StoryCorps Charleston 2012

27 11 2012

One of the missions of Friends of Dereef Park is to document oral histories of people who grew up in the neighborhoods of Cannonborough-Elliotborough and Radcliffeborough. The first step was to begin gathering names at the September Revival block party of individuals willing to participate and I’m happy to report we gathered over 20 names and contact details.

The Charleston visit from the StoryCorps project allowed us to act on our mission and I’m thrilled that Friends of Dereef Park was able to sponsor four sessions. The mission of StoryCorps is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives and each session is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. While the sessions are a short 40 minutes and by no means a complete oral history, they do allow us the opportunity to start engaging with residents and they provide a broader platform to share our community stories. We are working to highlight the contributions of all our neighborhood residents and institutions regardless of social, cultural or economic background. Dr. Kerry Taylor’s recent comments on the East Side further demonstrates why it is important we continue to work together to achieve our goals, because regardless of West or East, regular people worked to make a difference in their communities and their stories shouldn’t be forgotten.

“I think about the East Side in the context of Charleston’s broader commemorative landscape–the constellation of plantations, historic homes, carriage tours, and museums through which we explore the past. These are the major attractions for the 4.5 million tourists who come to the area each year. It is a commemorative landscape that by and large projects what I consider to be bad values. These are the values of conspicuous consumption, racism, domination and subordination, and violence. Within the larger framework of historic Charleston, the East Side offers itself as a democratic counterpoint to the Battery as it reflects working class traditions of craft pride, mutual aid, and collective struggle–values that are promising and hopeful.”

Remarks from “Between The Tracks at 25 Symposium,” held at Trident Technical College on October 23, 2012.

Below are some pictures of our participants and stay tuned for our finished project.

Leila Potts-Campbell, Bernard Fielding, and Julia-Ellen Davis – a session on Herbert A. DeCosta, Jr., who lived and worked on Spring Street.



Mary Miller and Lois Simms – a session on the life of Ms. Simms and her witness of the changes in Dereef Park



Rovena Hazel Owens and Peggy Clement – a session on their childhood summers



Ann Blandin, Rosetta Givens Mitchell, and Beatrice Givens– a session on the United Order of Tents


Another Park at Risk?

14 11 2012

A recent Letter to the Editor of the Post and Courier

Stop Neglecting Brittlebank Park

Maybe if a cruise ship were parked in front of Brittlebank Park, the park would not be in such deplorable condition. Don’t believe me? Take a stroll through the park.

This is a prime example of how the mayor and City Council rate tourism over livability for peninsula residents.

Buckling pathways everywhere, litter, paths covered with soil and weeds, encroachment by parking of the police department, S.C. employment office, Marriott and kayak trailers.

Is this any way to reward the people of Charleston who preserved its dwellings and whose way of life has made the city the “best travel destiation of the world”?

Read the entire letter on the Post & Courier’s site

Save 9 Dereef Court

6 08 2012

Mommy, what are they doing to our park?

25 06 2012

Private Property

My three year old daughter asked “Mommy, what are they doing to our park?

“They are taking it down”, I replied.

But why, Mommy

“They are going to put up some new houses.”

But why, where will the children go to play?

“They will have to go to another park”

But how will we get there? Can Grandpa walk with us there?

“I’m not sure honey. We will need to see.”

But where will all the dogs go to play?

“I’m not sure dear.”

But Mommy, why would they take the park down?

At this point, I’m at a loss for words. Do I tell her that the city cares more about developers than it does about quality of life. Do I tell her that if we lived in a different zip code, then we wouldn’t need to worry about our parks being taken down? Do I tell her it is all about money?

I pause and decide to tell her it is nap time, but she gets out one more question… “Mommy, what are you going to do?

The play ground equipment in Dereef Park has been removed and a Private Property sign has been posted. As my husband stated, “We knew this day would come.” However similar to the death of an ailing elderly loved one, knowing doesn’t make it any easier. What does this mean for our neighborhood? Do we just throw up our hands and say oh well. I hope not. I hope this makes us pay more attention to things going on in our neighborhood. I hope it makes us support our local businesses and monitor the addition of new businesses. I hope it makes us go to neighborhood meetings and I hope it makes us tell our council members what we want for our neighborhoods. As far as what I’m going to do, I’m going to keep fighting and I’m going to keep showing up to meetings. I hope you will support me and the efforts of Friends of Dereef Park because if not you, then who?

If you have enjoyed Dereef Park over the last fifteen years, please post a picture and add a comment to this post.

Letters to the Board of Architectural Review

12 06 2012

Read below to see what the citizen’s of Cannonborough-Elliotborough are saying about Morris Square Phase 2. It is important that we continue to express our concerns about the proposed development. Please post your own comments online, email your city council representative, and write to the editor’s of our local papers.

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Rev. Darby of Morris Brown AME Church

Merissa Ellis

John Tucker

Elise Ladew

Dana Campbell

Bob Hines

Claire Curtis

Mary Miller


5 06 2012

Sometimes it feels as if our neighborhood is under attack.

© 2012 David Templeton

United Order of Tents could lose home
By Glenn Smith

The cream and green building with the rusted iron gate looms large over Cannon Street, a hodgepodge of architectural styles that has been home to a secretive sisterhood for more than a half-century.

The United Order of Tents has weathered civil war, segregation and strife since its birth in the late 1800s. But now, the ravages of time and city building codes threaten to leave the group homeless.

The Tents are facing a monster repair bill to shore up their crumbling building, which has developed severe structural issues. The repair costs could run in the neighborhood of $700,000, and the Tents just don’t have that kind that kind of cash on hand.

Preservation groups are rallying to help the group, run entirely by black women, many of whom are elderly. But in the meantime, Charleston officials have hauled the group into the city’s Livability Court, and a judge has given the Tents until early next month to board up the place.

Read the full article @ The Post and Courier

A New Life for Dereef Park

1 06 2012

From Charleston City Paper – 02/13/2012

Neighbors act to save historic African-American church, downtown green space
by Paul Bowers

Photo by Adam Chandler

Lois Simms still remembers the sound of voices exulting in worship at the church across the street. In the 1940s, she was a child growing up in the same house on Morris Street where she lives today, and even from the living room, she could hear the a capella offering of hymns most afternoons in the plain wooden chapel.

Read the complete article @ Charleston City Paper