About Our Founder, Louise Cohen
Louise Miller Cohen is a native of Hilton Head Island and therefore has experienced the Gullah culture first hand. Her latest role in preserving this unique culture, which she has been doing for the past ten years, is that of Gullah storyteller.
Community elders have passed the torch on to her and she has adopted the mission of preserving the Gullah/Geechee heritage and culture. Ms. Cohen accomplishes this by telling tales, singing gospel songs, proudly speaking and teaching the Gullah language, sharing knowledge of plants used for medicine, preparing Gullah cuisine, performing the “Ring Shout” and making homemade wine from mulberries and other seasonal fruits. She believes that as these rituals are performed in the presence of children and their parents, the rituals will be passed down from generation to generation and the Gullah/Geechee culture will be preserved forever.
Her most current vision is to restore the houses that she grew up in, which will become part of the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island. This museum will give children of all ages, locals, and tourists the experience of what life was like on Hilton Head Island before the bridge to the mainland was built in 1956.
Since 2003, she has been the founder and director of the nonprofit Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island. Years ago, Ms. Cohen said that she kept reading that the Gullah language and lifestyle were becoming “extinct”. Her entry into Gullah storytelling and historical preservation started with her involvement in Hilton Head Island’s Annual Gullah Celebration.
Ms. Cohen stepped out of what she calls her “shell of shame” and began to share her Gullah culture with others. Since that time, she has organized committees and appeared at the Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration (sponsored annually on the island by the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association), the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, numerous church and school programs, local and regional festivals, college campuses and conferences in the Southeast. In 2007, she received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Advocacy Award. (http://www.gullahcelebration.com/gullah-magazine/culture/louise-miller-cohen)