We haven’t posted in a very long time so we thought you’d like to catch up on what has happened with us over this time.
In 2020, we were performing right up until COVID hit the US and we had plans to perform throughout the United States during the year. Last month, we were scheduled to give programs in New York, Maryland, and several other outlets. Unfortunately, we had to cancel all of them out of an abundance of caution. For the first time in our memory, we even had to cancel our annual Watch Night Service. As it turned out, our last performance was in early March 2020.
We hope to resume sharing our rich Gullah Geechee traditions with the world once this horrid virus is behind us. Until then, however, we will not be performing.
Before the pandemic was evident in the United States, we had already filmed scenes for an internationally renowned documentary about Sapelo Island and its plight. This documentary, “Sapelo,” was directed by Swiss director Nick Brandestini. When Mr. Brandestini learned about the challenges that the Gullah Geechee people face on the Georgia Coast (and specifically on Sapelo Island), he felt compelled to share this story with the world. Subsequently, “Sapelo” has received numerous awards around the world at various film festivals.
Secondly, Professor Henry Louis Gates contacted The McIntosh County Shouters and requested to use several of our ring shouts on his impressive documentary about the history of the Black Church in the United States. We were honored to have been asked to share some of our ring shouts that we recorded with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings on this documentary, “The Black Church”, which was helmed by Professor Gates. This two-part, four-hour series aired on PBS for the first itme in February 2021 and was very well received. Thank you, Professor Gates, for choosing our recordings for this fascinating documentary.
And finally, we were discovered by a film director on the West Coast who wanted our group to perform in an upcoming film, “Freedom’s Path.” In October 2019, the group traveled to Arkansas to film a few scenes that will be in this motion picture. Freedom’s Path is about the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, and the unlikely friendship between a Union soldier and a slave. The film cast and crew were very moved by the group’s performance. Freddie even had some lines in the film. Originally scheduled for a 2020 release, the director decided to delay its wide release due to COVID and the changes in the world (and movie theater world).
Freedom’s Path unfortunately was the last film in which Thomas Jefferson Byrd appears. Mr. Byrd had his big career break in acting years ago when he appeared in several of Spike Lee’s films. Sadly, his life was cut short when he was murdered in Atlanta in October 2020. A month before he passed away, he was talking about The McIntosh County Shouters with the director, Brett Smith, and told him how much he loved our group. He said, “I even have a poster of them on my wall and I’m looking at it! I love them!” during the phone conversation. He had been a fan of The McIntosh County Shouters for years. We were truly saddened when we learned of his untimely death. May Mr. Byrd rest in peace.