We Speak Fuh We
Studies and Stories of Black History and Culture in Savannah
When old man dies…
a library burns to the ground. I wondered one evening, while reading a collection of slave narratives, how these libraries were being saved. After learning that the stories weren’t being collected, particularly in the Chatham County area, I had to do it.
Not only did I have to, but I wanted to. From living with my grandmother to working as a nurse’s aide in assisted living homes, I’ve always enjoyed sitting at the feet of my elders and hearing what they had to say (and how they said it).
Nelson Mandela said that to the move forward as a people, you need the wisdom of the elders and the energy of the youth. Both have what they need, but they aren’t talking. There’s a disconnect. So this book also serves to bring the wisdom and the energy to the same table.
We Speak Fuh We is a community effort. It’s people giving me the names and contact information of elders that they know (who are at least 80 years old), me sitting with them and recording our conversations, local writers and artists contributing their writing and visual art, sponsors who financially support the project, mentors who keep me on the right path, those who help spread the word, and more.
The vision fuh the book
The same way that the writers of the Federal Writer’s Project interviewed former enslaved persons, We Speak Fuh We will interview those living in Chatham County, who are 80 years old and up, about their struggles, victories, and cultural inheritances (including recipes, medicines, and physical and spiritual survival tips).
The interviews are in the same style as the ones in Drums and Shadows, Before Freedom, My Folks Don’t Want Me to Talk About Slavery, and We Lived in a Little Cabin in the Yard. Other than my name and the interview’s city and state (and maybe the neighborhood), my voice won’t be on the page. It’d just be them talking about back in the day.
Every so many stories/interviews would be broken up with works by writers and artists who’ve either lived in the Savannah-Chatham area, live here now, and/or have strong ties here.
Wanted pieces include poetry and photography that reflect the flavor, texture, and language of Savannah’s African-American culture. Selected pieces will be paid!
We have the timelines and headlines for the world, the country, and even the city. But what about the individual stories of the day-to-day folk? Each series will include 50 of these oral histories.
I need your help.
I enjoy telling other people’s stories, finding the universal truths in their experiences and using it to inform and inspire an even larger community. It’d be impossible for me to do this alone, however. So I need your help.
Who I Am
I’m Trelani, mama of So Fundamental, which was founded in 2012 to help people write their stories. I create safe spaces–online and in person–for teens and grown folk to explore and express their thoughts and ideas through writing.
I’ve worked with various organizations including Savannah State University, The Deep Center, Jepson Center for Arts, The City of Savannah, The Life Design Agency, and The Black Women’s Life Balance and Wellness Institute, assisting over 1,500 people in writing and showcasing their stories.
I graduated from Savannah State in 2012 with a degree in Political Science then SCAD in 2016 with a Master’s in Writing. In addition to teaching the art of storytelling, I’ve published five books and ghostwrote a few more.
Now I want to use my experiences to give back by leading a project that explores Savannah’s roots and culture, while financially supporting its writers and artists.
Roosevelt Rouse – 84 years old – East Savannah
I caught hell coming up. My mother died when I was four years old. I watched my daddy cut her. My granddaddy had me go out to the woods to get some spiderwebs to stop the bleeding. When I got back, they had don’ carried her to the doctor. That’s where she died. The doctor told my mama’s daddy to have my daddy arrested for murder, but he never did.
My daddy would leave for days and weeks at a time, leaving me and my little sister by ourselves. I remember tryna fry some fish one time and I dropped the pot and burned her. But sometimes we wouldn’t have nothing but some sourgrass to eat.
My granddaddy on my daddy’s side had 1700 acres of land that he bought after slavery. They had them lil houses kind of all around, and there was a big house. You could tell it was plantation, but anyway, he owned a sto’ too. And instead of paying me, he figured he’d get the work out of me for free. That’s why I left. I didn’t go for it. I let my sister go for it. One day, I told my sister to tell my grandfather to lend me $10. And you know, he gave it to me. When he woke up that Monday morning, I was gone…
Matilda “Pat” Brown – 80 years old – East Savannah
I went to a few marches, but my mama wasn’t too happy about it. She would say, “You’re not going and that’s it!” When she said be in, you had to be in. They were really afraid back then, you know? The Ku Klux Klan have come in our neighborhood, down West 34th street, by where the House of Prayer was, by West Broad. I can remember them having a cross and walking with it. It was something else, you know?
We had two hospitals here in Savannah for blacks. It was Charity Hospital and Georgia Infirmary, which was where the Senior Citizens building is now on Bull Street. That’s where my mama worked as a nurse for many years…
What We Need & What You Get
We Speak Fuh We costs $10,000 to publish.
Contributing artists will be paid $75 for their piece. This includes short stories, poetry, personal essays, and visual art. Each book will have 10 of these creative writings and aesthetics.
Interviews will be paid at a rate of $18 per hour with 20 hours being budgeted for the initial interview, follow-up, transcription, editing, and proofreading.
Each edition will have 20 interviews. Remaining funds are used for publishing, printing, and administrative costs. Proceeds from the first edition will assist in funding future publications.
Release date: December 2017
- $25 up = an autographed copy (signed by editors, writers, and artists)
- $100 up = an autographed copy + website/social media acknowledgement
- $500 up = an autographed copy + website/social media acknowledgement + personal invitation to the release party
- $1,000 up = everything above + acknowledgement in the book
- $10,000 up = everything above + you can write the foreword