…and we’re driving to North Charleston. We g
ot lost for a minute GPSed our way to our North Charleston Marriott Hotel, which was minimalist swank. I was like, “OK, Mr. K!” We were pretty tired from driving. (I haven’t touched the steering wheel yet). Whew! We rested that night and were ready to meet the day for Charleston sites. The restaurant we wanted for breakfast was closed, so we ate at the one next to it. Marie’s Diner is a neighborhood restaurant, that was meh, but we were pleased to meet the Police Chief of North Charleston, and he was Black. Of course, Mr. K. had to talk with him about his “ministry,” Khan Academy. “Think about how many kids he can reach!”
We hit the road to Charleston and upon arriving, we drove around to see the historical splendor of the architecture there. Then we hunted down the Charleston Visitor Center for planning. The moment my feet hit the pavement of this town filled with history, I could feel the powerful energy of this city where the ravages of slavery started. So, of course, we asked for a Black Tour. We had a wait for the tour, so the guide suggested we walk to tour The Rhett-Aiken Mansion and its slave quarters.
We stepped down from the lobby to tour the building in the back of the mansion, the slave quarters. Painful? Yes. Feeling the depth of the experience of our Ancestors, Mr. K. and I acknowledged the resiliency of Black people.
Just touring the grandeur of the “big house,” as compared to the sad slave quarters, told us we would not seek any more of the Antebellum mansion experience. We were ready for our Black tour.
Charleston’s #1 Gullah Geechee, Black History, & Porgy & Bess
combination City Tour
This is how the tour pamphlet reads, and the tour was all that and more. Al Miller is a quintessential tour guide that taught us everything we needed to know about Charleston’s Black culture. He explored Gullah history and, at intervals, spoke their language, even teaching us a few idioms. We got off the bus to pay homage to the big mama, Angel Tree of John Island in Charleston, and Al told us how the legend reads that she carries the ghosts of slaves with her and that sometimes they appear. What?!
We were treated to hear the history of the opera, Porgy & Bess, created in Charleston by Gershwin. He told us about Gershwin’s affinity for jazz, and how jazz influenced the opera. Miller is a member of an ensemble that performs Porgy & Bess and he plays several characters, one being Sportin’ Life, the villainous minx.. Miller stopped, stood, and in a booming baritone, sang “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” We were thrilled!! He also took us to church.
Miller is a cousin to 4 of the 9 Emmanuel AME Church members killed by Dylan Roof. He drove to the church and showed us where Roof entered. Then he shared the history of his family’s historic church and he recounted the strength of the woman cousin that expressed forgiveness for the murderous actions. Miller also admitted he could not be as generous with his forgiveness. Again, painful.
Miller gave us a glimpse into the church services he was used to. He clapped a rhythm and had us mimic him. Then, he started to clap in a syncopated way, as we kept the steady beat, and he sang again this time gospel. What a guide!
Of course, there was so much more he gave us, including tips and sad tidings about many of the restaurants. Some of the Black restaurants did not survive Covid. As he closed his tour, he pitched his book, Tourists Can Say the Darndest Things! . Mr. K. gifted me the book, and I received an autograph and an agreement that he would appear in my blog and magazine. I have only started to read his book, and I am already laughing/crying as I learn even more about the history of this fascinating city. Thank you, Al Miller, for introducing us to where and how Black America entered this country and in spite of challenges, thrived.
Miller schools us on “The Color of Money”
After finishing the tour, we were really hungry and decided to try the place suggested by our tour guide, Hyman’s Seafood, on Meeting Street. We were met with a tray of hush puppies, a hello snack to waiting customers. (I didn’t succumb!) To watch with no wait, we chose sidewalk dining and our wonderful server took our order. In Mr. K’s style, he began to chat with a family waiting in line in front of our table. He invited the elder mother to sit at our table, rather than stand in line. (That’s Mr. K.!) While the family entered the restaurant, our low-country boil came with hush puppies, (This time, I succumbed).
While dining we made friends with Phil and Tiffany Oliveira a delightful young couple dining next to us (via Mr. K. again). We were having so much fun that our waitress summoned the owner of Hyman’s, Eli Hyman. He shared his family’s history with the restaurant, and we swapped quips about raising family. It was clear that service was at the core of the success of this establishment. We went back to our hotel feeling full of great history, fine food, and friendship.
The next morning we made it to the restaurant next to the Meh one, The Junction Kitchen; and we chose vegetarian splendor for breakfast. We headed towards Charleston and decided to walk downtown Charleston before heading out to Hilton Head. We did not know if the famous Charleston Market was open. So we opted to get on the road to Hilton Head.
I don’t feel a bit bothered by pages unturned in Charleston. I know I will open this book again to the history, the sights, and the cuisine of this spirited city. Next, Hilton Head!
Not to be discounted, Charleston carries the energy of a sordid history, past and recent. While feelings emerged, so did the appreciation of the beauty of the city and the blessing of being with a partner who appreciates all that I do. (The girls I travel with do too!). We met fine folks; it’s always part of a travel package. We attract them, and so will you. I encourage us all to travel. I don’t care if it’s to the town next door. It’s where our perspective broadens, where our spirit grows.
Beloved I pray that you may prosper in all things… – 3 John 1:2
No matter how full the river, it still wants to grow. ~ Congolese Proverb
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” Lao Tzu
“It’s all good/love/God” – Victorine
© 2021 Vicki Goldston, All rights reserved.
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Author of Be S.A.F.E., StillAware, Faithful, Excellent, now available on Kindle Amazon as an e-book.
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2 Replies to “On to Charleston”
My Heverly (originally from England, Eveleigh) family, first began RIGHT THERE, in 1643, our largest and most known home is still standing, you probably drove or walked RIGHT PASSED IT on Church St.! My many “great”grandfather was a King George supporter, and 2 of his sons (one my many g’s grandfather and his brother) FLED, because they were clearly NOT, and were being hunted by the British as turncoats. This brought the brothers FAR up into the mountains of PA, where they began work as miners, and eventually owned 3 coal mines themselves. The Heverly Mines. One is still there, and a small town named after them, Heverly, PA! Welp, MY grandfather was NOT gonna be coal miner his whole life so HE fled that life and lied about his age and joined the Marines, and eventually, after MANY CRAZY and dangerous adventures, moved to Chicago, where he met his full Croatian wife, my tiny little Grandma, had 3 sons, and the rest is MYSTORY!
Wow! I so envy you knowing your full course of ancestry and the many stories. Yes, Charleston was indeed a town where many legacies were formed. Thanks for sharing this vital family story.