Annual Sweetgrass Pull in St. Stephen honors Emmanuel 9

VIDEO: Annual Sweetgrass Pull honors Emanuel 9
Basketmakers pull Sweetgrass at the St. Stephen Powerhouse. (Photo Source: Live 5
Basketmakers pull Sweetgrass at the St. Stephen Powerhouse. (Photo Source: Live 5

ST. STEPHEN, SC (WCSC) - Dozens of sweetgrass basketweavers were on hand at the second-annual Sweetgrass Pull at the St. Stephen Powerhouse as a special sweetgrass cross was dedicated in honor of the Emanuel 9.

Access is limited in some areas to Sweetgrass because of all the growth and development along the coast, prompting the weavers to come out to fill their sacks. They say many people who purchase their baskets don't know the work they put in to make it happen.

"As soon as the sun comes up, when we see sweet grass that's when we start pulling," says Annie Bennett-Scott a basket weaver of more than 50 years.

Bennett-Scott says her father taught her about pulling Sweetgrass and she has been doing it ever since.

"You better have some gloves on if you want your fingers to be in tact," Bennett-Scott says.

"This is our heritage and this art has to go on, that's why we teach it to our children and our children's children to come to keep this art form alive."

The St. Stephen Powerhouse opened its gates for sweet grass pulling to help keep the basket weaving art form alive.

"There's a lot of sweet grass that grows on the beach dunes, but it's all behind gated communities so the artisans really don't have the access as much as they would like to," Joe Moran of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers says.

"We try to abide by those rules and regulations and try to find it where ever we can," Bennett Scott says.

The St. Stephen Powerhouse sweetgrass field spans to about the size of two football fields.

Many people are surprised by what they may consider a high price tag, but basketweavers say they only see the final product, not the work and sweat behind basketmaking.

Bennett-Scott says she will continue to pass down the craft to the next generation.

"They love it, they love to see how you do it, they say, 'How did you do that?' They're eager to learn," she says. "They teach you while you're young so when you get old enough you'll know how to do this."

Bennett-Scott says they start teaching boys and girls to pull sweetgrass at eight years old. From there, there's no turning back.

The cross will be presented to Mother Emanuel AME Church, where nine of its members were gunned down in June.

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