During her time working on the water project, dubbed the Johns Island Community Ponds project, Willis began working with a local man named Willie Heyward, or “Halo,” an ambassador of the Gullah-Geechee nation and the man behind a local task force called Preserve the Gullah. As it turned out, Willis’ work aligned seamlessly with Halo’s pursuit of preservation, and they quickly found a common groove. Together, along with countless supporters, the two form Local Pulse, an initiative Willis began years ago that now supports virtually anything that helps preserve, diversify, and sustain, such as the Ponds project. With Halo’s local connections and understanding of social media, he provided momentum to Willis’ ideas, but more importantly, he shared her vision.
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For Halo, something like Local Pulse simply makes sense in an area with such rich Gullah history. “Not far from here is the Seashore Farmer’s Lodge,” says Halo, referring to the fraternal organization and mutual aid society established by African-Americans around 1915. “In this one community, they offered banking, health insurance, life insurance, entertainment, everything. In a way, Local Pulse is today what the Seashore Farmer’s Lodge was back then: a centerpoint for people to support each other and speak their minds about how they want to preserve, diversify, and sustain what is important to them. Through Local Pulse, we can preserve the stories of our elders, diversify the economics of the community, and help sustain our history, our people, and our land.”
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While they were pursuing the Johns Island Community Ponds Project, the Local Pulse team was also creating an app for their initiative: a modern gathering space where ideas, events, and resources can be shared. The app, now available at localpulseapp. com, presents a mission to “Empower the mainstream with ultra-local resources from the whole community...uniting both local and touring visitors to have a true and real impact on the local economy, quality of life, inclusive experiences, education, cultural roots, health, and outdoor family fun.” Through the Local Pulse initiative, the group provides events such as public access to water days on Willis’ homestead (and possibly the proposed community center
Winter 2018 AZALEAMAG.COM