Blacks Folks Talking About Life, Others Talking About Lifestyles

By Barney Blakeney 

I cut hookey from church Sunday. Not a good thing for someone who’s just getting back into church after years on the outside, but I take a Sunday off every now and then. Carolyn said it’s a good thing God doesn’t take days off from serving us. But anywho!!!

I spent the morning watching television. I’ve gotten to the place where I mostly watch news programs because most of that other stuff is just so silly. I know you have to look at it as entertainment, but I figure garbage in garbage out, and I’ve got enough nonsense on my brain.

Before returning to church, on Sunday mornings I used to watch the news magazine shows with a few of the socio-political shows thrown in. My ‘go-to’ network always has been Public Broadcasting. I think they’re more objective.

The sister show, ‘To The Contrary’ and John McLaughlin have been my favorites. I miss McLaughlin – “bye, bye”.  More locally, sister girl, P.A. Bennett, really has surfaced as a premier journalist. I remember she hit the scene on ‘Job Man Caravan’. And there was Listervelt Middleton. I learned a lot of Black History from his program, “For The People”. It’s unfortunate that when people die the stuff they perpetuate dies with them.

Since my PBS itinerary has been disrupted with McLaughlin’s passing, I watch more regional Sunday morning programming. I locked onto a business program, ‘This Week in South Carolina’ while channel surfing. Something told me to stick with it. Glad I did. It was chock full of information. The business news show was a repeat, but the information was new to me although it was stuff I should have known.

The guest on the show was South Carolina Department of Commerce Secretary Robert Hitt. Okay, I never heard of the guy. That’s precisely why I thought it was important to write this column. Sometimes we get so busy with the stuff right in front of our face, we don’t pay enough attention to most pertinent stuff that’s also right in front of our faces.

Among the things foremost on my mind lately has been the prominence of violent crime. I mean, crime in Charleston is off the chain! I grew up and have lived in some of the more seedy neighborhoods of the city. From early on, I’ve been a witness to violent crime. As a little kid I saw police chase and shoot a guy as we played on the front lawn of our project housing complex. My most profitable job in high school was as an orderly at the county emergency room.

My Friday nights were a hodge-podge of gunshots, stabbings and accident victims. Me, Lawrence and ‘Possum’’ Kinloch were high-schoolers. I was youngest. The late Rev. Fred Dawson’s youngest son, Albert, joined us one summer after being shot in the Orangeburg Massacre. I don’t think Albert ever quite got over that. I was 16 watching violence and its aftermath. But this violence we’re experiencing now? It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

So now the local debate is about who’s responsible and who should be doing something about the violence. I asked North Charleston City Councilwoman Dorothy Williams for a comment the other day. She refused saying I always quote her negatively. How positive can you be talking about 22 murdered Black men in the first six months in a town the size of North Charleston? Sorry, but I can’t find a lot of glittering commentary about Williams’ district where many of the city’s homicides occur.

That brings me to the point of this diatribe. Ms. Williams is among those wonderful underappreciated people who give so much of themselves to serve their communities. But the reality is sometimes those people get so busy with the stuff right in front of them; they don’t focus on some other important stuff – which is why I personally am a proponent for term limits for political officeholders. Twenty-five years in elective office is too dang long! It breeds stagnation. But we’ve got an electorate that’s equally as uninformed as those it elects. The cycle perpetuates itself.

So Sunday morning I’m watching Bobby Hitt tell the host about industry in South Carolina and how it’s changed from the agricultural, textile fundamental environment that once existed to a new dynamic that includes shipping, manufacturing and tourism in addition to our agricultural base.   

Companies like BMW, Boeing and Volvo are changing the industrial landscape in South Carolina. In our community, industrial parks in Berkeley and Dorchester counties will bring jobs and a bustling economy. And workforce is key, Hitt said.

“It starts with getting people employed,” the guy said. New opportunities in the aerospace, automotive and IT industries will create thousands of jobs. Boeing already employs several thousand people. About half of them relocated here, Hitt said. The Department of Commerce is partnering with other agencies to train a workforce to accommodate the industry coming to South Carolina. I’ve done a couple of stories about training programs offered through Trident Technical College. One Trident Tech official old me she’s had a difficult time getting folks in the Black community to embrace those efforts.

As I watched the show I asked myself why our community is arguing over who has the most responsibility for raising children instead of preparing our children for the economic opportunities that are here and continue to come? Hitt said, when it comes to issues in South Carolina, most of our problems can be managed. His comment was relative to industrial problems – workforce and infrastructure development – but I think it also applies to the socio-economic problems we face in the Black community.

Some really great things are happening all around us. Construction and development is occurring at such a rapid pace white folks are talking about preserving their traditional quality of life. In the Black community our debate is about preserving life itself! Why does that disconnect exist?

Our leadership no longer can remain silent and oblivious to the negative aspects of life in the hood. We have to face the unpleasant realities. We have to recognize and admit we have problems and then work to resolve them. I think that means we need new leadership, new leadership which will focus on education and employment that prevents crime and violence. We can’t continue to do the same things, the same way, with the same people and expect a different result. That’s called insanity.

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