Patt Gunn “Sistah Patt” and Roz Rouse “Sistah Roz”, co-owners of Savannah Gallery on Slavery and Healing want to make sure that you know the importance of black history all year round. This gallery, located on Martin Luther King Boulevard, details the rich, authentic history of slavery in Savannah, in addition to spreading awareness of the unique Gullah Geechee culture. Sistah Patt and Sistah Roz’s focus is on education and healing, which they do respectfully and gracefully.
I got a chance to speak with Sistah Patt after viewing the gallery, and she explained her personal influence on the opening of the Savannah Gallery on Slavery and Healing and her objective for bringing the gallery to life. Sistah Patt is one of 10 children from her father, a native of South Carolina where we get Gullah culture. Her mother is native of Georgia where we get Geechee culture combined to produce Gullah Geechee. Her father instilled the importance of education in her and each of her siblings, being that he was born in 1910, and had to drop out of school in the 6th grade to provide for his children. He made sure that they knew education is empowerment.
As a result we have the Savannah Gallery of Slavery and Healing, a strong source of knowledge and power for the community to take advantage of. Not only the gallery but tours around the city of Savannah which showcase authentic artifacts and pieces of history in plain sight. The impact Sistah Patt and Sistah Roz have made has had a significant positive change towards healing. As a result of taking part in an Underground Slavery Tour, descendants of slave owners have put together scholarships for slave descendants, a big step in a positive direction.
As Sistah Patt’s leads the tour, she reminds her guests that they are walking on what she calls “sacred ground”. This is a place on the Savannah River where slave ships docked, also where bricks were made and imprinted with the names of the plantations the enslaved people were from. And let’s not forget whipping posts.
Sistah Patt believes that it is vital for African Americans to continue to have a gathering place to converse about truth, reconciliation and healing as it relates to slavery. Her formula for healing begins with the truth– one must first understand what happened so that they can process it. “Next is reconciliation and letting go of pain so that individuals can join together to ultimately make a change for the progression of our community”, said Gunn. The last step is actually healing which involves knowing and understanding the history and using those things to come up with a positive and progressive plan of action for the youth. Sistah Patt believes, “ We must teach young people that you must always be your own guardian of freedom.”
Sistah Roz, who is a slavery enactor, and also works with the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum has a heart beat for the youth. Beginning in April, Sistah Roz will begin offering Black History Academy to Savannah, Ga. This Academy is for young people from 1st to 12th grade and will meet every 1st Saturday of each month. The program will begin at 9am with a hot breakfast. The children will come and learn about their history, work on projects, and even go on field trips to enhance their knowledge. They will be introduced to books, media, and videos pertaining to black history. They will also keep journals to track their progress during their own personal journey of understanding and healing. This program has proved to be a wonderful tool for the youth, having previously existed in Atlanta, Macon, and Midway. This program along with Sistah Patt and Sistah Roz, has received the Governor’s #1 Preventative Program award. Information on enrollment can be found online at undergroundtoursofsavannah.net.
“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” – Kofi Annan