After the rioting of Saturday night, I saw the plea for help in cleaning up the damage to business properties in downtown Charleston. Armed with gloves, construction bags, a broom and the hope that I’d be guided to where I might be useful, I showed up at about 9 a.m. on Sunday.
I tend to run late and apparently this was no exception. What I found when I arrived was hundreds and hundreds of people who’d done so before me. Nine in the morning and King Street was full of people toting supplies and showing up to help in whatever way they could.
What the damage I observed means for businesses which were likely already struggling due to the pandemic, I don’t know. I can only imagine.
Peeling the onion to what lies underneath: Where do we go next with what underlies this and precipitating recent events?
Like most others, I’ve been watching and reading the news of recent times with a sense of unrest and concern. My eyes and mind have been opened by the videos, the images, the stories, the quotes that reveal the extent and depth of pain that exists in our country.
From what I understand, there are questions about how much of the rioting was actually carried out by local Charlestonians. But riots or not, it’s clearly safe to say there is some long-standing emotional pain for many who’ve felt unheard for so long.
We’ve seen peaceful protests in Charleston by those with skin of all shades, together, demanding change. So what does that mean for each of us?
I find myself grappling with that question.
Upon recognizing that clean up had progressed to stages requiring a level of skill (not to mention tools) that I don’t possess, I started to wander back to my car and had the fortune to stumble upon a press conference beginning at Morris Brown AME Church. State and local elected officials eloquently shared important perspectives on working together as a unified community to move forward strategically, pleaded for no more violence and destruction, and asserted their hope that we pursue permanent solutions so we return not to how things were “before,” but to a new and better normal – one that better cares for all of our citizens.
After the press conference I asked them, “What can I do? What can I do to help with these next steps?”
The guidance I received included some of what many people likely do already: to follow the actions of our local politicians, speak up about their actions, and vote accordingly. But it was also, resoundingly simply, to begin to open up discussions in our own communities.
So I guess that’s what I’m hoping to do.
Among all the images I encountered Sunday morning on King Street, the one that struck me most deeply was of a large group of people across the street from the American, gazing across as letters were repositioned across the marquee. Everyone watching knew what it said but stood quietly watching nonetheless, as spacing was
adjusted to reveal what I have to believe we all know, at least deep down: Love Is Always The Answer.
Elizabeth DeStefano is a resident of Daniel Island.