There was a little flurry of road trips about 7-8 months ago, before Bump arrived, and one of them was to Charleston, SC. It was a quick trip. We saw my sister-in-law and niece, and we took one of the carriage tours that the city is famous for. We admired the old fancy homes, took a quick water-view selfie, and ate a beautiful meal.
Having been raised mostly in the South, I am used to the strong connection to Civil War history places like Charleston have, including the display of the Confederate flag and monuments to fallen Confederate soldiers. However, Charming, a California boy at heart, found it strange to be surrounded by what he was educated to view as "symbols of slavery and prejudice." I tried to explain to him that most Southerners feel a deep connection to a complex and painful history, including the Civil War, but it doesn't mean they don't condemn slavery and racism.
Seven months later, I found myself back in Charleston. This was last weekend and the city was reeling in shock and grief from the murder of nine of its African-American citizens who were killed in cold blood by a maniac who explained his actions by saying he wanted to start a race war.
In the aftermath three days ago, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the State House building in Columbia, South Carolina, saying it was a "deeply offensive symbol of a brutally offensive past." Hopefully this act will help create a more inclusive, unified state that can heal from the racially motivated act of violence that rocked the state and the country.
During this recent weekend trip, signs hung all around the city, declaring unity and thoughts of sympathy to the families of the slain and the church they belonged to. The photo at the top of this post shows one of those signs, displayed in the city market and signed by passersby.
I was there with three college friends to celebrate our 30th birthdays, which we did mostly by talking, relaxing by pool and beach, and by going out for fish tacos.
After tacos Saturday night, we walked next door to an outdoor art showing we'd passed by earlier in the day. The large, graffitti-inspired murals had been a backdrop for an inclusive community event earlier that was open to the public. We arrived after the event closed, but walked around the outdoor area to one of the murals that was lit with votive candles lined up under it.
We held hands and said a prayer for Charleston as dusk deepened. A fellow latecomer arrived to the art event on a bicycle and offered to take a group photo for us.
This second Charleston trip was just as beautiful as the first, but marked by a turning point that will hopefully bring good out of evil for the city.