The Long Way Home
For the last four years my family has vacationed in Charleston during the summer for a week and my wife presented the idea of moving here a few years back. When she brought the idea to me I can honesty say that I was not completely sold on it.
To be totally transparent I was hesitant in some ways about moving back to Charleston. Mainly because I knew that I would have to be willing to commit to building this Art scene from the ground-up. With no fear of commitment, I still had to think about the decades I invested into my brand and now I would have to start over in Charleston from ground zero. I am not saying that Charleston does not have artists and Black businesses, but I want both of them to move at a certain pace.
Sadly, Charleston has created some amazing talent over the centuries who never came back home to help move our culture forward. Support is a verb. Our community in Charleston have grown accustomed to fragmented versions of “support” which would not be enough to grow a movement. After building so many movements and brands within Atlanta I knew what would be needed for me to successfully navigate this move.
Two years ago I began to really look at Charleston and focused on what I could bring to the table. I knew my vision and execution could help to spark the needed changes within Charleston.
It is much easier to complain about what is wrong with Charleston and then do nothing to change our city in a positive direction. To power the needed changes that would require a completely different level of everything. Resources, relationships, timing, patience, strategies and consistency are a few of the mandatory ingredients.
During the summer of 2021 my wife came to Charleston with her parents to start scouting for our temporary landing space, which ended up being in downtown Charleston. This would place us at central point and then we would look for land to build our home from there. Downtown Charleston was a world away from where I grew up in North Charleston.
In September of 2021 we sold our home in Atlanta and moved to Charleston in October of 2021. A leap of faith was an understatement. I began preparing my team in Atlanta in 2020, and now we were about to put the plays in motion.
I was not nervous, after all this is my home turf. I was born in Charleston and raised in North Charleston, on Ashley Phosphate Road.
Fast forward to November of 2021 we began to look at commercial properties to serve as our starting point for the 1st of the four galleries we will have in Charleston. I kept hearing the same discouraging things from a number of locals. Family, friends, and random folks from the peanut gallery all gave me a million reasons why I should start in Downtown Charleston and not in North Charleston.
Crime. Drugs. Violence. A lack of culture. A lack of understanding. A lack of support. You name it and they named it. One reason after another why I should not come back to the community that raised me.
My daddy, Jessie Brown is buried on Ashley Phosphate Road within Sunset Memorial Gardens. The Northwood Bulldogs was my football club, I proudly wore my jersey to school on Fridays. As a young boy my mom would drop me off at the skating rink and movie theater on Rivers Avenue. My family still lives in this community, why would I not give those who poured into me an opportunity to experience the man that I am?
It seems like every other day I am reading stories about the gun violence, a lack of morale and lost lives within North Charleston. There is a desperation within the eyes of so many within our community. We have to reimagine all aspects of North Charleston and becoming the needed change is the only way.
I am man who understands that we need a new level of thinking and inspiration within the leadership sectors of North Charleston. The power of The Arts and entrepreneurship can be used to make a positive shift in our community. It will take a collective effort by those with like minds and diverse skills. We have work to do as a collective. You can’t drill holes in one side of the ship and expect for the entire ship to stay afloat. We have to work together with leaders who understand how holes and water work together.
In December of 2021 we chose Ten Mile as our destination for our gallery and office in North Charleston. It is a beautiful campus with great parking and the developers were excited about what we were bringing to North Charleston. I could clearly see how that space would serve as the starting point to give life to a recessed North Charleston.
To truly impact a community in a positive way inspiration has to be assessable to those who need to be inspired on a regular basis. My professional accomplishments in Atlanta and beyond mean very little if I can’t make my home a better place. Why would I go through everything I went through over the last thirty years to stay away from home?
I was raised in North Charleston and now my vision is to help raise North Charleston. There is a long road in front of me, I am clear about what I see. No delusions and no fear. Leaders lead from the front so let’s get to work.