By Barney Blakeney
This likely will be the last column I write in 2019 and I haven’t got the slightest idea what to write about. I try to write columns that offer information, not just my opinion. What’s that they say about opinions – like buttholes, everybody’s got one. I try never to forget I’m privileged to have the opportunity to put my words in print where others see them. That privilege comes with consequences – this is a responsibility, not an ego trip.
Talking to my partner, Tucker Brown yesterday, we agreed that at dang near 70, we’re still working in the jobs we’ve had for more than 40 years. Folks ask us why don’t we retire, relax and use the time off to volunteer doing something we enjoy. We laughed acknowledging we’re doing the thing we enjoy – and are getting paid to do it! Duh! Why volunteer to do something you enjoy for free when you’re already doing that and getting paid?
Tuck paid me a really humbling compliment yesterday. He said I’m a good writer. That meant a lot coming from a guy I’ve known more than 50 years – before this writing thing ever became my reality. Oddly, I’ve never considered myself a good writer. Hell, I’m a GREAT writer! Just kiddin’. I do okay, but it’s got nothing to do with me. I just use the gift God gave and the education I received in Charleston County public schools from some of the finest educators on the planet! As I said earlier, half the time, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.
For this last column of 2019, I figured I’d recall some of the issues I wrote about this year. Don’t look for rhyme or reason – this one is just about stuff.
One story I didn’t give enough focus was the efforts of the United Black Men of Charleston County. The group founded by Charleston County Councilmen Henry Darby and Teddie Pryor in 2016 to impact Black male homicides in our local community has been struggling to do that. President Kevin Williams said I need to do a story about the group’s Conflict Resolution initiative in local schools. I’ve done a couple of stories about the group’s efforts in the Dorchester Waylyn community. The group has a monumental task. There have been 26 homicides in North Charleston alone this year!
I recently engaged a Facebook conversation about gun violence and homicides. I try not to do Facebook; a lot of back and forth usually going nowhere. The discussion confirmed there are as many thoughts about how violence and its consequences should be addressed as Carter has liver pills.
It’s the same with public education in our community. 2019 was a hot year for education stories. I probably wrote 100 stories about public education in Charleston County. When I think about my collective experience I see an ominous shadow cast over some very bright initiatives. It seems every fool with a butthole deems themselves an expert in education. Selfishness, greed, discrimination and exploitation always have driven public education in Charleston.
Despite that, there has been enough people of good will here to enable many like me to get a good education even in such an environment. To name a few of those people and organizations there was the 10-year-old Charleston Promise Neighborhood, Shared Future Project, the AdvancEd Accreditation Report, Mission Critical Action Groups, and most recently, community listening sessions. But like the UBMCC, their task is monumental. All I can say about that is, Lord help our children!
Politically, 2019 perpetuated the mantra, ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’. The year ended in Charleston County with municipal elections. That mantra was never more true than in the political arena. I may be wrong, but it seems 2019 exemplified that the same players are engaged in that game of political musical chairs. The public gets a song and dance and the various players drop into the limited number of seats available whenever the music stops.
For Black folks the game has produced catastrophic consequences. What can any constituent say when he looks at his community over 25 years and sees no substantive change? I laugh every time I pass a municipal sign proclaiming this city or another among America’s top cities. I ask, how does that apply to predominantly Black communities? It has to be hard to watch the general community flourish with progressive change as your individual community remains stagnated. But that’s what you get when you elect the same people to office 25 years running!
I had the occasion to meet state Senate Dist. 41 candidate Sam Skardon recently. I don’t know Sam Skardon, but I know his father Steve Skardon and his uncle Taylor Skardon. Most recently Capt. Taylor Skardon (USN Ret.) who is an instructor at The Citadel led the effort to recognize the commissioning of the battleship Ralph H. Johnson, named after a local African American Vietnam War hero whose name also is on the Charleston V.A Hospital. I’ve known Johnson’s sisters Helen and ‘Taut’ for years.
Skardon’s father, Steve, for the past 27 years has been executive director of the Palmetto Project, an organization committed to advancing issues of social and economic justice in South Carolina. Its primary focus is: health care and health care access; children, youth and schools; race and community relations; voter turnout and election reform; and economic empowerment. Like I said, don’t know Sam, but the apple don’t fall far from the tree – and the Skardon tree bears some good fruit.
A few weeks ago my friend and mentor Charles Murrell asked me to do a story about missing Black women. It’s a story no one’s paying attention to, he said. I’ve got a friend whose mother went missing some 30 years ago. She left her Robert Mills Manor home for work one morning and never returned. No one’s heard from her since. Her granddaughter who was about four year old at the time now has children of her own. BlackAmericaWeb says some 75,000 Black women/girls are missing in the U.S.
Folks I could do this all day, but I have neither the time nor space. So til 2020 and I can’t think of anything to write about – tha, tha, that, that tha that, tha that’s all folks.