He // Him // His
[ID: A black man sits against a wooden wall, gazing into the camera. He is wearing a straw hat at an angle, a collared shirt under denim overalls, and colorful beaded necklaces.]
Portrait photo by Margo Newmark Rosebaum.
2023 USA Fellow
This award was generously supported by the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts.
Originally from the Briar Patch community of Eulonia, Georgia, Brenton Jordan grew up in a close Gullah Geechee community. There, Jordan would learn — along with relatives and members of the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church — about the traditional ring shout. As a child, he learned the specific nuances of the authentic ring shout. As he grew older, he started performing with the McIntosh County Shouters as a baser/clapper — providing percussion and helping to maintain the rhythm. Today, he is the stick man for the group, still providing percussion by beating a large wooden stick against a wooden board as well as leading some songs. He also is a storyteller, teaching people about his heritage. He has traveled around the United States, sharing this Gullah Geechee culture with audiences young and old. He has performed in venues as large as the National Museum of African American History and Culture to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and venues as intimate as nursing homes and schools. Some of his favorite audiences are school children; as it is in performing for these children, he is able to reach out to the younger generations, thereby keeping the ring shout tradition alive. He is a descendant of London and Amy Jenkins, two former Georgia slaves, and the Gullah Geechee culture is something very near to his heart. Being able to share this distinctive culture with the world is one of Jordan’s most important objectives, as today’s world sees the culture disappearing due to the gentrification of the East Coast.