To the People of Charleston: A Letter of Thanks

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By Mark A. Leon

In a day and age where all thoughts, emotions and testimonials can be summed up into a text or a social update, it becomes ever so important to express my deep and warm gratitude to those individuals with the imagination, admiration and love to give of themselves each and every day.? To the people of of Charleston who welcome all, you are a blessing as strong as the power of all the churches, temples and sanctuaries.

To the amazing community of Charleston, through tolerance, patience and love, you have overcome adversity and trial to find hope in each sunrise.

As I reflect on the last two years, it has been filled with tragedy and struggle. Nights of unanswered questions, lives lost well before their time and obstructions in the path of life.

From tears heard across another continent, to new lives being welcomed into the world, to parents watching their children laid to rest, to disaster ripping families from their homes; I have spent many a long quiet evening in a meditative state trying to piece this puzzle of life together.

Each time, I draw the same conclusion: It is in the outstretched arms of those that have continuously put others ahead of themselves, who have greeted every challenge with passion and hope and been that shoulder to lean on that I need to personally thank. You are the foundation of this wall that provides me shelter from the storm and fuels my drive.

The students at the College of Charleston, Citadel, Charleston Southern and Trident that are shaping our future, media that celebrates community, the small business owners that have created a culture of family and to the Southern allure that welcomes millions annually, we are indebted.

From Mother Emanuel to Hurricane Matthew to the rescue of sea turtles, the selfless acts of kindness and unconditional sense of community speak values.

I thank you

  • I thank you for holding hands across the Cooper River Bridge in unity
  • I thank you for supporting local business
  • I thank you for remembering Mother Emanuel, Charleston Nine and the many others that gave their lives so we can keep our faith.
  • I thank you for giving your homes to keep us dry in times of flooding.
  • I thank you for embracing a Hurricane head on right strength and resilience
  • I thank you for allowing me to bear witness to your life changing events
  • To those that called, emailed or sent a picture or cute message at the most opportune time when I really needed it, I am eternally grateful
  • To the writers, poets, scientists, engineers, doctors, nurses and historians, thank you for preserving life, continue to preserve our history and building on this creative renaissance.

Sometimes, I lie out on the Folly Beach is the first sign of sunlight ordains the sky or an open field gazing upon the stars. Right at the moment it begins to sink in how small we are in the scheme of the universe and then fond memories rush through my head. ?Good refreshing memories that put a smile on my face. ?They are visual images of times I have spent with you; all of you. ?Each person that is important in my life has an equal piece of my heart and as you have and continue to shape who I am, I hope my actions and my words help you understand how you have given me all a man could ask for.

To our community, your love and devotion continues to give strength and energy. ?Thank you.

To the future, let us continue to unite, accept, love and grow.

The Charleston Mantra is Simple: Spread Love

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By Mark A. Leon

As I walked the Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park pier last evening, I began to think about science and the truth seekers that lead the revolution of knowledge gathering.? Their framework is very simple: seek answers to life’s most complex and challenging questions.? The goliath of all questions that has riddled us all is the meaning of life and existence.

Where did we come from?? Why are we here?? What lies ahead after our organic body expires?? We most likely will never know the absolute truth of what force led to this thing we know as the universe and our tiny piece of real estate, but we continue to search.

Over the millions of years of evolution, our bodies, our ability to think, our every-day tools have developed and adjusted, but one core value has remained with humanity; the ability to feel empathy and love.

What makes love so powerful and so unexplainable?? It brings us to extreme levels of happiness and sadness.? It makes us laugh and cry.? It penetrates our bodies to the point of actual pain and ecstasy.? Yet, it is completely unpredictable.? Perhaps, you need to look at love as not an answer to be sought, but a guiding force in our journey.

As I walked the pier, with the final glimmer of sunlight reflecting off the harbor on onto my back, I saw couples holding hands, taking selfies, sitting on the rocking bench together, mothers and daughters holding hands, fathers giving son’s piggy back rides and all had the same common attributes of laughter, happiness and joy.

Just then, it hit me, the glue that keeps the wheels spinning on Charleston is the aphrodisiac in the air of love.? It is the roots of our garden, the fuel that keeps this Southern flame alive.

Take away the mansions, the fancy restaurants, the church steeples, the scenic waterways and you are still left with a simple philosophy: “Be guided by the simplicity of love, find those that fulfill your need of community and embrace the nature wonders of home and there you are”.? Charleston’s core mantra is love.

What brings couples from all over to pledge their eternal love on our beaches and churches?

What leads flocks to seek warmth under our sun?

What plants the idea to step back over two hundred years and let a horse guide you through the cobblestone roads?

What presence sends subliminal messages to kiss under the palmetto and frolic through Philadelphia Alley?

Why do you feel the need to dance on the sidewalk as a street performer serenades you or dine as the moon reflects off the harbor waters?

Love

We shower you with our Southern kindness, greetings of acceptance and acts of respect.

That is the pillar that can never be broken in Charleston.? That is the life that we have chosen.

When I think of a word to best describe the Charleston experience, it is simple, “Love”.

Embrace the idea of love.? Be kind, generous and hopeful.

 

 

Why is Life Good in Charleston, South Carolina

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By Mark A. Leon

Life is good in the little Southern town of Charleston, SC.? The sun is shining, the beach is filled with warm water and sand in late September, the sunrises and sunsets are as picturesque as a classic painting, the restaurants are filled with culinary magicians looking to fill your tummies with foodie delight, boating is a lifestyle, the College of Charleston, Charleston Southern and The Citadel remind us of the promise of tomorrow, MUSC and Roper watch our health closely, beer and bikini’s fill our background, the craft beer scene is exploding, yoga stretches our limits and things are just a little bit slower and we like it.

Life is good in Charleston

Here are a few more reasons why….

  • Festival season never ends. Locally, we segment by season our festivals – Summer – Outdoor Festival Season; Autumn – Fund Raising Festival Season, Winter/Spring – Food Festival Season.? Put that all together and you have a year of festivities.? All year round, you can count on a great festival to bring the community together.
  • Beach life – What more can we say. Sullivan’s Island, Edisto Beach, Folly Beach, Isle of Palms and all within 5 to 45 minutes away and if you really want to get away, head to Pawley’s Island, Garden City, Hunting Island State Park or Myrtle Beach.? The Carolina Coastline is always waiting for you.? What is even better, if it is not a county or state park, the beach access is free.

GALLERY:? Life at the Charleston Area Beaches

  • Dining – That speaks for itself. The James Beard Recipients, fine dining, casual dining, inventive culinary artists and food trucks are just the tip of the iceberg.? Here in Charleston, we over over 110+ brunch options.? That alone speaks volumes.

Charleston Brunch Guide

  • College Life – You want a city, not only brimming with shopping, dining, outdoor activities and tours, but a thriving college life, welcome to Charleston. Within the city proper, The Citadel and the College of Charleston will give you your fill of academic culture.? Students aside, the athletic and cultural offerings to the public are thriving.
  • History – First shots of the Civil War right here in Charleston. George Washington stayed in Charleston.? Pirates were hung from our trees.? Ghosts roam the Old City Jail and residential homes.? We can’t say enough about our history and thus we celebrate it with the Mace Brown Natural History Museum, Karpeles Manuscript Museum, Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, Historic Carriage Rides, Historic Walking Tours, Ghost Tours, Boat Tours and more.
  • South Carolina Aquarium – If you love sea and ocean life, but aren’t ready to get on a boat, the South Carolina Aquarium is a structurally beautiful, educational and fun way to spend the day on land and still feel the power and beauty of the ocean. Plus, it is located right on the harbor and offers majestic views.
  • Daytrips – What if I want to get away, but don’t want to spend the whole day in the car. We have a few options:? Augusta National – Augusta, GA; Beaufort, SC; Savannah, GA; Jekyll Island, GA; Myrtle Beach/Pawley’s Island, SC; Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia, SC; Charlotte, NC; Asheville, NC; Appalachian Mountains.? I think we made a great point.

Check out 7 Great Charleston Area Escapes – Daytrips

  • Shopping – Louis Vuitton, West Elm, William Sonoma, Forever 21, Alex and Ani, Godiva, M. Dumas & Sons, Beckett Boutique, Le Creuset Boutique, MOSA Boutique, House of Sage, Forever 21, The Charleston City Market, Antique shops (High and Low End) and so much more.

We can certainly go on with Art Galleries, Coffee Houses, Biking, Churches of the Holy City, Dog Parks, Playgrounds, A Cat Café, Comedy, Theater and Film Festivals, but we hope this sheds a little light on why life is truly good in Charleston.

City where many slaves entered US to apologize for slavery – Charleston, S.C.

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina city where almost half of all the slaves brought to the United States first set foot on American soil is ready to apologize for its role in the slave trade.

The resolution expected to be passed by the Charleston City Council on Tuesday offers a denouncement of slavery, a promise of tolerance in the future and a proposal for an office of racial reconciliation. The vote will be full of symbolism when it is taken by a majority-white council that meets in a City Hall built by slaves. It will happen less than a mile (1.5 kilometers) from the old wharf where slave ships unloaded — soon to be the site of a $75 million African-American history museum.

Tuesday is also “Juneteenth,” a celebration of the end of slavery and just two days after the third anniversary of the racist attack by a white man that killed nine black church members at Emanuel AME church — a target picked in part by Dylann Roof because of its long history. In the 1800s, the church was closed after Charleston’s white leaders thought church leaders had fostered a slave revolt. Church members were forced to worship in secret as a result.

“We hereby denounce and apologize for the wrongs committed against African Americans by the institution of slavery and Jim Crow, with sincerest sympathies and regrets for the deprivation of life, human dignity and constitutional protections occasioned as a result thereof,” the resolution reads.

Charleston Council member William Dudley Gregorie insists the resolution will be more than just a soon-forgotten vote. He promises the city will support ongoing education about how slaves contributed to all parts of Charleston.

A centerpiece of that effort is the International African American Museum . Organizers, including former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, are trying to raise the millions of additional dollars they will need to break ground this summer and open the museum in 2020. It will be located on the site of the old wharf where slave ships unloaded.

The museum will tell the story of African-Americans in the U.S. from slavery to today. It also will include genealogy resources to help families trace their roots.

GALLERY: Life on South Battery Street – Charleston, South Carolina

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By Mark A. Leon

It is Saturday morning in late April in Charleston, South Carolina.? There is a slight breeze, the skies are blue and a few scattered clouds are providing occasional shade to the sailors in the Harbor.? Joggers, walkers, bikes and dogs parade the sidewalks while carriages trot along while tour guides spread educational lessons on the history of Charleston.? Life is simple down in the South.? On this day, we spent a little time capturing the architecture, spring flowers and simplicity of life on South Battery Street.? Just off the tip of the peninsula overlooking the Charleston Harbor, South Battery offers some of the most beautiful homes and scenery this city has to over.? Take a look for yourself

Sit back and enjoy this photographic look at South Battery.? Lose yourself in a Charleston Daydream…

 

 

Photo Credit:? Mark A. Leon

Heaven is Being Right Beside You – Original Poem

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By Mark A. Leon

It was meant to be
Baby, you and me
We are in it for the ride with you by my side
I’m a small-town boy, looking at my small-town girl who said yes to a dance
Now, I never want it to end
Let the music play every minute of every day

Just to hear your voice in my dreams
To see your face just as your lips touch mine

When you asked, “Where have you been all my life?”
I’ve always been there right beside you

In your prayers
A sound in the wind
Always
An energy exchange pure to the heart of two souls wandering with purpose; with meaning

We shared a love in our growing hearts
From the youthful tone of a field of lilies on those northern plains
To the southern breeze so safe and familiar

I grew to know you one syllable at a time
Each piece of the puzzle one step to completing me

Now we are one
A dance in the clouds on a red letter
Free to fly above the reality to a fantasy built for two

A silly thought, but one we share
A promise made by a fortune teller so long ago
A prediction in the stars
A red carpet welcoming us to the ball

Take my hand, my princess
Let me have the first dance all over again

A miracle in heals
A savior in lace
Warm wet fierce rapids racing for the waterfall
Hold on tight

Media Release: Dear Prospective New Charleston Residents – Charleston is Officially Closed

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By Mark A. Leon

This is going to come as a shock to many who have already rented Uhaul trucks, looked at Google Maps and prepped road trip meals and gas breaks, but in a major announcement, Charleston has been declared closed to new residents.

After a massive public uprising, the powers above have made a declaration stating the reasons why it would not be prudent to move here:

  1. We don’t have a professional sports team (ok, major professional).? Think about this for a moment.? Charleston has a comparable cost of living to Chicago (this is truth) and they have the World Series Champion Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and the Chicago Fire.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, Bill Murray doesn’t always like to be bothered out in public. Besides, he is rarely in town anyway. You have a better chance of spotting a dolphin doing the backstroke.
  3. I know Charleston flaunts unseasonably warm winters, but it does snow. In fact, we recently got enough to shut down our international airport for three days, businesses were shut down and schools were closed.? It was mayhem and panic in the streets.
  4. We hide it well on social media, but the Lowcountry has a bit of a traffic issue. Structurally, this small coastal community wasn’t built for the size it has become and it becomes apparent during those busy rush hours.
  5. It is illegal to drink on our beaches. Do you really want to go to the beach and not be able to relax with a cold one?? Really??
  6. Our mascots are a Cougar, a Bulldog, and a big floppy eared dog. We are dorky and so unoriginal.? You deserve better.
  7. Southern pride isn’t for everyone. It is an acquired taste that has taken hundreds of years to obtain.
  8. If you aren’t an SEC or ACC fan, you are an outsider and who wants to be an outsider?
  9. We are much too expensive for you all. Charleston is 31% above the national cost of living average, our sales tax is 9.5% on everything including clothes, 10.5% restaurant food tax and 15% restaurant alcohol tax.? We feel bad putting that financial burden on y’all.
  10. We don’t even have a Macy’s or Tiffany’s or Lord & Taylor
  11. Charleston does not have a 24-hour coffee shop. What happens when you get that late-night inspiration and you need coffee?? You are out of luck my friend.
  12. You must experience it to believe it, but the heat and humidity have a life of their own during the summer. And do we have a summer.? It lasts for 9 months.
  13. With all our fried food, your New Years Resolution will go right out the window.? See how much we care.

We apologize for any inconvenience and wish you all the best of luck.

Classic Charleston, SC Images

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King Street - Early 1900's

It is time to step back in time and remember a different part of the Charleston history.? Kick back and relax and enjoy this photographic journey back in time to a much different Charleston and Southern experience.

We truly have a spirited history filled with ups and downs and it is important to remember the journey as we look to the future.

Pictures of Charleston, South Carolina Past

Grace Bridge – Charleston, South Carolina

 

Old King Street Postcard

 

South Battery Home

 

Dock Street Theater

 

Joseph Manigault House – 1910

 

King Street Postcard – 1907

 

Civil War Era Charleston

 

Rainbow Row – Circa 1940

 

O’Connor House – Post Civil War

 

Early Trustees of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church – Charleston, SC

 

237 King Street – Kassis Brothers Shoes

 

 

 

A new downtown hotel and student abuse at the College of Charleston – Headlines from the Top US City

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By Mark A. Leon

A new 18 room hotel was unanimously approved for the old Bob Ellis location on King Street and the fifth College of Charleston fraternity was shut down in a year with this recent one involving acts or misconduct allegedly including abuse of a student.

Meanwhile in Conde Nast land, Charleston continues its reign as the #1 city in the United States.

Let us for a moment overly simplify this.? I apologize for the lack of complexity, but sometimes you need to be transparent and simple.? These bullet points should illustrate a growing number of concerns that we cannot turn a blind eye to.

  • Charleston has not ranked in the top five tourist cities in the United States or world in any other annual survey other than Travel & Leisure.
  • The voters are tourists that spend an average of 1 to 4 days in Charleston annually or just one isolated visit.
  • A small group is “raising” awareness of a new rising of the South with peaceful demonstrations of flag waving and graffiti, but we claim to not have issues around race.
  • Have there been any investigations into the conditions the construction workers that are working in extreme heat putting up all these new developments in record time to capitalize on the overwhelming rise in demand and prices in Charleston County and surrounding areas?
  • In a recent article, we recommended subsidized parking for locals that work downtown. Thank you to the College of Charleston and their survey team by bringing attention to this issue and reinforcing that local livability is taking a back seat.
  • Why is our local city and county government, knowing that there is active construction on Upper King, Crosstown, Lockwood, Upper Meeting, Medical District and areas around The Battery, not doing a single thing to curtail the development? That is the million-dollar question that remains.

Is all this for the hard-working residents that commute long hours every day, suffer wear on their vehicles from a damaged road system, struggle to pay monthly rent and expenses and refusing to come to a city that preaches shop local, buy local?

In a city that can be crippled by an icy bridge, a netting falling from a bridge top or a single massive accident, it is time to ask some serious questions and more importantly, get answers.

When will historic Charleston return to the look and feel of a city that once was the shining star of the South?

Southern Pride may need a facelift or at least an objective evaluation

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By Mark A. Leon

A society is only as strong as its weakest link.? Without order, without rules, it will crumble.? This was outlined with abandon in “Lord of the Flies”.? The weakness of Piggy resulted in his death and a realization that the island society would crumble due to its inherent flaws.

The United States lives under two fundamental belief systems, governed by Democratic and Republican ideals.? This two party system has dominated since the inception of freedom for the new settlers.? Variations of these values have risen, but not enough to take over the two-party stranglehold.

In a more hidden way, another separation remains, as strong now as it did when bloodshed covered this country with a sea of red: North vs South.? This is one that can have a more emotionally damaging affect than liberalism and conservatism.

We recently received a comment that sent a shiver of reality, not just in its emotional scars, but its truth.? These words deliver a telling message.

It saddens me to read all-of-these comments. I was planning on moving my family to Charleston from the North. Not all Northerners apply to this ..”nasty temperament and anti-Southern rhetoric”. Some of us, don’t like the temperament of the North even though we were born here. I wanted to move South to give my children a better, slower, way of life. But, reading all-of-these statements proves to me that they will not be accepted because they are “Yankees”. Very Sad.”

Several months ago, these comments came on the cusp of an image of the Folly Boat thanking President Obama for his eight years of service:

“Thank you????? For what?????? Dividing our country, the national debt, shredding our military, shitting on law enforcement, kissing the ass of the rest of the world? Paint over that shit asap!!!!!!! Any of you on here praising Obama are complete morons and need to stop voting. Trump WILL make America great again. Time to stop being a bunch of political correct pussies!!!!!!!!!”

“Who the fuck did this? Were they high as shit and tripping acid the last eight years? Was Charleston Daily right next to them nodding off too? You are fucking stupid.”

“and of course a bunch of stupid old white folk commenting bogus on this picture. love to preach the golden rule and it goes right out the door when their racist tendencies come back to light.”

Apathy vs ignorance

Each year, we remember Emmett Smith, Walter Scott and Emanuel AME.? Each year, the media spurs up articles and commentary on the apparent racism that still plagues the South and then we brush it under the table once again.

The South is growing as a destination spot. It is becoming home to a new migration, similar to the 49er’s migration to the west.? It seems, many aren’t ready for this change, because they are holding onto archaic principles of segregation, bias, hatred and ignorance.

  • We want the Confederate Flag down, but we have a Robert E. Lee street on James Island. Is the South proud of the fight for secession or in favor of an integrated country not separated by geography?
  • We believe in the right to bear arms, but arbitrarily determine what falls under freedom of expression.
  • This community, without research, without organized efforts, is quick to blame the “Northerners” for ruining the quiet community of Charleston. Yet, you welcome the North investment dollars that are bringing in massive economic growth.
  • We claim racism is not an issue, but sentiment and actions speak louder than words.

The question remains, what does Southern pride stand up for.? There seems to be a lack of consistency and caustic views on who “belongs”.

The United States was built by diverse people from different backgrounds, ethnic roots, religions and race, coming together in a melting pot to create this great democratic land.? The papers drafted by our fore-fathers outlined a country united.? It is those papers that government officials at all levels continue to use at the backbone for legislating and governing.

The idea of democracy is simple: Be free in a land of competition and opportunity.? In theory, it stands on a solid foundation.? In reality, there still seems to be a separation of North and South, Black and White and Rich and Poor.

After 150 years, is the war over?

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