Civil rights leader and community activist William Saunders was born in 1935 and has resided most of his life in Johns Island, South Carolina. In this interview, Saunders reflects on the economic and cultural changes he has witnessed over the years. Many of the changes had a negative impact on the health and life expectancy of the African American community. Regarding land ownership and access to natural resources, he states- both poor white and black landowners lost their properties because of shark loan practices. He criticizes government policies that facilitated city annexations, profuse housing development, and promoted tourism industry without considering their impact in the life of folks residing in rural and urban areas of Charleston. He thinks organic farming is a positive practice but one that does not benefit poor families. Saunders states he keeps working on his community as a member of the Gullah/ Geechee Commission. He also co-chairs with Tommy Legare the organization Concerned Citizens of the Sea Island, which is against the extension of I-526. Saunders states that activism can carry a heavy toll. "If you got the knowledge, and you care, then you have to suffer. You really have to suffer because you’re the one that gets involved."
Artist and playwright Maribel Acosta was born in Havana, Cuba in 1969. She moved in her twenties to Ecuador and since 2010 has been living in the Lowcountry with her family. Acosta has gained a reputation within the local arts community for her paintings, graphic design, community-based theatrical productions, and community service. In the interview, Acosta tells about her childhood in Havana, her early fascination with the arts, and her training as an artist in the most prestigious Cuban institutions. She also talks about her journey as an immigrant and explains that moving from Cuba to Ecuador represented a true cultural shock. Twenty years later, she decided to emigrate again, this time to the United States, with her musician husband and their two children. In the United States she struggled with learning to communicate in English, but that was not a deterrent for her creative passion and her efforts to share her work. Acosta explains that since her children became more independent she has had more time to focus on her artistic endeavors. She has exhibited her paintings in a private gallery in West Ashley and at the Saul Alexander Gallery at the Charleston County Public Library. Finally, she also tells about her project, "Hola Familia", a radio program in Spanish that is broadcast once a week by El Sol 980. Descripción: La artista y dramaturga Maribel Acosta nació en La Habana, Cuba en 1969. A los veinte años se estableció en Ecuador y desde el año 2010 reside en el Lowcountry junto con su familia. Acosta es reconocida por sus pinturas, diseño gráfico, producciones teatrales y servicio comunitario. En la entrevista cuenta sobre su infancia en La Habana, su temprana fascinación por las artes y su formación como artista en las más prestigiosas instituciones cubanas. También relata su historia como inmigrante y explica que el paso de Cuba a Ecuador representó un verdadero choque cultural. Veinte años más tarde cuando decidió radicarse en Estados Unidos junto a su marido músico y sus dos hijos tuvo que aprender a comunicarse en una nueva lengua. Este desafío no le impidió seguir creando y compartiendo su trabajo. Acosta explica que a medida que sus hijos se han vuelto más independientes ella ha encontrado más tiempo para enfocarse en sus proyectos artísticos. Ha exhibido sus pinturas en una galería privada en West Ashley y en la galería Saul Alexander de la Biblioteca Pública del Condado de Charleston. Finalmente, habla de su proyecto “Hola Familia” un programa radial en español que se emite semanalmente por El Sol 980.
Paula Tejeda was born in San German, Puerto Rico in 1946. Besides her daily job as Charleston School of Law Associate Law Librarian and Head of Technical Services, Tejeda is the president of Círculo Hispanoamericano de Charleston. In the interview, she remembers her childhood, her college years, and her vast career as a professional librarian in Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Florida, and South Carolina. In 1985, she moved with her husband to Santo Domingo because he was employed at Gulf and Western Industries. Four years later, they relocated to Florida and lived there until her two sons reached adulthood. Then, she received a proposal to join the newly opened Charleston School of Law and decided to accept the challenge. In 2004, Tejeda and her husband moved to the Lowcountry and were surprised to find a very diverse Hispanic population in terms of nationalities of origin. Soon, Tejeda and her husband joined the Círculo Hispanoamericano de Charleston. Tejeda describes the history, mission, and goals of Círculo Hispanoamericano de Charleston, an organization she has fully embraced, serving as treasurer and president. Descripción: Paula Tejeda nació en San Germán, Puerto Rico en 1946. Se radicó en Carolina del Sur en el año 2004 para desempeñarse como subdirectora y jefa de Servicios Técnicos de la Escuela de Derecho de Charleston (Charleston Law School). En la entrevista, Tejeda recuerda su infancia en Puerto Rico, sus años en la universidad y su vasta carrera profesional en Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Florida y Carolina del Sur. En el año 1981, Tejeda y su esposo se establecieron en Santo Domingo donde él trabajaba para la compañía azucarera Gulf and Western. Cuatro años más tarde se trasladaron a Florida. Cuando sus hijos crecieron y dejaron la casa paterna, Tejeda recibió la propuesta de unirse al cuerpo profesional de la nueva Escuela de Derecho de Charleston. En Carolina del Sur, encontró una población hispana diferente a la de Florida, una comunidad que ella describe como mucho más diversa en términos de nacionalidades de origen. Al poco tiempo de llegados, ella y su marido se unieron al Círculo Hispanoamericano de Charleston, organización en la que se ha desempeñado como tesorera y presidenta. Finalmente, Tejeda describe la historia, misión y objetivos de esta institución.
Robert “Rabbit” Lockwood grew up on the South Battery in Charleston, South Carolina. In his interview, Lockwood describes his long and rich family history, which dates back to the earliest Europeans in South Carolina, including two family members who were blockade runners for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Lockwood’s family tradition of seafarers includes his grandfather and great-uncle who were harbor pilots in Charleston. During his early years, he attended Gaud School for Boys and Charleston High before majoring in Civil Engineering at The Citadel. After graduation, Lockwood became an apprentice harbor pilot, working at the Charleston Harbor until he retired at the age of seventy. In his reflections, Lockwood considers himself lucky to have been able to keep this job and avoid the fate of many of his classmates, who served in Vietnam. He also shares some of his more memorable experiences as a harbor pilot.
Diana Salazar is a Mexican American born in Homestead, Florida. Her father and grandfather worked as labor contractors, supplying immigrant workers to farmers on the Eastern Seaboard. In the interview, Salazar remembers when she was twelve and a teacher told her “do not become a statistic Mexican girl that works in the fields and gets pregnant. […] You go get your education because you’ve got it in you.” She also recalls that as a child she witnessed an immigration raid on a labor camp in Maryland. Though she knew she was not at risk of being deported, the events left a deep impression upon her. Around the age of sixteen, her parents moved to Orlando and stopped being migrant workers because they did not want this lifestyle for their children. Later, they moved to Hollywood, South Carolina where Salazar completed her high school senior year at Baptist Hill High. She returned to Orlando, Florida where married her first husband. She came back to the Lowcountry in the 1980s with her second husband and first child. Salazar tells about her extensive work experience and activism. In 2006, when massive immigrant protests were held around the country to raise awareness about the struggles of undocumented individuals and demand comprehensive immigration reform, three thousand people congregated in Marion Square in Charleston. Salazar tells she organized the march with the guidance and support of her cousin Emma Lozano, a Chicago activist, but she found no support from local politicians. Salazar is proud of her achievements, among them being the recipient of the Martin Luther King Picture Award. Descripción: Diana Salazar nació en Miami, Florida. Su padre y abuelo trabajaron como contratistas, supliendo de mano de obra de trabajadores inmigrantes a los agricultores de la costa este de Estados Unidos. En la entrevista, Salazar recuerda dos eventos que la marcaron siendo niña. El primero fue una conversación con un profesor que le dijo "no te conviertas en una estadística, otra chica mexicana que trabaja en el campo y se embaraza joven. [...] ve y edúcate". El otro suceso fue una redada de inmigración de la que fue testigo en un campo de trabajo en Maryland; a pesar de que sabía que no estaba en peligro de ser deportada quedó profundamente impactada. Cuando tenía aproximadamente dieciséis años sus padres decidieron dejar la vida migrante y se establecieron en Orlando, Florida. Más tarde se trasladaron a Hollywood, Carolina del Sur y fue allí, en la escuela Baptist Hill donde Salazar curso su último año de la preparatoria. Siendo muy joven se casó y fue a vivir Orlando con su marido. En los años ochenta regresó a Carolina del Sur con su segundo marido y su primer hijo y desde entonces ha residido en el Lowcountry. En la entrevista, Salazar cuenta sobre su amplia experiencia laboral y su activismo. En el año 2006, cuando miles de personas marcharon en distintas ciudades del país para crear conciencia sobre las luchas de los indocumentados y para exigir una reforma legislativa, alrededor de tres mil personas se congregaron en Marion Square en Charleston. Salazar explica que fue ella quien organizó la marcha, que recibió el apoyo de su prima Emma Lozano, una activista de Chicago, pero que en cambio, no encontró repuesta positiva en los políticos locales. Salazar se siente orgullosa de sus logros entre los cuales figura de haber sido elegida para recibir un premio por su trabajo en la comunidad llamado Martin Luther King Picture Award.
Luz Alvarado was born in Mexico in 1984. She is a single mother of two, a college student, a full-time worker, and a volunteer. In the interview, Alvarado tells about growing up in poverty and how America resonated in her young mind as the remedy for her family problems. When she was fourteen, she was sent to spend a few weeks with her grandmother who lived in a small town. There she met a man much older than her and was flattered by his attentions. He told her he was on his way to the United States and invited her to go. She decided to go without letting anybody know, excited about the prospect of achieving the American dream, and seeing her brother who was living in Florida. Soon, she realized this man had not been honest about his intentions, but by then she was crossing the border. In the interview, Alvarado tells about the complex relationship she had with this man who became her husband and the father of her two daughters. It took her several years but finally, she was able to leave the relationship, and since then she has been the sole provider for her kids. Because she was a victim of criminal abuse, she was able to apply and obtain a visa that allows her to stay and legally work in the United States. Alvarado says that changing her legal status enormously improved her quality of life; she is no longer living in fear of being deported and separated from her children. Finally, she talks about being a Meals on Wheels’ volunteer, helping her church, and the dreams she has for her future and her daughters’. Descripción: Luz Alvarado nació en México en 1984. Cada día, Alvarado cumple muchos papeles diferentes: es madre soltera de dos hijas, estudiante universitaria, trabajadora de tiempo completo y voluntaria en su comunidad. En la entrevista, Alvarado recuerda que creció en la pobreza y que los Estados Unidos resonaban en su mente joven como el remedio para los problemas de su familia. Cuando tenía catorce años, fue enviada a pasar unas semanas con su abuela que vivía en un rancho. Allí se encontró con un hombre mayor que ella que pronto la hizo sentirse halagada con sus atenciones. Le dijo que estaba en camino a Estados Unidos y la invitó a ir, insistiendo en que debía decidirse pronto. Alvarado pensó que era su oportunidad para trabajar y ganar dólares para ayudar a su familia y también de volver a ver a su hermano que vivía en la Florida. Sin dejarle saber a nadie, emprendió el viaje. No había pasado mucho tiempo cuando se dió cuenta de las verdaderas intenciones de su acompañante y se arrepintió de su decisión, pero para entonces, ya estaba cruzando la frontera. En la entrevista, Alvarado habla de la compleja relación que mantuvo con este hombre que se convirtió en su marido y el padre de sus dos hijas. Cuando finalmente fue capaz de dejar esa relación abusiva se convirtió en el único sostén de sus hijas. Debido a que fue víctima de abuso criminal pudo aplicar y obtener una visa que le permitió quedarse y trabajar legalmente en Estados Unidos. Alvarado explica que adquirir documentos para residir y trabajar legalmente ha mejorado enormemente su calidad de vida, que gracias a ello ya no vive con el temor a ser deportada y separada de sus hijas. Por último, cuenta de su trabajo voluntario en Meals on Wheels of Charleston y en su iglesia y acerca de los sueños que tiene para su futuro y el de sus hijas.
Erin McKee was born in Brooklyn, New York. Right after college, Mckee started her career as a flight attendant with National Airlines. When this company went bankrupt she joined Tower Air. In this interview, Mckee recalls some of the most dangerous, most difficult, and most satisfying moments she experienced working on international flights. In the ‘80s when she started working with the airline industry, flight attendants were expected to look attractive, they have to be slim, have their nails done, and their her hair up. It took time and work to change the requirements for applicants to meet the real focus of the position ‘the main reason that a flight attendant is on the airplane is if there's an emergency, to get you out of that airplane safely. It's not to look good. It's not to serve you meals really. You're there by law, federal regulations, to get people out of a plane in a certain amount of time if there's an emergency." At the end of '80s early '90s McKee and her coworkers organized a union to demand better regulations regarding the scheduling and number of hours they were forced to work. She became the secretary/treasurer of her union and was part of the negotiating committee. Because of her experience, she went to Washington, D. C. to testify before a legislative subcommittee about duty time legislation. Mckee moved to Charleston in 1996 and around 1998 Tower Air closed and she was out of work. She thought that her vast experience with unions would help her to find a job quickly but her background was not seen as an asset in a right to work state. She finally started working with American Income Life Insurance and then with Electrical Workers' Building Trades Local IBEW776. In 2013 she became the President of the State Labor Council (AFL- CIO).
The Mayor of Charleston discusses the Making Cities Livable International Conference in Charleston in February 2000. He emphasizes the importance of farmers and farmers' markets in Charleston. Riley explains the implementation of an urban growth boundary on John?s Island, which prevents any urban or suburban type developments beyond the boundary. Riley suggests that the urban growth boundary protects farmers from the infringement of developers.
Civil rights activist and educator Dr. Luther Seabrook was born in Charleston, South Carolina on December 5, 1928. He spent his childhood in downtown Charleston until his parents enrolled him at Lincoln Academy, a boarding school for black children in North Carolina. After finishing high school, he went to West Virginia for his undergraduate studies, obtained a master’s degree in education at Columbia University, and later earned a doctorate in education administration from the University of Massachusetts. In his interview, Seabrook remembers his experiences with the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He explains that, after facing the pervasiveness of racism and discrimination at Columbia University and from New York City officials, he joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). With CORE, Seabrook worked to bring about change primarily through the housing and education initiatives. In the summer of 1964, he volunteered to go to Mississippi and collaborate with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), despite the disappearance of three civil rights activists. SNCC leaders sent him to Hattiesburg, where he remained and worked with the Freedom Schools until the end of the summer. Seabrook also recalls his other activities, such as his participation in the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, attendance of the Selma march, and involvement in a march on Washington. But Seabrook’s impact didn’t stop at civil rights; he also had a successful career in education. In his roles as both a principal and a superintendent, Seabrook was a central figure in the development of the New York and Boston school systems. For his work, he received numerous accolades and awards from various parties. Though Seabrook worked mostly in the North, he returned to South Carolina and worked at the State Department of Education with Dr. Barbara Nielsen in the 1990s.
"Longshoreman and civil rights unionist Leonard Riley, Jr. was born on August 27th, 1952, in Charleston, South Carolina. A lifelong resident of West Ashley, Riley’s family owned several acres of land which they farmed. To supplement the income from farming, his father worked seasonal jobs to be able to provide for his five children. It was in these seasonal jobs that Leonard Riley, Sr., became the first family member to work the waterfront. Later, his sons, Leonard and Kenneth, followed in his footsteps and would later become union leaders at the ILA local 1422. Riley relays his own introduction to longshoring, describing how he began at the age of eighteen, during the summer before his first year of college. His first day at work left an indelible memory. Riley recalls, ""Yeah, that was—that first day was unbelievable. I thought I was going to die, literally, cramping—all the bottoms of your feet cramping. I'll never forget that day: hands chafed out by getting blisters on the hands. But these guys were used to it, so it didn't bother them. They dragged me through that day."" After beginning his studies at the College of Charleston the following fall, Riley worked at the docks each summer. Though he earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology, after graduation Riley realized he truly enjoyed his job at the port. In addition to providing a good income, the job helped him to emerge as a young leader among his co-workers. Reflecting on years past, Riley stresses how drastically the maritime industry has changed due to automatization and stresses the union's crucial role in protecting the workers in a changing landscape. Amongst his memories, the 2002 strike against Nordana shipping stands out. Riley tells of the national and international attention- and international assistance- the conflict generated. He describes how the clash was resolved with the help and solidarity of Spanish dockworkers who forced the company to negotiate. Riley concludes and explains that longshoring has historically been a black industry that can be traced through the years back to slavery."