Award-winning photojournalist Pete Marovich's candid photo of Eddie Grant in his mother's collard green garden on Hilton Head Island clearly illustrates the culture clash between the Gullah Native Islanders, and some of their new neighbors transplanted from around the globe.
The Pan-African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network, Inc.'s mission is both simple and complex in its scope. Our main goal is to simply empower people of African descent with the educational and organizational tools, and the financial resources necessary to protect their ancestral homes and family-owned land from being lost through delinquent tax sales; dishonest land surveys; encroachment by developers and neighboring landowners; forced sales of heirs property; forged deeds; and the unfair use of tax collection laws, etc. By doing so, we'll also help to empower them to avoid becoming homeless, or displaced from their property by gentrification, development of new communities, and skyrocketing property taxes.
With control over the roofs above their heads and the land under their feet, they'll be in a more stable position to concentrate on complex key quality of life issues, including enhanced educational, employment, and economic development opportunities that will break the cycle of generational poverty, and learned dependence on charity, public assistance and foreign aid.
As our organization grows and evolves, we’ll network with other organizations that share our goals and vision, and create a durable funding source for our programs. Please visit our GoFundMe page for more information about how you can help eliminate the loss of GullahGeechee ancestral land.
Among other things, the Pan-African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network, Inc. is a non-profit organization that advocates for the preservation of homes and land historically owned by the culturally-unique Gullah and Geechee peoples of the United States of America.
Our initial target area is defined by the U.S. Park Service’s Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which stretches from Wilmington, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida. But as our resources grow, so will our outreach to other areas in need of assistance.
Our organization was founded in 2013 by former journalist and congressional aide Theresa White, with a two-fold purpose: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, and commemorating the dynamic May 1992 North American Pan-African Congress held in Savannah, Georgia. The North American Pan-African Congress was convened just blocks away from where untold thousands of captured Africans were herded from slave ships docked on the Savannah River–then sold to the biggest bidder beneath the elegant iron balconies of Factor’s Walk.
Today the site of that open air cotton and slave market is adjacent to the historic port city’s internationally-famous River Street tourist attractions, and a monument behind Savannah’s City Hall depicting formerly enslaved Africans emerging from their chains.
Rev. Dr. Ja A. Jahannes, who convened the 1992 North American Pan-African Congress in Savannah as Chairman of the Pan-African Movement USA, was the first International Vice Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Pan-African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network, Inc.
Jahannes was a devoted protege' of the legendary late Pan-African leader Dr. John Henrik Clarke. Clarke, renowned for his encyclopedic knowledge of African history and culture, was a noted educator, author and sought after speaker throughout the African world. Although then both blind and wheelchair bound, Clarke was the keynote speaker, and guru of the 1992 North American Pan-African Congress.
Since May 2015, the PAFEN has helped to save, or single-handedly rescue Gullah Geechee -owned homes and ancestral land in South Carolina's Beaufort, Colleton, Georgetown, and Horry counties valued at more than $5-million, according to tax records of the respective counties. This was accomplished through partial or full direct tax payments to county treasurers, and critical technical assistance from our former Advisory Board Member Atty. Hugh K. Davis, who once served as the Managing Attorney for the South Carolina Legal Services satellite office in Beaufort, SC. During the first seven weeks of 2018, we racked up a record-setting $1.6-million in property tax payments, and redemptions of beloved properties that had already been auctioned for unpaid delinquent taxes.
Under the banner of our "Help Save Gullah-Geechee Land Campaign," we also helped to block the sale of the largest tract of undeveloped Gullah-owned land on Hilton Head Island--at a price that was far below its actual market value. The Heirs of Dennis and Emma Allen property was for sale on the lucrative HHI market for $18-million. And our Founder and CEO Theresa White sought assistance from the S.C. Chapter of the National Action Network to help Gullah landowners on HHI fight against more than 30-years of obstacles to the use of their land for economic development and additional housing, which is being posed by the Town of Hilton Head Island's infamous Land Management Ordinance.
White also briefed S.C. NAN President Elder James Johnson on how to get county legislation passed in Charleston and Berkeley counties that will allow taxpayers of all races to participate in the Installment Payment Program, which allows real property taxes to be prepaid in 6 payments spread over a 12-month period.
Our First Annual STAND4LAND TAXPAYER EMPOWERMENT WORKSHOP which was hosted by St. John's Lutheran Church on July 29, 2017. It brought together experts from non-profits and government agencies, and elected officials for a 7-hour, free combined community education/public service workshop to inform Gullah-Geechee, and other South Carolina taxpayers about various resources available to empower them to sustain long-term ownership of their homes and land. Topics covered during the event included reducing or eliminating property taxes; sources of financing for new homes, farms, and businesses; assistance with mortgage foreclosures; how to clear the title to heirs' property; and federal programs that pay families to use their land for forestry and conservation projects that can help to both pay property taxes--and create generational wealth.
Many families have also been helped by our literature distributions, and our referrals to dynamic non-profits and government agencies such as the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce; the Center for Heirs' Property Preservation; S.C. Legal Services; the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development,and/or Natural Resources Conservation Service; the S.C. Forestry Commission; and S.C. Help.
We're also extremely proud to have kept Gullah families in the Plantersville Community of Georgetown, SC from losing over $500,000 worth of property that they've owned since the 1860s--over an annual $250 sewerline assessment fee that many senior citizens and low-income households couldn't afford to pay. White and PAFEN Assistant Executive Vice Chair Somali Prince Dr. Mohamed H. Mukhtar spear-headed the Plantersville Gullah land preservation project in 2017. As a result, the Plantersville Community Center will become the site of PAFEN's first STAND4LAND TAXPAYER EMPOWERMENT INFORMATION KIOSK on April 26, 2018.
Another PAFEN first took place on Jan. 31, 2018, when we saved the first piece of Gullah-Geechee property owned by a family who resides in neighboring Georgia. The Hilton Head Island property owned by amputee Nancy Christopher Taylor-Johnson, then 80, has been in her family since the 1800s. Taylor-Johnson, who served as the Secretary of Beulah Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah, GA from 1952 to 2017, has made her home in the historic port city since she was a high school student.
In addition, in early 2016, we collected more than 10 boxes of donations to send to ebola weary Liberia, West Africa, in support of the "SENDING HUMANITARIAN EDUCATION ABROAD" project initiated by international
students at historic Savannah State University, in Savannah,GA.
Although the PAFEN is located in the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, our reach is global through our board of directors, advisers, honorary board members, and general members who hail from across the
U.S., Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, Africa, and the rest of the far-flung African Diaspora.
We make every effort to connect with and empower all known branches of our African family tree.
And as a Pan-African-oriented organization, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that both the treatment, and fates of African peoples are inseparable from building a free, strong, united, and financially secure Africa.
But those goals will be most easily achieved through collective, strategic customized programs embraced by local communities in Africa, the United States, and the entire African Diaspora.
These are the top seven elements of our global vision:
1. We envision African communities with strong, healthy, happy families in their own homes–with multiple generations–living and working together for the highest and best good of their blood relatives, extended family, and the larger community.
2. We envision communities in which our children will be well-educated; well-behaved; respectful of each other and their elders; embrace their rich, diverse African culture; and grateful to our Creator for the love, wisdom, and support of the ancestors on whose shoulders we all stand.
3. Key to our vision is working to create a close-knit, global African community of interest designed to uplift, protect, and ensure the continued survival of our people through networking to forge durable international partnerships, collaborations, internships, scholar and worker exchange programs, and international trade opportunities for both present and future generations.
4. We envision the use of targeted, multi-media, online programming to help reclaim, re-educate, and build high self-esteem in our young people, while teaching them their proper roles within our families, communities, and the world at large.
A major part of that programming will emphasize the importance of marriage before having children.
Also spotlighted will be the value of Black fathers; the long overdue necessity of returning Black women and Black motherhood to the pedestal they deserve; and conflict resolution without violence.
5. We envision safe communities where our children can grow, thrive, and prosper–free of racial and social discrimination; police brutality and racial profiling; sexual and other harassment; and sudden death through violent means–especially Black on Black gun violence, gang and drug related murders, unjustified law enforcement killings, ethnic cleansing, and civil and tribal wars.
6. The global daily use of the Nguzo Saba or the Seven Principles of the Pan-African family/cultural celebration Kwanzaa, which was created by noted Pan-African scholar and educator Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. Kwanzaa means “first fruits” in the East African trade language Kiswahili. It’s celebrated by more than 20-million people of African descent annually from Dec. 26th to Jan. 1st.
Those ancient African principles for daily living are based on African harvest celebrations: Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Collective Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); and Imani (Faith).
7. And finally, we envision the long-hoped for rebuilding of Africa, and the harnessing of its vast natural resources to create wealth–and a secure homeland–for its own peoples at home, and throughout the African Diaspora.
We also look forward to the end of negative relationships caused by the aftermath of both brutal, dehumanizing slavery, and the crippling former colonization of Africa.
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