tv United Nations 21st Century LINKTV November 17, 2015 2:30am-3:01am PST
♪ music daljit dhaliwal: coming up on 21st century. in the united states descendents of slaves are being crowded off their land. john herman blake: some people have thought, well, i'll build resorts and golf courses, and people started coming to play golf and live on the beach. and it kept growing. daljit dhaliwal: an uncertain future for the gullah geechee peoples.
from the sugar cane plantations in the dominican republic, a story of insecurity. and how changes are building more secure lives. hello and welcome to 21st century. i'm daljit dhaliwal. the legacy of slavery in the united states lives on today in south carolina and georgia. the gullah geechee people, descendents of african slaves, are facing a struggle to hold onto their land and culture. ♪ harmonica playing john herman blake: up and down this coast there were literally thousands of african descendents.
i'm john herman blake. i'm a seventh generation descendent of a woman who was enslaved on an island in the savannah river on a rice plantation. most of them came from west africa, sierra leone, and gambia. ♪ music it really began about the 18th century as the atlantic slave trade began to prosper. as people began on acquire property here, who saw the potential for growing rice and cotton, and they began to import africans who were enslaved on plantations. you could buy a plantation, buy 10 to 20 slaves and within three to five years have a complete
return to your investment. daljit: dr. blake is executive director of the gullah geechee cultural heritage corridor commission. the geechee are descendents of slaves who settled in the u.s. state of georgia and the gullah known for their masterful story telling settled in the neighboring state of south carolina. ♪ music john: i interviewed a woman who was born in the 1880's. she would sit and almost howl as she talked to me saying, "oh, what a time, what a time. you've got to do what you've got to do. twelve year old girl sell from her mamma, you've got to do what you've got to do." and as you listen, what she was talking about was sexual abuse. that grandmother
had to submit to rape and exploitation because that's the only way she could survive. i have a tape of a woman who talks about her mother being a breeder. and she said, her mother's owner, who was a woman, said she'd hold her because she was a mother having babies and he want her... it was cheaper to have babies born and enslaved than to purchase, particularly when you didn't know what you might get, whether they would be docile or not. daljit: many slaves fought for their freedom when the american civil war broke out in 1861. the war pitted the pro slavery
southern states whose economy was built on the back of enslaved labor against the northern states and eventually lead to the abolition of slavery. victoria smalls: i am victoria smalls from saint helena island. i work here at penn center as the director of history, art, and culture. penn center was founded as penn school in 1862 for the freed men, the people that were enslaved here in the sea islands of south carolina. and the school was founded so that those people could be self-sufficient in their lives, to be educated. not only just to be educated in the academics but also in the trades. and also knowledge of knowing that land ownership was very, very important. and with those three things, your academics, your trades, and land ownership, that you would truly be free.
dr. martin luther king came here numerous times in the 60's and along with the southern christian leadership conference to help strategize the civil rights movement. it was a very hard time for them. and they were under threat constantly. so to be able to get away from it all and come for a respite was very important. one of the buildings that are here on the campus, gantt cottage, is where he resided during his stays here from 1963 all of the way through 1968. john: martin luther king as you may well know came from a middle class rather privileged african-american family and had not experienced poverty or deprivation. and saw for the first time very much up close what poverty does to people. and that was an inspiration
for him. daljit: dr. martin luther king junior embraced the gullah people and their culture which was distinct from any other in the area. in order to preserve this unique culture and ensure the rights of the gullah geechee peoples, the united nations launched an international decade for people of african decent in january 2015. ♪ long time coming, ooh. daljit: the decade aims to recognize their contribution, preserve their rich cultural heritage, and bring an end to discrimination. victoria: what a wonderful thing that the united nations has embarked upon. and it fills us with a lot of pride and dignity as gullah people. some of the tradition that we brought over with us from africa, very, very important to keep it going. it's already evident that some things within the gullah
culture are starting to slowly fade away. when you have sweet grass basket sewers that are unable to find the sweet grass because of rapid development in those coastal areas where it grows. it's very scarce. penn center is trying to help with that. our mission is to promote and preserve the history and culture of the sea islands. mr. joseph criplegree, he's one of the last cast net makers on our island. and so we are trying to offer that as a class at penn center to help promote and preserve that. joseph criplegree: watch my hand, watch my hand -- victoria: penn center is trying to keep that alive. daljit: besides the fading culture, the gullah geechee communities face another challenge, their inherited coastal lands have attracted the attention of developers, a phenomenon that dr. blake
struggles to accept. john: some people have thought, well, they'll build resorts and golf courses. and people started coming to play golf and live on the beach. and it kept growing. daljit: daufuskie is one of hundreds of islands that make up the gullah inherited lands. john: when i first got involved with daufuskie, we had to work with an elderly woman who had inherited all of her property. and somebody came along and said, i want an acre of your land. she sold an acre of land for $75. $75? we had to get a lawyer and get that thing reversed. and she said, "i didn't know how much it was worth." a lot of people who are gullah or geechee and originated on these islands had to leave for economic reasons. the people
live their lives planting, fishing, important ways, until it was discovered. developers went after it. and the people used to come here to hunt and it kept growing. and the more profitable it became, the more it became. that's what's happened on daufuskie. i don't think this culture of gullah geechee people in terms of its deep, deep values has been ever truly understood. i think it will be very important for building human community. daljit: in the dominican republic people who live on the sugar cane plantations have traditionally faced hardship and exclusion. but a new holistic approach to supporting them is opening up fresh possibilities. here's our
the bateyes. the bateyes in the dominican republic are where people are largely haitian decent live. they are home to some of the poorest people in the country. daljit: the dominican sugar cane plantations have drawn workers from across the haitian border since the early twentieth century. [rustling sounds]
♪ music a cutter's work was and still is tough. labor laws are often flouted and wages are minimal. the cutters and their families traditionally live in the communities called bateyes. there are an estimated 425 bateyes in the country housing some 200,000 people. usually situated deep in the cane fields, largely cut off from services enjoyed by other citizens, the bateyes can be miserable places.
take place. daljit: alicia and a group of other women who were all struggling to make ends meet sought the help of another local organization, ascala, which gave them the chemicals to get started and some training in how to use them. daljit: they started earning some money to contribute to their basic household needs like having enough food to eat. for alicia providing for her five children and elderly parents is a daily challenge.
daljit: and with the collapse of the dominican sugar industry due to decreased global demand, combined with more mechanization of the plantations, jobs for the cane cutters are getting ever harder to find. and there's another threat to the bateyes residents daily lives that beneco says is a great challenge to their security as human beings.
daljit: it's a problem estefani, who considered herself a dominican citizen, came face-to-face with. at 18 she received the shock of her life. a routine request for a copy of her birth certificate, her legitimate right as the daughter of dominican parents was turned down. daljit: estefani found herself denied the basic rights enjoyed by others.
daljit: dealing with this array of threats requires a new approach focused on helping all feel more secure in their lives. the dominican government has teamed up with local organizations as well as the united nations, including unicef, the un development program, and the un refugee agency. daljit: raquel cesares is the coordinator of this project funded by the united nations
daljit: a threat to many bateyes residents is that of natural disasters like flash floods. estefani is involved in a simulated emergency. [yelling and screaming] and then there's the right to health care. bateyes residents receive training in some basic services like hiv and pregnancy prevention and post natal health checks. more than a third of teenage girls from the bateyes get pregnant. estefani's younger sister keeps records of baby's weight. involving locals in the project is key says raquel as in these extra curricular literacy classes taught largely by young
bateyes residents. these after school classes help bateyes children catch up with their education and reduce the drop out rate. adolescents who never had the opportunity to go to school learn to read and write. high illiteracy rates in the bateyes, more than three times the national average, have prevented residents from finding well paid jobs and feeling secure economically. the government, another partner in the project, is trying to break this vicious cycle through the provision of literacy classes for all. pedro castellanos, former director general of the president's office of special programs, says that these classes are open to everyone.
daljit: he also emphasizes how crucial it is to eliminate this social exclusion for the benefit of the whole country. daljit: access to education for all, he says, is the key, an approach alicia would agree with. unable to attend full-time as a child, she took herself back to school as an adult. and now she and her colleagues are investing in their new venture.
daljit: and of course there's the right to enjoy the basic services and rights of any citizen in the country. for four years estefani with beneco's help fought for that right. then in 2014, a new law was passed recognizing the citizenship of all children born to a dominican parent and who already held a dominican birth certificate. to date authorities report that 55,000 people have registered for their citizenship documents.
and for estefani the outcome was good. daljit: all these steps help people live more secure lives and start to build their own futures. estefani now plans to study law. she hopes to set up her practice in the bateyes to help her community fight for their right to live as equal citizens in their own country. while estefani's future seems secure, the path to citizenship for many of haitian decent
remains unsure. the united nations is continuing to work with the dominican republic authorities to ensure that no one in the country is stateless. and that's all for this edition of 21st century. sharing the world's stories, i'm daljit dhaliwal. thanks for watching. we'll see you next time. until then, good-bye. ♪ music úóú