TEAM SOUTH CAROLINA

 

state flag

Above is the flag of the State of South Carolina.  It features a crescent moon and our beloved Palmetto tree.

pray-for-peace

Often our state flag is modified to make a point.  Its design lends itself to this kind of thing.  Credit to Gil Schuler Graphic Design (gilschulergraphicdesign.com).

A huge rebellion against the Confederate Battle Flag posted on the front grounds of our state house is brewing.  Again.  This is old news, of course.  One Republican governor recently occupied his office only for one term, and his support to take down the battle flag was a big part of his defeat.  Today, Saturday, the state house will be the site of two demonstrations.  At 1:30, a group organized under the idea of “let us vote” (for or against the idea of taking down the flag) and at 6 PM, a demonstration, as far as I can tell, sponsored by no one will demonstrate for taking the flag down.

flag

 

Above credit:  ABC7News.com

I think the taking down of the flag may be achieved this time.  But probably not without violence.  I lend my physical self to demonstration anytime I can.  It is a right, and a powerful feeling to be part of a mass that believes the way you do.  But these days, one has to think twice.  If this event has no sponsor, will there be security?  This week in South Carolina, although almost nothing is being spoken about other than the tragedy in Charleston, there is the dangerous fringe element, one of which now sits in jail.  Should we go?  Should I subject my family to this danger?  If nine people could be murdered in a church while studying the Bible, my choice seems like a no-brainer.

In the 80s during the beginning of the AIDS scare, I sent my children to daycare.  It was the right thing to do even though kids bite and blood could be exchanged.  Some here pulled their kids out. Not in favor of stigmatizing anyone, or acting like Chicken Little, we trusted that nothing would happen.  Nothing did.

If it weren’t for the guns that are everywhere, I would trust this time.  Can I?

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TRADITION

I have had trouble finding a dermatologist.  For a while, living between SC and MO, the fabulous Sam SaMIMI in St. Louis helped me.  That transitional time ended and the local crop had to be explored.  Now my insurance company dictates some choice, but I found a lady that is great.

We live in a majority minority county and my new dermatologist is a black woman about my age.  She comes to Orangeburg only once a week.  She is very busy.  In her office yesterday, I counted 25 chairs in the waiting room, and all were full. Two patients were standing.  Her office manager has an interesting way of organization, and patients are liable to wait for hours.  I take at least two books and my smart phone, reframing the problem as a way to get some reading done.  Then the wait is OK.

black-people-standing-in-line

Black people, unfortunately have always had to wait.  It is their history.  They do not complain.  It shouldn’t be this way, but it has been, and is.  When you are a client of a black business, you must understand this.  Yesterday, and I have experienced this before, a new patient, upon entering the waiting room,  door opening from the outside to 25 pairs of eyes looking up, said “GOOD MORNING!” to all.  Most everybody said “Good Morning” back.  It was such a humane interaction.

Glenn thinks it comes from the black church.  Maybe like a “call and answer” thing.  I wonder if it comes from strong black mamas and their directives.

Another interesting thing that happened in that waiting room was that two women were having a conversation across the entire room.  It was kind of like white noise to me while reading; I could not understand what they were saying.  Looking around I thought, would I have asked someone to move so conversation with my friend would be easier?  Think so.  But that did not happen in this case.

At the end of my stint (as it turned out to be) in the waiting room, a very tall and elegant black man came in.  “GOOD MORNING!” he bellowed and just as loud, all 25 of us responded.  I expected him next to say “You may rise and sing Number 112 from our hymnal”.  Loved it:  we need to speak to each other much more.

The Waffle House restaurant chain in Winston-Salem, North Ca

Have you been to Waffle House?  They do this too when you enter the restaurant.

THE SOUL OF THE SOUTH

Damn. The famous travel writer Paul Theroux was in Orangeburg and I didn’t know. It wasn’t to speak or anything like that, who around here would go?  He was doing what he does, this time in his own country.  My husband has been talking the past couple of days about an article he is reading in Smithsonian Magazine. Flipping through the article backwards this morning with coffee and hummingbirds, it is so long. Finally reaching the first page, there was his name. Of course! Only a guy like Theroux could command that much space in Smithsonian.

This article was long overdue. Other than the famous interchange from some years back between Bill Cosby and a woman from North, SC (Noo-ath), in a remake of the old “You Bet Your Life” show, this part of my South is pretty invisible.

We have our roadside curiosities.  I love the little old now vacant restaurant on 301 that is crowned by a large coffee pot.  I have tried to buy it before.  No luck.  Through the windows Edward Hopper and men in fedoras can be imagined.

coffee pot

 

The UFO Welcome Center on the other side of Orangeburg is popular.

another ufo

Or the home of our Govette is in Orangeburg County, for what that counts as.  Some think she is the next Sarah Palin.

nikki

Theroux does talk about the Orangeburg Massacre, a locally famous event, which gets more to his “soul of the South” topic.  It was what was happening here when the rest of the country was focused on Kent State. In the article, a Mr. Johnson, the man who told Theroux about the Massacre, to whom Kent State was mentioned,  said “But you know those kids that died were white”.  “People here understand how it is to need help, to be neglected”.  So we do.

Finding some pictures from the event, it was pretty amazing, and pretty tame to have had three students killed.

all star bowling alley

 

Above is the bowling alley where it all started.  The building looks just the same now, but vacant.  It is in a part of town that boasts lots of vacancies, and has since I have been around here.  The alley is about six or eight blocks from SC State University (College then).  That was the destination of the march.  Back home after being rejected service in the bowling alley.

marchers oburg massacreLook at the marchers, how well dressed they are and marching in a line!  Kent State did not break out like this.  For two days peaceful demonstrations called for integration of the business so students could use it.  For sure, there was not another place where they could.  They were turned away by an owner who did not want to integrate, and the third day of demonstrations got dangerous.

the t and d oburg massacre

Here is the front page of the local paper for Feburary 9, the day after the violent night.  There is a building named after the three on the SC State University campus.

NOT RACE, NOT CLASS, IT’S CULTURE

Still thinking about Ferguson, Missouri.

Ferguson mo 1978-3

I grew up a stone’s throw from there, in the 1960s, and there were no blacks to speak of. We were all middle class whites and were trained with middle class ideas. Most of us went to state institutions, middle class schools, for college. We knew the program.

ferguson mo 1978 -1

After graduate school at a second middle class state institution, I came south to take my first college teaching position. The only person I knew in South Carolina was the person who hired me.

Landscape, behavior, attitudes were all unfamiliar to me. And true, I lived (still do) in a county that is majority minority. There was some kind of political plan to make this county the way it is, and its shape is huge, and far-reaching to attain that goal. Both whites and blacks were confusing.

I was truly in a different pond. Could not understand why strangers spoke to me. What did they want? Someone was to pick me up “after church” and I thought, “Which service?”. Overwhelmingly, there is only one here, and it is at eleven. The details of life became unfamiliar.

Having later married into a local family, it was very early on that I realized they were playing a game for which I would never know the rules. That is a cultural difference. Neutral, not bad, not good. It got me in trouble sometimes. That description stayed with me; it exactly depicted my emotions. I meant no harm, was simply confused. My antennae did not work well here.

People, black and white, do what their parents and grandparents did; they are the models. Those traditions may seem very strange to the other. Cultures are different ponds. Should know better, but last weekend was sort of shocked by the organization of a local Democratic Party campaign event.

IMG_20140829_112911_627

The fish fry and meet and greet was to start at four. We got to the event at that time, there was not a soul around. We sat in the car until we saw some movement in putting up a tent in the parking lot. My oldest, with us, is always embarrassed by my activities. We walk into the building behind the line of signs, against his advice. There was a meeting in a glass office taking place, and about 40 black people sitting in chairs around the perimeter of the office quietly and politely.

williams one

It reminded me of the above event from last year when all staked out their seats in a covered picnic area, loaded with railroad collectibles hanging from the ceiling. The people were glued to their seats, and were not going to give them up until fed. Same thing for the fish fry last week. They had all evening, they would listen to all the speakers, and then they would eat. Never mind how slow the start was. We, starving, left to go eat pizza as the event had yet to be born. Should have learned this stuff by now. It made me think of the Old South and the new black voters and getting out the vote. And generations of black families doing as they had seen done before.

MADELYN AND LEE IN KINLOCH

Madelyn sent me this link when all in the Ferguson diaspora looked with pain at the violent images every night.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119106/ferguson-missouris-complicated-history-poverty-and-racial-tension

Briefly, it says that to understand Ferguson, you have to first understand the story of Kinloch and the story of north St. Louis. As a kid without a car, north St. Louis escaped me. But I knew Kinloch. Madelyn and all her (even then) political activities took me there. It amazes me this vein of authenticity that runs through Madelyn; fifty some years after we first met, she has the same ideas about the same things she always has. She was right then, and is right now.

This was back then when “liberal” was not a bad word, and when Lyndon Johnson was creating his “Great Society”. Madelyn got involved in Head Start, a program of early education for children so that they were not behind already on their first day of kindergarten. Not surprisingly, she has taught children all her life. Madelyn and I went to the same church and we belonged to a very active youth group, much of the time guided by Madelyn’s politics. I can still see her brainstorming ideas for programs for the group. Having recently come to Florissant from some years in Japan, it was interesting to me that she suggested a program called “Youth in Asia”. Of course, she was suggesting “Euthanasia”.

dad's car

That was Madelyn. This time she was collecting old clothes for children in Kinloch, the all black suburb of St. Louis closest to where we lived. We were to drop them at the Head Start location there.

No one could believe it when Big John bought his first convertible. Conservative, but a Democrat, he was a government bureaucrat at a high level. Friends and neighbors were intermittently questioned about him by the government because he dealt in sensitive stuff. My dad was quiet. Then something remarkable happened and he bought a 1964 Buick Special convertible, black, and a big straw hat with fringe on it!

Three years later he bought a 1967 silver Buick Le Sabre convertible, like the one pictured above, and that is the car that Madelyn and I borrowed to deliver old clothes to the Head Start in Kinloch. Beautiful summer day with the top down. Dad at work.

I remember the day; the boxes in the back seat sitting on red leather, the freedom of the wind, the freedom of the car, and the freedom of the lazy summer.

When Big John got home from work that evening, he was appalled. You did WHAT? In KINLOCH? In the CONVERTIBLE? WITH THE TOP DOWN?

Madelyn and I lived in Florissant, right next to Ferguson. Florissant means “Valley of the Flowers”. Madelyn and I sure acted like valley girls that day!

Here are Madelyn’s words from just yesterday:

“Yes, Lee, I remember going to Kinloch with you in your car, and am astounded at how little I knew of the effect of my life style on others, the privileges and power we had without knowing.”