Penn Center Conversation October 21 explores Gullah Geechee impact on Black artistic expression

“Remembering Pasts, Contemplating the Present, and Envisioning Futures: Gullah Geechee Cultures and Black Creativity” will take place at 3 p.m. October 21, 2023 in the Frissell Community House at Penn Center, 16 Penn Center Circle, West, Saint Helena Island, S.C. This Penn Center Conversation explore the impact that Gullah and Geechee cultures have on various contemporary forms of Black artistic expression. Panelists will be invited to consider how their engagement with Gullah Geechee culture and history uniquely enables them to speak to audiences today. The conversation will highlight the liberating and catalyzing role that Gullah Geechee cultures continue to play in the Black creative imagination more broadly. Nicole M. Morris Johnson, Ph.D. will interview Chanon JudsonTina McElroy AnsaKathy J. Brown, Ph.D., and Dianne McIntyre.

Judson, choreographer and artistic director of Urban Bush Women, conceived, directed, choreographed, and is currently touring Haint Blu, a “site responsive” show informed by Gullah culture. Facilitator of an annual Sea Island Writers Retreat on Sapelo Island, novelist Tina McElroy Ansa is deeply aware of the creative implications that Gullah and Geechee cultures hold for African American literature broadly, as is evinced in her own writing. Kathy J. Brown is the 2023 Carter Community Artist and Assistant Professor of Art Education at the University of North Texas College of Visual Art and Design. In both her own artistic practice and in her research and teaching, Professor Brown engages Gullah and Geechee cultures as key sites of visuality in African American art. A legendary dancer and choreographer for stage and film (credits include Beloved), Dianne McIntyre’s formative, movement-defining research in the Sea Islands has had a lasting impact on her work. This impact shows up in her work referencing Gullah culture directly (In Living Color: A Gullah Story) and indirectly.

This event is a program of Culture and Community at the Penn Center National Historic Landmark District, a partnership between South Carolina’s Penn Center and the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at UGA, supported by the Mellon Foundation. Please contact Angela Dore, the partnership’s research coordinator, at with any questions about travel or accommodations for the event.