West African slaves in South Carolina, known as Gullah Geechee, are fighting for their land like the people at Standing Rock. In a new BBC article, residents of Jackson Village, one of three Black communities in Plantersville, South Carolina spoke about how they could lose their land to auctions.
The first Lillian Milton knew about it was when she arrived at the local council offices to settle her tax bill.
She was told her home had been sold because she had not paid a $250 levy for a sewer service. She was shocked – at that point she had not even been connected to the sewer system.
“They had sold everything, the property, the house and all and when I offered to pay them with a cheque, they told me I couldn’t. I had to get cash money – 880 some dollars that I had to pay them to get my place back.
“It’s like they were saying if I didn’t get on the system I wouldn’t have no place to stay.”
Milton suspects the heart attack she suffered in January was brought on by the stress of trying to get her home back.
Other residents are afraid of high tax bills and having developers coming to take their land.
“The only people we see are the developers,” says the Rev. Ben Grate. “We call them ‘strangers’ and we are afraid of them. Because they come to take your land. They are millionaires, in big cars, driving slow, staking out property, dreaming on what it would be like to have a motel on the river right here.”
The land is valuable to these developers because it’s coastal, but it’s a place these people have called home since they were able to buy the land from plantation owners.
But few residents here have deeds to their homes. The freed slaves who originally bought the land were mistrustful of the legal system, or excluded from it, and did not leave written wills.
The land is held in common. The families are entitled to live on it under “heir’s property rights” – but so are all of the descendants of the original owners. Ben Grate estimates that more than a million people, spread out across America, have a share of land in Plantersville, whether they know it or not.
One has to wonder why this isn’t getting the attention like Standing Rock? What needs to happen for this to become an amplified issue?