By Barney Blakeney
Recently one Charleston community activist issued a challenge with respect to Black History Month celebrations – instead of invoking the greatness of our past recognize the accomplishments and successes of our present with an eye to our future; acknowledge and recognize everyday individuals in our communities who are doing the work right now oftentimes with little or no recognition. One who fits those criteria is Bernett ‘Bernie’ Mazyck, president and CEO of the South Carolina Association of Community Development Corporations (SCACDC).
For most of the past three decades Mazyck has worked to develop both human and material resources in challenged communities. Under Mazyck’s leadership for the past 17 years, SCACDC has seen the community economic development movement in the state grow from four community development organizations to over 100. To date, SCACDC and its 28 member CDCs have developed projects valued at $96.8 million, with a statewide economic impact of $300 million. With SCACED’s help thousands of families have purchased their first homes, tens of thousands of jobs have been created and thousands of families in distressed and rural communities have built wealth.
Before Mazyck’s tenure at SCACDC, he served for eight years as director for the Neighborhoods Energized to Win Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation. He started his career at Trident Technical College after graduating from the Baptist College at Charleston. He later became vice president of community development for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and a program manager in the employment and training department for the City of Charlotte, N.C. Born in Summerville, where he still lives, Mazyck is an ordained minister of the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC).
When asked to talk about his role as a modern figure in Black History locally, Mazyck insists the conversation instead should be about his work. He feels the ministry always has been his calling. And though a fully ordained United Methodist Church minister since 2016, he recognizes that ministries are not limited to preaching. His church recognizes that was well, he said.
The son of a Summerville teacher and Charleston Naval Shipyard worker, Mazyck said his personal ministry began with an ambition to become a dentist. That led him to attain a biology degree from the Baptist College. But after graduating, his first job was at Trident Technical College. As manager of the school’s science labs he met people who later would influence him and his work. The TTC job required him to go into schools recruiting students to enter science professions. That led to various roles in workforce development, which is what he did for three years in Charlotte.
The Charleston Metro Chamber recruited him back to Charleston as a senior manager to provide the same services. His recognition as a valuable asset in the field took him to the Coastal Community Foundation and finally to SCACDC. Mazyck says his tenure at the Coastal Community Foundation more than any other prepared him for the work he does in enabling individuals and communities to build wealth and to become self-reliant. His skills are rooted in lessons acquired from his upbringing – “You can shape you own destiny if you develop the tools you need to succeed and the expectation that you can succeed.”
African Americans are making tremendous strides in achievement our ancestors could never conceive and have attained some levels of wealth they could not think about, Mazyck said. At the same time they are losing ground in important assets like land. Gentrification contributes a disappearing presence in economically promising communities and deteriorating race relations put them at risk of losing social, economic and political gains made in the past. African American communities must begin to map strategies that move them forward. Business ownership must become more a part of the formula for their success.
In a changing conservative economic climate, Mazyck says he will ramp up the work he’s been doing the past 34 years with increased emphasis on the disparities between urban and rural communities. The key will be promoting workforce training and development to accommodate new industry coming to the state.