Geechee Gals Gettin' It - Vol. 1: Kyndra Joi
The Gullah Geechee culture is not only rich in history. The gifts our ancestors gave are infinite and inspire us daily but it doesn’t just stop there. No, Gullah Geechee is a living, breathing culture. What we do today continues to shape our community and narrative. From healing work, to activism, music, entrepreneurship, preservation, counseling, parenting, natural hair care and more, Gullah Geechee women continue to “Reach back and get it” and then put their thing down, flip it and reverse it!
Kyndra Joi, Geechee Gal
A Village raised me! Huger Street, Eastside, West Ashley, Silver hill and George Legare aka George lagree. My childhood was full of Geechee wonder, surrounded by my elders, spirituality and culture! And I didn’t even know it! With all of this combined, I am and still evolving to be the best me and a stronger Gullah Warrior Ooman.
Growing up in Charleston, we were called Geechee all of our lives. However, understanding what that meant was something different. It was only when music called me back to my true identity. I began singing with Ann Caldwell and the Magnolia singers in high school where I sang the bassline. I learned more about the culture, the language and realized what I had been speaking all along wasn’t “bad English”, it was Gullah. Since 1996 when I realized the uniqueness of my sound, my voice and my spirit, I have been nothing but a Proud Gullah Girl. Now I have my famlee interested in our history and culture and in turn, we have become a closer unit. #KnowThyself
Once you understand the history of our Gullah Geechee ancestors, their intuition, their genius to adapt, cultivate and thrive, a sense of pride swells within you. To have an identity, language and culture so unique and so similar to our Afrikan brothers and sisters, it just fills my spirit. When I went to Senegal, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire and ate the same meals that my famlee eats on a daily basis, it just blew my mind. I am a direct descendant of the coast of West Afrika. I am a Gullah Warrior Woman. I am proud to speak my language, tell our story and pass on traditions so our ancestors nor our Gullah Geechee culture will never be forgotten. I am because They are!
My life now was shaped and molded by how I was raised in Charleston. Growing up, I was passionate about my famlee, music, history and community. When I realized that my community was what I read and studied in books i.e. underground railroads and slave markets, my life changed. When I realized that women caring and treating each other respectfully and children minding their elders became a rarity when I left home for college, my life changed again! My passion now is Lighting the Village. I develop curriculums and facilitate wellness workshops for communities and organizations that cultivate wholeness within mind, body and spirit; individually and collectively! I share my culture, my memories, my joys and my pains in my workshops and allow what the ancestors left for me in my village to shine through to give light to multiple generations.
I recently told one of the women from my church who helped raise me that they all should be locked up because the way they raised us was illegal. Lol! She laughed. I continued to tell her that the rest of the world doesn’t operate like this and they set us up! Lol! To be able to share that same intentional love with others that I experienced growing up and all throughout high school is the Lighting of the Village I am speaking of. This is my passion!
My closet is full of hats! First Tier; I am Recording Artist, Kyndra Joi, where my music is affectionately known as “Gullah Soul”. I have taken a brief hiatus from the recording scene to do more cultural music and music collaborations. I am the Founder and Director of my nonprofit, I Am My Sister. This nonprofit assists women of color in cultivating wholeness and obtaining balance within self-first through wellness workshops and mentorship. This organization is dear to my heart because the ultimate goal is to assist women in freeing themselves from that mental and societal bondage that has been placed on them. When we are free, we are able to stand upright in our places and the be the strength and protectors of our communities and families that we have been created to be.
Next, my second business is called, Light the Village, LLC. This organization facilitates wellness workshops catered to your organizational needs in regards to mental health from a holistic perspective, Cultural Seminars (Gullah Geechee workshops) and Speaking Engagements. This is the opportunity I get to facilitate Gullah Geechee Seminars on music, women, history and culture.
I am a LMSW (licensed master social worker), Certified Belief Therapist, Herbalist, Curriculum developer, Sister, Daughter, Friend and Mentor.
With all that being said, I truly believe that my calling is teaching in love. I assist in teaching women and children how to cultivate wholeness within themselves. With my own experience and working in the social work/clinical field for 16 years, persons who have a sense of identity are less likely to participate in a negligent activity. They find a sense of pride and purpose and operate within that realm. Imagine if all of our communities were to operate in this realm!! The thought blows my mind.
My culture plays a big role in my entrepreneurship because it keeps me in the perspective that I am making strides and moves for the next generation. With this mindset, it’s never about just me. Its about how we can get communities of color to sustain themselves, how can we insert the feminine energy back into our current realm, how can we get children to actually know who they are, who their ancestors are and show respect within that.
With my nonprofit, I have had the opportunities to do bigger community events and involve everyone in the famlee within these neighborhoods programs. My perspective is this: if our ancestors and elders didn’t do it for us, where would we be? Now I am in the position to make things happen and create opportunities for women and children to know who they are and how to operate freely within that. I know that I can do this solely on what was instilled in me, the role models that were before me daily and the village that said, We are a Famlee, despite not being related by blood. I know whose shoulders I stand on and I do not take the responsibility lightly. When they see me coming they say, there goes that Gullah Gal and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
My advice that I give to the Queens is just do it! There are always going to be the what if’s, the naysayers, the financial concerns, but just do it. Develop your plan, get a team of at least 2 people and make it do what it do. Ask questions, find a mentor, have a steady self-care plan and then go at it again! Just imagine, if our ancestors didn’t do it, where would be? We are responsible for the generation behind us. They are because We Are!
I feel that our generation has no choice but to preserve our culture and pass the tradition. For those of us who understand the importance of our existence, we should have famlee circles to create an open space for us to talk about our culture and be free to ask questions; especially since it’s not taught in our schools. However, on the community level, I have collaborated with others who want to know more about the culture and created programming from levels of music, culinary and education to share with the masses. On the individual level, I just finished writing a children’s book, “Princess Kai, Tales of a Gullah Girl.” I develop programming where I go into schools, libraries and organizations to facilitate workshops and creative cultural programming. It is my personal responsibility to educate communities and nurture the culture that gave me my identity. Celebrate the culture daily wherever you go. If you don’t live in the Gullah Geechee corridor, rep it wherever you are! For many years, people were ashamed to be associated as Gullah Geechee because many believed it had a negative connotation. Now everywhere I go people are asking, where are you from? I tell them with all my 32’s showing, “I from Charleston, Imma a Gullah Gal” which often then sparks a conversation.
My vision is to create a conglomerate within Gullah business owners so that we wherever we are, we can be represented all over the world. It can be a like a tourist, culinary, education, music, dance and community company where all the money would remain in the communities to rebuild, educate and preserve Gullah Geechee culture. We must start teaching our children who they are because if not, our culture will fade.
Connect with Kyndra!
Invite Kyndra to do a Wellness Workshop or Gullah Geechee Seminar
Wanna be a part or learn more about her nonprofit, I Am My Sister? Check out
Website: I Am My Sister