The Praise House Project at Emory Exhibit Through December 15th
The Praise House At Emory is an interactive, immersive, and digital experience that brings African and African-American rituals from the Gullah Geechee culture to life. Praise Houses were historically small wooden structures commonly used for worship by enslaved African Americans in the coastal South. These were places of resistance as much as worship. The Praise House at Emory will have programming between now and December 15th. The founder, director, and artist for this project, Charmaine Minniefield, joins us to share more on the programming. Charmaine Minnifield, welcome back to The Local Take.
When asked about the history behind Praise Houses, Minniefield explains that the Praise House is a tradition of African and African-American ancestry. The veneration of recall and remembrance as resistance. She speaks about the historical significance of wooden structures where worshippers used their feet to stomp on floors and their bodies to create rhythms and a new form of practice known as the Ring Shout. Minnifield shares that her grandmother taught her “to shout.” The formerly enslaved tweaked African traditions into something uniquely new for African Americans.
The Ring Shout and music are integral to The Praise House experience. I asked Minnifield to speak to this component. She talks about music being part of any community gathering. Music was collaborative with call and response as well as beats that are universal throughout the diaspora.
We speak about the Gullah Geechee culture remains. These enslaved people lived and worked on barrier islands like Sapelo, St. Simons Butler Island, and many other islands where the tides and storm exposure made them undesirable. That has turned, and now these people who were once banished to the barrier islands are fighting to hold on to their land. I asked Minniefiel about this ongoing struggle to “own” what is ours. She speaks specifically about what is currently happening to Sapelo Island.
I asked Minnifield to speak about The Praise House at Emory, and she mentioned that this is an opportunity for gathering within the community. It is a Sankofa moment to return and uplift efforts to save the memories and records of whole towns erased from history. She mentions Beacon Hill, a town made up of the formerly enslaved that stood where downtown Decatur now stands. The Praise House Project at Emory collects oral histories from descendants of those families and others. Genealogy workshops and opportunities to travel to other sites will enrich our understanding of this history.
Minniefield encourages everyone to visit The Praise House Project at Emory for more information and to plan their visit to the site.