By Barney Blakeney
Sometimes I tell myself, “Self, get a life!” As a reporter I cover so much stuff that brings me down, I have to remind myself there’s an awful lot of great stuff going’s on (as the late great comedian Bernie Mac might say). I don’t do a lot of fluff stuff. My first editor, Jim French, taught me the Black press has an obligation to advocate for the Black community. Too often that means telling the stories few want to talk about. And it ain’t always pretty.
So the other day I was trying to come out of a mental funk. I needed something to uplift my spirits. I read a daily newspaper report about Liezanna Hart, mother of North Charleston City Councilman Sam Hart, who head-on met many challenges to successfully raise her kids in an unequal, unjust racially segregated America of the mid-1900s.
It was a refreshing story, but only typical of the thousands of similar stories of Black families in our community and across the country. I recently met a sister who endured separation as numerous siblings were dispersed among other family members and friends – two went here, three went there, others went somewhere else – after an alcoholic father left his pregnant wife. Not all, but most of the seven or eight kids became successful, productive citizens. Theirs, again, is what might be considered a typical story of undaunted Black families achieving amidst adversity.
I was thinking I need to use those kinds of stories as I develop my year in review stories that look back at 2018. I do those review stories in categories. It was hard getting fluff out of a year that saw politics, economics and crime devastate the Black community. But stuff happens all the time. It just depends on what you’re looking for.
I wasn’t looking for the call from Rev. Edward L. Johnson, pastor of New Vision Cathedral in Lincolnville informing me January 5 the town council and Mayor Charles Duberry will host the unveiling of a historic marker recognizing the town’s founding 152 years ago.
Lincolnville was founded in 1867 by seven African-American men, including Bishop Richard Harvey Cain. Riding the local South Carolina Special train to examine properties for sale by the South Carolina Railroad Company, the men decided on an area then known as “Pump Pond”, so named for its use as a train stopping point for water, wood and coal. The men contracted with the railroad company to purchase 620 acres for $1,000. After paying the amount in full, a charter to establish the town was applied for and later received on December 14, 1889. The name “Lincolnville” was given to the settlement in honor of Abraham Lincoln. The 11 a.m. marker unveiling at Broad Street and Lincoln Avenue will be followed by a noon program at New Vision Cathedral located 128 West Hamilton St.
I almost overlooked the email from Charleston County School District Communications and Technology Director Andy Pruitt who told me Sanders-Clyde Elementary School students received coats for the holidays. Each student received a brand new coat. The effort was spearheaded by the school’s Parent Advocate, Danielle Daniels who sent out a message to their community partners and fellow Charleston County School District schools.
Sanders-Clyde students and staff members want to thank Charleston Ports Authority, International Longshoremen Association (ILA) Local 1422, ILA HealthCheck nurses, Buist Academy, Charles Pinckney Elementary School, Pure Insurance, Citadel Square Baptist Church, Redeemer Lutheran Church, St. Stephens Episcopal Church, Grace City Church, the Rotary Club of Charleston and the many individuals who gave their time, talent, and treasure to make that happen.
I missed my Christmas Eve worship service hanging with the fellas on Aiken Street. The loosely-formed social group that includes former Eastside residents, athletes and friends far and wide brought together hundreds of people for the eighth annual Children’s Christmas block party. The unofficial leader and event coordinator, former Burke High School basketball Coach Earl Brown, said with the aid of family and friends including Jerusalem Baptist Church on Rutledge Avenue, St. Johns Chapel, Ebenezer AME Church, the congregation of Rev, Darrell Coulter, friends from Atlanta, Ga., New York City, N.Y., Columbia and Virginia, the Aiken Street Men of the Shoeshine Parlor gave to youth and children 190 bicycles, 25 tablets, 12 remote cars, four scooters, and 25 envelopes containing $10 each to 25 kids. They provided food for approximately 450 adults and children during the block party.
Last summer the YWCA Greater Charleston celebrated its 111th anniversary, making 2018 a triple-digit year for the local organization. “We’ve been working alongside you, our much-appreciated supporters, to eliminate racism and empower women in the Charleston region for a century, a decade, and a year,” they said in a recent newsletter outlining some significant activities conducted during the year. Some activities included: the January 46th Annual MLK Celebration, the February Racial Equity Institute series, April’s speakers who showed women how to ace job interviews in the Career Success Series, May’s inaugural #WhatWomenBring event celebrating women in business and culture, the newest program – Choose Well – as part of the women’s health series in May and November’s Toastmasters Junior workshop series for high school girls of color.
Okay so one guy who witnessed a December 29 shootout at a North Charleston restaurant considers such an event “the new normal”, that the federal government’s insane partial government shutdown completely ignores its impact on employees and their families or that unethical business conduct is rewarded with golden parachutes for executives – life remains filled with the fluff stuff that offers hope that a new year holds the potential for even cynics like me to get a life.