David B. Frank, Commission Secretary, is a linguist and consultant for SIL International. He worked on the island of Saint Lucia from 1984 through 2000 as part of a team that produced a translation of the New Testament into St. Lucian French Creole, a French Creole dictionary, and mother-tongue literacy materials for Creole speakers. Originally from Georgia, he moved with his family from Saint Lucia to North Carolina in 2001, working as a consultant with a specialty in creole languages. In 2002 he started to become involved with Gullah, serving as a consultant to the Sea Island Translation Team to complete a translation of the New Testament into Gullah, which was published in 2005. In addition to editing the St. Lucian Creole dictionary, Dr. Frank is the author of several articles about Saint Lucian Creole and Gullah, and is also editor of the Journal of Translation. While staying involved with Gullah, more recently he has become involved as a consultant for Portuguese Creole and other languages in West Africa.
James R. Fullwood is a native of the Yamacraw Community in Pender County, NC. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce with a focus in Banking and Real Estate from North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. As a draftee during the Vietnam War, Specialist Fullwood served in the Administrative and Financial Command in the United States Army in Fort Carson, Colorado, where he received honors, awards and promotions. Mr. Fullwood served the State of North Carolina for more than a decade as a Probation and Parole Officer. In 1985, Governor James Martin appointed Mr. Fullwood as Director of Intensive Probation and Parole Supervision. With the election of each succeeding governor, Mr. Fullwood was appointed to other high-level positions until he retired in 2008. For more than ten years, he pursued purchasing the Historic Union Chapel School, which is believed to be a Rosenwald School. In 2005, Mr. Fullwood purchased the school, which was originally built in 1865 as a one-room log cabin school by his great- great- grandfather William Murphy, a blacksmith and former slave.
Sean Palmer is the director of the Upperman African American Cultural Center at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He previously was assistant director of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke University. Mr. Palmer earned a Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School, a master’s degree in African and African America studies from Clark Atlanta University and a bachelor’s degree in English with double minors in African American studies and religious studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.
Emory Shaw Campbell is President of the Gullah Heritage Consulting Service, a firm based in Hilton Head Island, SC. He manages the Gullah Heritage Trail Tours as well as offers lectures and courses related to Gullah Geechee culture. In 1965 Mr. Campbell earned his undergraduate degree in biology at Savannah State (College) University and continued his studies in environmental engineering at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was awarded a Master of Science degree in 1971. He is Executive Director Emeritus of Penn Center and served as the first Chairman of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. He has received numerous honors for his cultural and environmental preservation work, including honorary Doctors of Humane Letters from Bank Street College, New York City, and the University of SC- Beaufort.
Daniel Cromer is a native of Greenville, SC. He majored in Political Science at the University of South Carolina before undertaking graduate studies in Public Administration and Social Work. He served ten years under South Carolina Governors Dick Riley and Carroll Campbell, eighteen years as Legislative Director for Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) and retired from the Democratic Staff of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. Mr. Cromer has also served for many years on the Vestry of the Parish of St. Monica and St. James, Capitol Hill.
Herb Frazier is an author, journalist and marketing and public relations manager at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens near Charleston. He has edited and reported for five daily newspapers in the South, including his hometown paper, The Post and Courier. He has written extensively about the Lowcountry’s historical ties with West Africa and the Caribbean. Frazier, who studied journalism at the University of South Carolina, has taught newswriting as a visiting lecturer at Rhodes University in South Africa. In 1990, the South Carolina Press Association named him Journalist of the Year. He is a former Michigan Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. Frazier is the author of “Behind God’s Back: Gullah Memories,” and co-author of “We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel.” His forthcoming book is “Crossing the Sea on a Sacred Song,” the story of the Mende funeral song that connects Mary Moran in Georgia with Baindu Jabati in Sierra Leone.
Willie B. Heyward was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Following service in the U.S. Army, he received a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA and a J.D. from Hastings College of Law at the University of California, San Francisco. His legal career includes positions as Staff Attorney, Lead Attorney and Managing Attorney for various entities. Mr. Heyward is currently the Director of the Heirs’ Property Law Center, LLC. North Charleston, S.C., and is a Member of the South Carolina Bar.
Sherman E. Pyatt is a native of Charleston. He received his B.A. degree from Johnson C. Smith University and a Master of Library and Information Sciences from Indiana University. He received his Certification in Archival Science from Georgia State University and has served as Research Librarian, Interim Director, and Archivist at libraries and archives in Richmond, Virginia, The Citadel Military College, Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston, and South Carolina State University. He retired in 2014. His latest publication, The Other Side of the Skillet: Healthy and Alternative Eating in the Lowcountry, was published in 2015.
Victoria A. Smalls, a Gullah native of St. Helena Island, South Carolina, has promoted her culture for more than a decade. Victoria joined the team at Penn Center in 2012 to organize the Sesquicentennial Celebration, was promoted to Program Coordinator of the History and Culture department and again advanced to Director of Development and Public Relations. Currently, Victoria is the Director of History, Art and Culture at Penn, a position that speaks to her personal mission as a Cultural Preservationist. She expands on her mission by serving as a Commissioner for the S.C. African American Heritage Commission, Advisory Board Member for the Gullah Geechee Consortium of Beaufort County and newly appointed Commissioner for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. Ms. Smalls is an artist; she has been painting and exhibiting her artwork nationally as a self-taught artist for 15 years; and is currently authoring a book on Gullah Geechee artists. A background in Health & Physical Education from S.C. State University—Orangeburg, SC and in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Carolina—Beaufort, led Victoria to work as an educator in the Beaufort County School District (1996-2004).
Dionne Hoskins-Brown, Commission Chair, is a fishery biologist with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and serves as the Director of NOAA Programs at Savannah State University, where she also earned her B.S. degree in Marine Biology. She holds a doctorate in Marine Sciences from the University of South Carolina. Since 1999, she has administered NOAA-funded student research training programs while researching essential fisheries habitat, African-American participation in Georgia fisheries, and approaches to increasing minority representation in marine fields. In 2009, she established the African American Fishermen Oral History Project to capture the experiences of Gullah-Geechee families on the Georgia coast through the Voices from the Fisheries database. Dr. Hoskins merges her interests in marine research and education by focusing on assessment, equity, and transparency in governance by serving as a member of the Savannah Chatham County School Board. She and her husband Akino live quietly in Savannah with their two dogs.
Griffin Lotson, Commission Vice-Chair, is Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit Sams Memorial Community Economic Development, Inc., as well as manager of the nationally acclaimed Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters. A resident of Darien, GA, Lotson has traced his Gullah Geechee family history back seven generations. He has worked as a community input adviser with the National Park Service Low Country Gullah Culture Special Resource study and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission. Lotson has also worked with The Georgia Sea Island Singers, SICARS (Sapelo Island, GA), Penn Center (St. Helena Island, SC), the Coastal African American Action Network (GA), the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition (GA) and Geechee Kunda (GA). Lotson has raised over $10 million with grants and other funding for communities in the area of cultural arts, economic development, housing and educational programs. Traveling to Sierra Leone, he served as special consultant to the Sierra Leone Africa Government chief protocol office of foreign affairs, working also with Professor Joseph Opala, Director of the Bunce Island Coalition and Isatu Smith, a Sierra Leonean who is the deputy director. He also met with Gullah Kinship of Sierra Leone Africa.
Althea Natalga Sumpter is a native of St. Helena Island, South Carolina, uses digital media technology to document the Gullah culture incorporating traditional historical, genealogical and documentary research. She holds a Doctor of Arts in Humanities (concentrations in African/African American Studies and New Media Technology) from Clark Atlanta University, as well as Bachelor and Master of Media Arts degrees from the University of South Carolina. With two decades in the production industry, she is an Emmy-nominated producer and editor and former Assistant Director of Media Services and Production at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Atlanta. She has taught at Georgia Institute of Technology, Clark Atlanta University and Georgia State University. Dr. Sumpter currently teaches digital media production at The Art Institute of Atlanta. Her experience as a researcher for the South Carolina Department of Archives & History gives her special insight into exploring genealogy and culture. She is a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Meredith D. Hardy, Commission Treasurer, is an archeologist and Coordinator for Interpretation, Education, and Outreach for the Southeast Archeological Center in Tallahassee, FL, and the Cultural Resources Program Manager for Christiansted National Historic Site on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Her research encompasses island and coastal communities, foodways, enslavement, and the emergence of creole societies. Since 1999 she has worked with Cumberland Island National Seashore to discover, interpret, and protect the African American archeological heritage within the park boundaries for the American public. Dr. Hardy makes archeological research accessible and relevant to global audiences by connecting events of the past with modern social issues. She works with NPS partners, the Smithsonian Museum of African American Heritage and Culture, and George Washington University on the Slave Wrecks Project, which combines maritime and terrestrial investigations with training, heritage protection, exhibits, and education. She has a Ph.D. from Florida State University, an MS from the University of New Orleans, and a B.A. from Indiana University.