helena Island in Beaufort County, SC is a rural Sea Island with a predominantly Gullah/Geechee population that is still reliant upon the waters that surround the island for subsistence. The Gullah/Geechee people are a unique national ethnic group that lives along the Intercoastal Waterway of the southeast. Ascertaining the water quality in our communities is an urgent priority. Many Gullah/Geechee households depend on fish, shellfish, and other coastal resources for their livelihoods, through small-scale commercial endeavors and through direct consumption of these resources (Ellis, 2013). Research suggests that rates of Gullah/Geechee local fish consumption potentially expose this segment of the population to higher levels of the neurotoxin methylmercury (MeHg) (Kamen et al. 2012, Ellis, 2013, Ellis et al. 2014). This project will provide Gullah/Geechee people with essential information to avoid exposure to harmful toxins, capture the local environmental knowledge of the Gullah/Geechee people, and ensure the continuity of their sustainable livelihood practices.

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Sunset near Kiawah Island, SC on the marsh.

The Challenge

Gullah/Geechee livelihood practices under threat

The economies and cultures that rely upon healthy coastal waters are being threatened by growing levels of pollution coming from the effects of particular forms of development and the increase in impermeable surfaces that allow pollutants to run off into the sea.

The Goal

A return to sustainable, safe livlihood practices

Ascertaining the water quality in our communities is an urgent priority. Many Gullah/Geechee households depend on fish, shellfish, and other coastal resources for their livelihoods, through small-scale commercial endeavors and through direct consumption of these resources (Ellis, 2013). Research suggests that rates of Gullah/Geechee local fish consumption potentially expose this segment of the population to higher levels of the neurotoxin methylmercury (MeHg) (Kamen et al. 2012, Ellis, 2013, Ellis et al. 2014). This project will provide Gullah/Geechee people with essential information to avoid exposure to harmful toxins, capture the local environmental knowledge of the Gullah/Geechee people, and ensure the continuity of their sustainable livelihood practices.

This is an ongoing project.

Project Team

Queen Quet

Community Lead

Queen Quet was selected, elected, and enstooled by her people to be the first Queen Mother, "head pun de bodee," an official spokesperson for the Gullah/Geechee Nation. As a result, she is respectfully referred to as "Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation."

Queen Quet is a published author, computer scientist, lecturer, mathematician, historian, columnist, preservationist, environmental justice advocate, environmentalist, film consultant, and "The Art-ivist." She is the founder of the premier advocacy organization for the continuation of Gullah/Geechee culture, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition. In 2008, she was recorded at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, at a United Nations Conference to have the human rightsstory of the Gullah/Geechee people archived for the United Nations. In 2009, Queen Quet was invited by the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations to present before the newly founded "Minority Forum" as a representative of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and the International Human Rights Association for American Minorities (IHRAAM). Queen Quet is a directorate member for IHRAAM and the International Commission on Human Rights. She represented these bodies and the Gullah/ Geechee Nation at the "United Nations Forum on Minority Rights." She also represented IHRAAM and the Gullah/Geechee Nation at the UN's Conference of Parties 22 (COP22) in Morocco. She returned to the UN for the Oceans Conference in 2017, and in 2018 she represented her people at the Global Climate Action Summit.

Queen Quet is committed to advancing the idea of keeping the Gullah/Geechee culture alive.

Under the leadership of Queen Quet, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition worked with US Congressman James Clyburn to ensure that the United States Congress would work to assist the Gullah/Geechees. As a result, in 2006, the "Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act" was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by the president.

Queen Quet was vetted with the US White House as an Expert Commissioner in the Department of the Interior. As an expert commissioner,she was also the Chair of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor General Management Plan. Queen Quet also served as a member of the "National Park Relevancy Committee" and proudly continues to work to protect the environment and ensure that diverse groups of people engage in the outdoors and the policies governing them. Queen Quet has participated in several White House conferences on this issue. She has also been a part of the United Nations COP 22 Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, and COP 25 in Madrid, Spain. She also spoke at the United Nations Ocean Action Summit in Korea.