Mar. 28, 2017

Jannie Greene

The Gullah Lady


I met with Jannie Greene at Aunny’s for lunch one afternoon. We sat down and talked about many different things. I like learning new things from people when I talk to them and suffice to say, I did not leave disappointed. I suppose since she’s a teacher, I shouldn’t have expected less.

She and her husband, Tommy Greene, a retired police officer, have six grown children. Both have worked as professionals while living in Georgetown County. Although her husband is retired now, Jannie still teaches her science class and computer skills to her students at Waccamaw.

“I was raised listening to my father tell stories to us when we were just children,” she said as we ordered our lunch.

“He was a storyteller, too,” I asked.

“Oh yes, as was my grandfather and his father before him. I guess that’s where I learned to tell them as well: from listening to them as I grew up.”

“What about your students,” I asked, “Do they like to hear your stories, too?”

Nodding her head, Jannie answered, “Yes, they love to hear them. I think it helps the students to learn better. I’ve told them to go on my YouTube channel and they can hear the stories, and they say they don’t want to do that. Instead, they want me to tell the stories to them.

“There was one time, I had told them a story and when we came back to class the next day, they were all sitting there so quiet and ready to pay attention. I looked around the room and thought to myself: is this my class, am I in the right place. So I asked them, ‘what is going on in here?’ and they said they were waiting for me to finish telling the story from the day before.”

“Did you?”

“Well, no, I didn’t even know what they were talking about,” she explained, “Because I’d already finished telling the story to them the day before.”

Our lunch was brought over to us so we talked a little more about other things while we ate. We discussed Jannie’s ancestral roots, which I found interesting. She had some genealogy charts done and found several of her ancestors located from different African tribal areas; including, family in the country of Nigeria.

I shared with her a story about an old lady I knew when I was young girl. She, too, was a storyteller and because of her heritage (being the daughter of a slaves), she told me a lot of stories about the Underground Railroad and her parents finding freedom in the north. I found my neighbor to be quite intriguing and Jannie reminded me a lot of her.

What actually brought Jannie Greene to my attention in the first place were the stories she tells. I’ve found quite a few on Facebook and have watched her videos. She’s known as The Gullah Lady on her site.

I was almost sure I knew the answer, but I asked anyway, “What does Gullah mean?”

With a smile, she explained, “Gullah is a type of dialect used from different tribes of Africa. When they were brought over as slaves, they often used the Gullah dialect mixed with ‘the white-man’s language’ to communicate with each other so the master wouldn’t know certain things and therefore, he was kept in the dark. It was a common way to send messages back and forth about meeting times or share other important information with each other.”

As I wrote down her definition of Gullah, I commented, “I thought that was what gospel music was used for?”

“Yes, that too,” she agreed. “Gospel music helped them to communicate but more importantly, it helped to keep them inspired.”

Jannie is such a good storyteller, she’s written three books:

1)      Marty and The Dancing Butterfly – this is a children’s book about a boy having to move to a big city following his parent’s divorce.

2)      Lowcountry Lore: Haunts, Hags, and Plat-eyes – this is an interesting story about different South Carolina folk lore.

3)      Grandpa’s Tales – the book is based on southern superstitions and home remedies.

I’ve already started reading Lowcountry Lore and I cannot wait to get to the other two. If you get a chance to meet Jannie Greene and talk to her, you’ll find her to be easy, approachable and interesting.

P.S. Thank you for the tip on Rev. Tommy T Shubrick Sr.’s wife – that was awesome.