March 20, 2015 Opinion

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Lauren Morgan Patrick is a native Southerner and the editor of Pretty She's on a mission to change the world. #LovetheSouth #GoDawgs Follow Lauren on Twitter

I was one of those people this website made fun of for loving Charleston.

I’m a native of Mount Pleasant, but I’m not going to respond with personal attacks or vulgarities. I just want you to know that after 21 years of living in the same place, I’ve never been bored. All of the groups, places and activities I plan on mentioning I’ve experienced personally; moreover, this is not an exhaustive list. I am absolutely not an expert on Charleston, I’ve just lived here for a while and I hate that people might be missing out on what our city has to offer.

I get the whitewashed feeling, I really do, but I also don’t bemoan the commonalities and judge the people around me for how they choose to dress. I won’t get in to the how that attitude is substantially more damaging than someone choosing a buy a popular brand of t-shirt, because that’s another post I don’t have time for right now. Instead, I would very much like to assert that you could not possibly long for diversity if you can’t find it in Charleston.

Let’s open our eyes together.

WoSe Charleston

Photo courtesy of Ahren Ciotti

There is a very involved African-American community that celebrates their culture and shares it with the community. Let’s start with the various African Drum and Dance Groups like WoSe, Wona Womalan, Djole, and Adande. I absolutely recommend to you, and anyone else who hasn’t seen a performance, to glance at these websites and find one of many events you could go see; they are rather beautiful. There’s also the yearly Moja Arts Festival, which celebrates African-American and Caribbean arts and culture. There are various groups promoting and teaching Gullah Geechee culture including Gullah Geechee Group and African American Charleston, to name just two. I am personally particularly proud of this segment of the Lowcountry’s history. If you took some time and experienced it, you might be, too.

I’m incredibly confused by your inescapable boredom. I think it, too, is related to a lack of trying. There are hundreds of things other than the beach, going out on the boat, or walking the bridge that you could try (although I’ll never get tired of any of those and can’t fathom how you are). Let’s address your horror at our “two” museums. Do you mean fifty or so? Because if you hop on down to Meeting Street, on the Museum Mile there are “six museums, five nationally important historic houses, four scenic parks, a revolutionary war powder magazine, as well as numerous historic houses of worship and public buildings including the Market and City Hall, in just a singular mile of the entire city. Here are about twenty more in just Charleston county. I don’t know how being in such a historically important place can be wearisome, but you could try some of the many, many art galleries all along Broad, Meeting, and King, the Gibbes Museum of Art on Meeting, or the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston. I don’t mean to brag, but Charleston native and internationally-known graphic designer Shephard Fairey of Obey Giant not only had an incredible exhibit at the Halsey, but also marked up the city with his murals (on top of the Francis Marion hotel, splashed across the side of College Lodge Residence Hall at the College, on a pillar of the old Cooper River Bridge, etc.).

If you’re tired of looking at beautiful things, listen. Attempt to enjoy Charleston’s brilliant music scene. You can try the bigger venues like Charleston Music Hall, the Music Farm, The North Charleston Performing Arts Center, and Family Circle Stadium for big ticket events, or pay a couple dollars to listen to some locals and smaller sets jam at places like Kudu Coffee and Craft Beer, King Dusko, The Pour House, The Royal American or my personal favorite, Awendaw Green.

awendaw green charleston

Go to their Wednesday night Barn Jam for a really cool scene, good music, and yummy food. Finally, if you’re still not satisfied, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the Jazz Artists of Charleston put on some incredible shows.

Bottom line: we don’t live in a vacuum devoid of culture.

I realize that you could possibly still be completely bored. It sounds like you’re into the outdoors so do a little research into the Francis Marion National Forest. You can bike, camp, fish, hike, and horseback ride to your heart’s content. Look, I found the woods for you.

coastal climbing charleston

The Wall at Coastal Climbing

I took the liberty of finding several more things you could possibly do in this miserable place:
• As one of the biggest arts celebrations in the world, the Spoleto Festival is a must. Simultaneously, Piccolo Spoleto showcases more local artists, too. If you can’t find something that interests you in these two festivals, then I may not be able to help you.
• Just go a couple miles in various directions, hit water, and go kayaking or paddle-boarding. Rent equipment here: Half Moon OutfittersCharleston Outdoor Adventures, or even more
• You could go bouldering or climbing, even on a peninsula a foot below sea level. If you can stomach driving to one of the islands you care so little about, James Island has a great climbing wall, too.
• There are some incredible lectures at the College of Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the Citadel that are open to the public. My favorite is the TEDx event.
• Sports fan? Try any of these: A Charleston Riverdogs baseball game, a Charleston Battery soccer game, a Stingrays hockey game, and The College of Charleston or The Citadel baseball, basketball, etc..
• The South Carolina Aquarium has otters. Really cute otters.
• Try the Sewee Center and see some really rare Red Wolves.
• Want to laugh so much it hurts? Try Theatre 99. It literally says, “Where boredom goes to die” on it’s home page, so you must not have been there yet. Improv night is my absolute favorite.
• The South Eastern Wildlife Expo is always cool.
Charleston Fashion Week always makes you feel especially chic.
• Visit a distillery, one of Charleston’s growing industries. These are just two of many local breweries: Westbrook Brewing and Palmetto Brewery.
Next, it is misinformed to claim that we have no corporations in Charleston. Look up Boeing, Kapstone Paper Kraft, Blackbaud, and BenefitFocus, among many. Speaking to the last two, Charleston is rapidly developing a reputation for high-quality computer science and digital marketing companies.

I cannot speak to your distaste for our food because I honestly cannot comprehend it. My favorite “ethnic” restaurants that you think are missing are Co Banh Mi Noodles Bar (Vietnamese, on King St.), Leyla (Lebanese, on King St.), Pane e Vino (incredible Italian food, on Warren St.), and O-ku (Japanese, on King St.). There’s also an ethnic grocery in Mt. Pleasant, Venta De, if you can’t handle driving to North Charleston.

Finally, I can’t help you find a date. That’s an intensely personal journey that Charleston is not responsible for. I do think, though, that if you try some of the activities and places I’ve mentioned, you’ll meet some really cool people.

I hate that you’ve had such a miserable time in a place I love so much.

I also hate that you had to receive so many awful comments on your original piece. I do have to acknowledge that there are awful people here and online, but they’re in Atlanta and every other city in the world, too. Surround yourself with people that build you up and please, in the future, don’t try and tear an entire group of people down. We don’t like getting judged. If you want diversity, find it in the people around you instead of lumping them into stereotyped groups. I hope you can find something in here that can improve your time in Chucktown before you move—and maybe even change your mind.

Rebecca Sydow

Rebecca Sydow is a third year psych and history student at The College of Charleston in Charleston, SC, who loves her hometown more than she thought. You can catch her playing with her cat, eating yummy food, or exploring the Palmetto State from the Atlantic to the Appalachians. Ask her to name all 46 counties in the state of South Carolina (in song form).

15 Responses to “In Defense of Charleston”

  1. Nathan

    Great response! There’s no need to respond with vitriol when you can write a positive piece like this.

    Also, in addition to Theatre 99 (which is great and offers a variety of shows multiple nights per week and hosts a lot of national comedians), there are also other great theaters, such as PURE, Woolfe Street, 34 West, Sotille, Footlight, Flowertown Players in Summerville, and the newly-minted CPAC (Charleston Performing Arts Center).

    Maybe it isn’t Atlanta in terms of activity, but it’s also not quite fair to compare a city of 7 million to a city of 100k.

    Anyway, the original poster certainly had a right to her opinion, but I’m glad to see this piece defending us too!

  2. Lauren

    Excellent and well thought out response. So often, criticism reflects the culture and attitude of the person who dishes it out. You have risen above the criticism and executed a well crafted and educational explanation of the attributes of our hometown. If she doesn’t listen and learn then it is her loss.

  3. Margaret

    An incredibly mature (and witty) post in response to an incredibly immature one. You rock. Glad this blog decided to post something worth reading on this topic.

  4. Mike

    Just to play Devil’s Advocate, if you really feel it’s a cool place there’s no need to defend it. I moved to Chicago, and no one here “talks smack” about Charleston, but when I lived down south there was no shortage of people willing to badmouth the northern states, or large cities like Boston, DC, New York and Chicago for being “crowded”, “messy” or *gasp* “Liberal”. Actually it’s pretty neat to be in a part of America that doesn’t hate and or act insanely jealous of every other place.

    No one writes articles titled “In Defense of New York” or “In defense of Hong Kong” or places known to be huge metropolitan centers with lots of great people and things to do.

    Charleston is great for a city of it’s size and a wonderful tourist destination, but let’s leave it at that.

    • Haywood

      I am a Charleston native. I compare the city of Charleston to being my boyfriend. I lived in Seattle for a year and a half and felt like I was cheating, lol. I missed my boyfriend. So yea. When one is as passionate about their city as we are, damn right we’ll defend it.

    • Hhh

      I am from Miami and dont like it. I also dislike all the big cities you mentioned. I loved nashville for 10 years until the recent growth. Some of us simply do not like overcrowded cities and the crime /rudeness /traffic that comes along with that. And maybe having 1000000 “things to do” just isn’t important to us. I like Knoxville and will be visiting Charleston soon because everyone ive met from there has been very nice, almost to the point of appearing naive, i was pleasantly surprised at how they are.

  5. Former troll

    I will admit I blew up at Jenn for her post in the 18th. Many times. Trolled the page and responded to any comments that I felt were out of line. It’s because I was so offended. Not because she couldn’t find things to do, but because it was obvious she didn’t try. This article beautifully portrays what this city has to offer. And, like many commenters, I was offended because I was placed into this very odd stereotype. Charleston has always been my city and will always be my city. I thank the editor for redeeming that post with this one and giving Charleston some credit where it is most definitely due.

  6. Clay

    well said. I wanted to reply to the original article but I try not to say negative things about people– and I had a laundry list. I was and am embarrassed for the original author– my outlook is exactly the opposite of hers. I’m glad I don’t have to live life with her take on life– life is far too precious and short. Your response was great.

  7. Kelli

    Couldn’t have said it better & absolutely LOVE hearing others as passionate about this amazing city we’re lucky enough to call home. Every single day I fall more in love with Charleston – the sunsets, the endless list of things to do, the incredible culinary influence, the history, the people….I could go on and on! It absolutely baffles me anyone would say otherwise!

  8. Sara

    Reading this a bit late, came to search online for things to do here. Everything you mentioned in your rebuttal or whatever isn’t exactly unique to Charleston. I have heard people talk of it often but I can’t imagine why. I came on a day trip from North Carolina with my mom visiting from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have to say nothing here has been worth the trip. Aquarium, historical buildings, good food, beaches? Thats all fine but that can be found in plenty of places in the world, and in north Carolina that extend beyond a 4 block radius. I’d call this a nice place to visit if you’re less than an hr away. But it’s definitely not a destination. Sad to say I’ll be leaving dissapointed and confused why anyone wouldn’t be.

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