HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) — The Town of Hilton Head formed its first-ever development group solely centered on Gullah Geechee people.

Just last week, the executive director of Gullah Geechee Historic Neighborhoods’ Community Development Corporation started. Thomas Boxley is now tasked with keeping Gullah history alive and preserved.

“The history of the Gullah people here on Hilton Head Island is a very deep, very rich history,” Boxley said.

Boxley is from Tulsa, Oklahoma where he worked with the University of Oklahoma to help disadvantaged people get healthcare.

Now he’s got a new role with the Town of Hilton Head Island. He said a big part of his new job is getting to know the Gullah culture on the island and bringing it to the table.

“I think that it’s important for, you know, from a developmental perspective that we do not leave those residents out of the prosperity that has been realized due to the economics of tourism,” Boxley said. “Economic development, and making sure that Gullah people are able to actively, fully participate in the advantages that the tourism industry brings to the island.”

Helping to lift those voices into the spotlight is just part of his mission. Secondly, protecting that deep and rich culture is just as important, too.

“Preservation, not only preservation of culture, but preservation of the land, preservation of a way of life,” Boxley said.

He also said it’s critical to get everyone on board. The project needs guidance from the Gullah people and also recognition from people who live on Hilton Head Island.

“People behind the gates, people in the developed communities recognize and realize that there were people here that that had a way of life, customs, culture, deep, deep, rich culture that existed along the entire Eastern seaboard with a level of connectivity and a way of life, that that is extremely important as we understand how we move forward.”

Right now, he and his board of directors will spend the next weeks finalizing their strategic plan. However, soon after that they plan to start hosting public meetings and getting the community involved.