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Them Changes
12/24/2013 2:56:14 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Christmas joke - not for the prudish. I called a friend the other day; when she answered, in the spirit of Christmas I went, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” She responded, “Ain’t none of them at this house, we’re all honest working women.”

It took me a minute to catch on, but when I did, I laughed my head off. It was kind of hard for me to think of her giving me that colorful response. I’ve watched that kid, who is now a 45-year-old woman, grow up since she was in diapers.

Boy the years really fly by. I still think of Vette, her brother and cousins as kids, but they’re adults with kids of their own. I guess at some point in life, time seems to stand still. The clock keeps ticking, but in many ways things seem to never change.

A lot of changes went down this year however. Been downtown Charleston lately?

The Meeting Street corridor between Line and John streets gives one example of just how much things are changing. And more changes are coming in the next year!

I was with my partner the other day. He grew up downtown and now lives in Goose Creek, but seldom gets to the peninsula these days. We talked about how our old Eastside neighborhood has changed phenomenally.

We were at the Church's Chicken at Meeting and Nassau streets when we noticed a young white guy leave the store on foot and casually walk east on Line Street toward Nassau Street.

I remarked to my partner how strange it seems that a casually dressed white guy now would be strolling through that neighborhood.

As we grew up in the community, and for 30 year after, crime and parochialism forced caution on anyone walking through the neighborhood who didn’t belong, much less a white guy.

White folks disappeared from the Eastside and much of the peninsula for 30 years. But they’re back now. I have no problem with that. I never understood why they left in the first place.

The Charleston peninsula is paradise to me. I’m a city boy, and the peninsula offers a city boy everything he could desire. It’s pedestrian-friendly streets puts everything within easy access. But I see the peninsula changing in ways I can’t yet imagine.

I got a clue last week that some other communities also are changing.

I talked to an old acquaintance recently who lives West of the Ashley where many Blacks moved to over the past 40 years. That in-migration also was a change.

Many West Ashley communities like Ardmore and Sherwood Forest previously were predominantly white. My old friend clued me in that the future will bring occupant recycling to some West Ashley neighborhoods.

I noticed a couple of years ago that whites now are moving into the Ashlyville and Maryville communities. Those communities historically have been all Black.

But as the pre-World War II generation of Black folks who bought homes in the newer West Ashley communities move on to glory, those properties are being recycled back into the hands of white folks, my acquaintance surmises. I agree.

On James Island and Johns Island, previously all Black communities are being redeveloped into residential subdivisions and multifamily dwellings mostly occupied by whites. And the same trend is beginning to occur in North Charleston.

What’s not changing is the displacement of Black residents. My editor has been asking the question for some time now and I’m starting to ask the question myself, “Where will Black folks go?”

I don’t mind change. I don’t even mind displacement. I do mind that while Black folks are being pushed around like pawns on a chessboard they are not being empowered. The same poor Blacks who were pushed off the peninsula now are being pushed from wherever it was they landed. They still don’t have the power of self-determination.

My problem with the beautiful changes that are taking place in the metro Charleston area is that Black folks are being excluded in the changes. Despite all the changes, Black folks remain the most disadvantaged ethnic group.

I’m anxious to see what changes the next year will bring. I know that some of the changes begun this year will continue, but I’m hopeful there also will be some new changes. I’m hopeful those new changes will take our community in a more positive direction.

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