U.S. 'Idol' winner shines light on South's Gullah culture

Fri May 17, 2013 2:23pm EDT
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By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - "American Idol" winner Candice Glover, whose powerful voice clinched the title of the popular TV singing show, comes from a sea island culture made up of descendants of West African slaves.

"I speak another language," she said during the Fox TV show. "It's called Geechee."

Some 14.2 million TV viewers tuned in to watch Glover beat Kree Harrison to win the season 12 "American Idol" crown on Thursday.

Glover, 23, is a native of rural St. Helena Island in the coastal South Carolina Lowcountry. The island is part of a new national heritage corridor to preserve and promote the unique African culture and language called Gullah Geechee that survived on the isolated sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia for centuries.

"When she said that, I stood up in my living room and applauded," said Ron Daise, commission chairman of the corridor that also includes parts of North Carolina and Florida. "There's a rootedness about her spirit."

The Gullah Geechee language is a mix of West African dialects and English. The Glover family does not speak the language as well as older generations, Glover's mother, Carole, said in an interview this week.

But she added that her daughter's revelation made residents of St. Helena "proud and happy."

In April, Daise wrote Glover a congratulatory letter that ended in Gullah: "We stan op an clap clap clap clap cuz oona da one a we! A kno de Lawd done lay E han pon oona."   Continued...

Finalist Candice Glover reacts following her performance after being announced the winner during the Season 12 finale of "American Idol" in Los Angeles May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Phil McCarten