• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine

bftlifestyle

This is a very special year for Penn Center, Beaufort, Port Royal, and the entire region, in that President Obama established the Reconstruction Era National Monument to encompass significant sites in these locations as key to the Nation’s reconstruction story.  This year, Penn Center’s two inductees into the 1862 Circle represent the unique character and history of this region, and the importance of Penn Center to our country.

Penn Center honors Andrew Young, Jr., civil rights leader, Congressman, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Joseph “Crip” Legree, extraordinary cast net maker and living legacy for preservation of sea island life and Gullah culture.  These two men brought the basics of human survival, sustenance and the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” to their careers. The capacity to support one’s family by growing from the earth or catching from the sea is as basic to the success of generations of sea islanders as the struggles that secured civil rights for a people too long denied them.

The cultivation and preservation of those traits and skills that allowed a people to survive are represented by Joseph Legree, who through his lifetime of 93 years has perfected the art and processes of making cast nets, and passed the knowledge of this tradition to next generations.  On many occasions, Mr. Legree has partnered with Penn Center demonstrating how to make cast nets during Heritage Days celebrations and in other programs. So iconic has he become that you may find photographs, paintings, and sculptures of him in galleries from Beaufort to Hilton Head to Savannah.  He was featured in a 2012 CNN report on African traditions brought to the United States, and, in 2009, he received the South Carolina Folk Heritage Award.

The ongoing struggle for civil rights, still a focus of Penn Center, is represented by the induction into the 1862 Circle of the Honorable Andrew Young, Jr.  At its inception, Penn School shared basic education and information about citizenship as investments for the future of a people. One hundred years later in the 1960s, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Andrew Young, convened their meetings at Penn Center to help secure the objectives of the civil rights movement.  Subsequently, Andrew Young’s illustrious career included service as a U.S. Congressman and as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.  An author of two books, A Way Out of No Way (1994) and An Easy Burden; The Civil Right Movement and the Transformation of America (1996), Andrew Young ‘s accolades include the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Spingarn Medal.

The virtues and values of the past, a constant commodity at Penn Center, are made real, relevant, tangible, and edible by one 1862 Circle inductee, Joseph Legree.  The other inductee, Andrew Young, Jr. represents the very foundation of the successful civil rights movement, built in part on the grounds of Penn School, 100 years after its founding.  How appropriate the national spotlight has turned on the reconstruction era story of Penn School, just in time to allow these two unique talents to be featured at this year’s 1862 Circle Gala, to be held at the Sonesta Resort, on Hilton Head, April 22, 2017 at 6:00 PM.

story by cindy reid

photography by paul nurnberg

Inline image 1

Beaufort is special in so many ways that it is impossible to count them all;  glorious scenery, fabulous food, sparking waterways and the vibrant arts and cultural scene. Recently, Beaufort has been honored to receive the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts in the Government category, for the partnership between the City of Beaufort and The University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) Center for the Arts. This is an annual award presented by the South Carolina Arts Commission and is the highest honor the state gives in the arts, recognizing outstanding achievement and contribution. The SC Arts Commission states, “The USCB Center for the Arts has been the heart of the City of Beaufort’s rich and diverse arts culture for 30 years, serving as both the sponsor and venue of all forms of arts. The City and the Center for the Arts partner to provide and promote opportunities for residents and visitors to benefit from the arts, including events such as The Pat Conroy Literary Festival, the 2016 S.C. Humanities Festival, theatre productions, concerts, multiple gallery exhibitions and more. This collaboration between government and a non-profit organization has been a catalyst to make Beaufort a robust arts and cultural center.”

Director of the USCB Center for the Arts, Bonnie Hargrove says, “I have been in arts administration for twenty years and have always aspired to this achievement. I am deeply honored to represent the USCB Center for the Arts and to be sharing the award with the City of Beaufort.”

Beaufort Lifestyle sat down with Bonnie to talk about the Center for the Arts and how she came to be involved with its remarkable achievements.

Southern Girl

Although not from South Carolina originally, Bonnie is a native Southerner born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She says, “My family is there; I grew up there, went to high school there and graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in Communications. After graduation I married and we moved from Nebraska to Tennessee, South Carolina, and then back to Tennessee. We settled in Walterboro, South Carolina where I raised my three children, Taylor, Hargrove and Belle. “All three graduated from University of South Carolina, one going on to attend law school. All three now live in the Columbia area. I have some exciting news- my beautiful daughter-in-law, Lauren, and my son Hargrove are soon going be giving me the blessing of a grandchild, my first!”

While living in Walterboro, Bonnie was the director of the Colleton County Arts Council where she started a children’s theater. She says, “I started the children’s theater in Walterboro primarily for my daughter Belle. I remembered my theatre experiences in Birmingham, how magical it was, and I wanted my children to have that experience.”

She says, “I really loved Walterboro but after my divorce I was ready for a change. I had multiple interviews in Beaufort and was offered the position of Director of Beaufort Performing Arts Center (PAC). It was perfect timing, so I accepted the job. When the PAC shut its doors two years later, I called Dr. Jane Upshaw (then chancellor of USCB) and we discussed how parts of the PAC could still work; but in a different way. Dr. Upshaw was great, she said, “Okay, show me a plan.” A committee was formed to develop a business plan which was presented to Dr. Upshaw. She said yes, and every year since, the CFA continues to grow!”

Always Busy

The Center for the Arts is located on the Historic Beaufort Campus of USCB and is part of the USCB Community Outreach (CO) Department. Although under the umbrella of USCB, the Center for the Arts is a self-supporting, non-profit organization. “We earn our salaries, marketing and advertising budgets, funds for costumes, props, etc., through the generous support of individuals and corporate sponsors along with revenue generated from our productions “ says Bonnie. “We could not exist without the support of our current chancellor, Dr. Panu and the support that USCB provides including the physical building, utilities, insurance, and maintenance.”

Bonnie and Deon Furman, Assistant Director, are the only staff but they have at least 50 fabulous volunteers and they “hire in” people for sound, lighting and other technical jobs for various productions. The Center’s production schedule runs September through May, Bonnie says, “It is our busy time – no vacations!” This year, the season will be wrapping up with a Beaufort Children’s Theater production of “Aladdin Jr,” May 19-21.

Each season is different from the next and each program is unique. Programs run the gamut from musical productions, comedy shows, concerts, Lunch with Author Series and independent films to art exhibits, children’s theatre, and even Chinese acrobats at one time. According to Bonnie, “Diverse programs reflect my personality, in that I am personally interested in a huge variety of arts and I know many people in our community are as well. We truly try to offer something for everyone and every age.” The Center for the Arts also serves as the venue for other wonderful productions and events including USCB Festival Series, Beaufort International Film Festival, Friends of the Library “Books Sandwiched In,” community dance recitals, school productions and much more.

When asked what have been significant programs for her, Bonnie says, “This season’s ‘The Redneck Tenors’ was big for me. It was meaningful to see audience’s response and hear how much they loved them! Another emotional moment was during the performance of the “Black Violins,” when a child in the audience brought up his violin to be signed. Seeing the wonderfully diverse audience that performance brought was inspirational to me as well.”

Bonnie says, “The one event that will always stand out as special highlight, is the Pat Conroy at 70 Festival. We proved to ourselves, the community and people who attended from all over the country that we can successfully pull off a big festival and it felt good. Of course, the fact that it was a celebration of Pat Conroy’s 70th birthday and his exceptional literary contributions; well, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

She is looking forward to the upcoming “Salute to Satchmo” event on Thursday, April 20 at 7:30 PM.  It is the Louis Armstrong Society Jazz Band’s tribute to the life, music, and spirit of Louis Armstrong. The band is comprised of members of the Louis Armstrong Society, a secret organization in which musicians perform by invitation only.

After the “Aladdin Jr” production, the theatre ‘goes dark’ and the planning, scheduling, and behind the scenes work gets done. This year, the theatre will be installing new lighting and surround sound, with new seats on the wish list for next year. Of course it won’t be completely quiet in there, as there will be three summer theatre camps for children and teens.

 

Southern Home

Everyone has at least one “favorite Beaufort place” and Bonnie is no exception. She smiles and says, “My screened porch which looks out over the beautiful Beaufort River. I enjoy watching the sailboats boats go by, talking to neighbors and perhaps enjoying a glass of wine.” She continues, “When I can, I like to go to the beach on a weekday, no crowds then. Another real simple pleasure is to get an ice cream downtown and sit outside at the waterfront park.”

What keeps her excited about Beaufort is the variety of people here. “I feel we are so fortunate to have so many different folks in our community. I absolutely love to hear their stories, from the people who have lived here their entire lives, to people like me who chose to move here. I always like to know why people are here! For me, it was the best decision of my life.”

For further information and upcoming schedule see:

www.uscbcenterforthearts.com.

story by mary ellen thompson    photography by susan deloach

” I love happy colors; it takes too much energy to be negative.” Such is your introduction to Renee Levin, her art work, and her attitude towards life. Her home and art studio are filled to the brim with lovely paintings, most of which are her own. The array is as eclectic as Renee’s own dry wit and she explains, “You can’t say I have a style; I don’t do well with trying to repeat things.”

It all started when “I was twelve, it was depression time; my mother had a friend, Miss Maimee, who was an art teacher. From her I learned to draw using pencil and charcoal. I had to draw a black frying pan with eggs, a glass, and a paper bag. They all had to look like you could pick any of them up; if you succeeded then you graduated to using two colors. I always liked to draw. I wasn’t as good at music, I could read music and I enjoyed playing the piano, but I wouldn’t say I was multi-talented!”

An only child, Renee was raised in Savannah which was also the birthplace of that wonderful  organization for young women, the Girl  Scouts. Renee fondly remembers being a Brownie and Girl Scout and eventually she became a leader of both organizations, as would as her husband and son become similarly involved with the Boy Scouts.

When she was fifteen, the family moved to Ritter, SC, south of Walterboro, where Renee finished high school. After graduating, she went to Brenau Academy in Gainesville, GA for a year before she attended the University of Georgia. From the University, she received a BA degree in fine arts with a major in drawing and painting, and a minor in ceramics. While she was studying art, Renee gave little thought to how that would translate in the job market after graduation. “We received no career counseling in those days. I knew I liked to eat though, so I took a course in education. Somehow I got into a class on how to take tests and I thought I’m not going to waste my time on this.” I was ready to get my master’s degree but I came home from college and went to a party in Beaufort with my mother and daddy where I met Julian, and that was the end of that.”  Julian Levin was from Beaufort, and was practicing law here. The courtship was a brief four months, they were married in 1951.

Soon after getting married, Renee found a group of artists in Beaufort, who she says, took her in. “There were six of us. Miss Greenwood was our teacher who lived in Tabby Manse (also known as the Thomas Fuller House on Bay Street). “She wore black pants which was outrageous in those days, red high heels, and smoked cigarettes with a long gold cigarette holder while reclining on a chaise longue teaching and critiquing us. We painted in oils and if she thought you hadn’t gotten it quite right, she’d take turpentine and wipe the paint right off your canvas!”

For a couple of years Renee taught drawing and ceramics at Parris Island. She recalls with a laugh, “The ceramics were pretty much a disaster because they wouldn’t let me work the kiln so I had to train recruits to do that. That was fine up until they deployed and I had to get a new one who would turn the temperature too high and everything would go ‘fllluughgh’.

“In the late 1950’s, I was in a group that had art shows on the walls of the department store, Wallace and Danner, on Bay Street. There were about ten of us and Catherine Wolfe thought we should be an organization, so that’s how the Beaufort Art Association (BAA) evolved.”  As one of the founding members of the BAA, along with having held every office possible for the Association, Renee explains, “The BAA has always been a cohesive group that has not had cliques. Everyone is very willing to help everyone else, it has always been a group of friends. Anyone can exhibit as long as they are willing to join, and then sit in the gallery one day a month; it’s not juried.”

When asked what element is her greatest joy in painting, Renee responds, “Trying to have somebody feel what I’m trying to express, feel the same joy, to be happy. I don’t like negativity.” How do the paintings come to her? She laughs and says, “A friend said a psychiatrist would have a fabulous time with me! If I’m somewhere and I see something I like, I will sketch it and go back at some point and paint it; I have a very photographic memory. But if I don’t like a painting, I’ll gesso over it. Do you know what gesso is? They tease me that I should sell my paintings by the pound!”

Renee painted in oils until “One day, behind the couch, one of my boys painted his sister with alizarin crimson, which is a red paint with a strong staining property. We got as much off the furniture as we could but she had to remain pink for awhile.

“So I switched to watercolors and I love watercolors. When I was using oils I made some really beautiful mud. I usually had two paintings going at once; I would think the oil paint was dry and would apply another coat, but it wasn’t, so I was piercing the skin of the paint and mixing the colors. I now use acrylics and I really do love them and I’ve always loved good paper.”

Aside from painting, Renee’s life has always been busy; she and Julian had four children – Arthur, Julian, Marie and Sam. Marie lives in Arlington, VA, Sam lives across the river from Renee, Arthur lives next door, and Julian is in Charleston so they are not too far away. There are eight grandchildren and for Thanksgiving every year they all get together. Although Renee can strike a balancing yoga pose with ease, goes to LifeFit three times a week, rides her bike daily, she says that what she loves most is being with her children and grandchildren.

She fondly remembers the days of the family’s weekend camping, boating and fishing expeditions when the children were growing up. Did she fish along with them? “I was right there with them, but I also had to pack the clothes, fix the food, and administer the first aid.” When asked about the first aid, Renee sighed and patiently explained, “Well it wasn’t too bad, but there were those fish hooks…”

Still part of her Thursday painting group after more than twenty years, even though now they paint on Tuesdays, this year Renee and friends are looking forward to attending an artist retreat in North Carolina. “I’ve always taken classes,” she explains, which is not surprising. Just as Renee might have two paintings going at once, she packs as much of everything into every single moment that she can. She loves to read, and historical fiction is one of her choices because “I can enjoy the story and learn something at the same time.”  Still a charter member of the BAA, Renee’s studio is filled with paintings and canvases in various stages of completion. Although she gives her full attention to any matter at hand, her mind is always alert to the next opportunity, be it through the expression of her art, or her experience, or reaching out her hand in friendship.

story by carol lauvray     photography by susan deloach

If you love history and historic sites, there’s no better place to live or visit than Beaufort, South Carolina. Just walk down its streets or take a short drive—you’ll see reminders everywhere of the 500 years of Beaufort’s history that have shaped America.

Santa Elena on Parris Island (1566)—the first European colonial capital in what’s now the United States. The site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Port Royal Island (Grays Hill). The Edmund Rhett House—where wealthy planters discussed secession from the Union. The Arsenal (1798) occupied during the Civil War by Union troops. Brick Baptist Church and Penn Center on St. Helena Island—monuments to the thousands of slaves freed here during the Civil War and to the birth of Reconstruction, right here in Beaufort. All of these sites testify to the rich history Beaufort embodies. It’s no wonder that heritage (i.e., historic) tourism is Beaufort’s number-one industry.

But for some, the history of Beaufort is much more than a reason to visit or a way to make a living—it’s a calling—as it is for Dr. Lawrence S. Rowland and Dr. Stephen R. Wise, Beaufort’s preeminent history scholars.

“All of American history actually began in Beaufort, South Carolina!” declares Lawrence S. Rowland, distinguished professor emeritus of history at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. He’s been teaching students and folks here for nearly five decades that Beaufort County has profoundly shaped the evolution and development of this country from its very beginnings.

Larry Rowland’s roots in Beaufort are deep. He moved here at the age of 10 from New York State with his parents, who owned and operated the Point’s historic Tidalholm Inn from 1953 to 1965. Before he was born, Larry’s mother, Elizabeth (Libby) Sanders Rowland, inherited Dataw Island in 1933 and owned it until its sale in 1983. Larry says he was fascinated by history from a very early age and loved hearing his mother read about the Civil War years from the famous book, A Diary From Dixie. His dissertation topic was Eighteenth Century Beaufort: A study of South Carolina’s Southern Parishes to 1800.

Steve Wise, a native of Ohio, earned his doctorate degree at the University of South Carolina and came to Beaufort in 1983 as the director of the Parris Island Museum and Cultural Resource Manager for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. He says his love of history and interest in studying the Civil War began early when his family traveled to visit historic sites during the Civil War Centennial in the early 1960s. “I’ve been collecting topics and sources since I was in grade school,” he admits. As a highly regarded expert on the Civil War, Dr. Wise often speaks at conferences. In 1984, Larry Rowland presented a lecture at the Charleston Maritime Conference. Steve Wise was the final speaker at that conference and presented his lecture, “Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War.”

“That was the first time I heard Steve give a public lecture and it was one of the most interesting lectures I’ve ever heard! I knew then that I needed Steve to work on Volume 2 with me!” Larry exclaimed.

Bringing Beaufort’s History to Life

Larry Rowland and Steve Wise are not content to simply document what’s happened in Beaufort over the past 500 years within the 1,700 pages of the three-volume series, The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina. They also feel compelled to bring that history to life by personally sharing the stories of Beaufort and how it has influenced America, with students, teachers, colleagues, friends and the greater community.

Recent evidence of that was a free lecture they presented to a capacity crowd, “Beaufort in the Civil War,” co-sponsored by Beaufort History Museum and the Beaufort County Library. The two history scholars enthralled the audience with photos and descriptions of Beaufort and its residents during the Civil War years and Reconstruction Era, telling what life was like for the soldiers, civilians and freedmen who were here during those times.

Here’s what some local history scholars and professionals have to say about the importance of Larry Rowland’s and Stephen Wise’s contributions to understanding and promoting Beaufort’s history:

Dr. Andrew J. Beall, Santa Elena Foundation Board Chairman:

“Professor Larry Rowland highlighted for our community the wonderful story of Charlesfort and Santa Elena. Without his understanding and promotion, the important history of early European settlement on our shores would remain obscure and buried beneath the sands of Parris Island. Dr. Rowland is an indefatigable champion for Beaufort History, a brilliant storyteller, an essential member of our Board of Directors, and responsible for the critical academic connections necessary to bring the true history of our community to life.”

“Dr. Stephen Wise, Museum Director and Cultural Resource Manager for Parris Island, has long been the fiduciary historian for the Charlesfort/Santa Elena National Heritage Landmark. His stewardship protects the remarkable quality of the site, one of most preserved 16th Century archaeological sites in America. Dr. Wise spoke during the opening of our inaugural exhibit and participated in our 450-year commemoration of the founding of the Spanish town of Santa Elena in 1566.”

Larry Koolkin, Beaufort History Museum Board Member and Exhibits Committee Co-chair:

“We are indebted to Larry and Steve for their consultation in developing and framing the messages for Beaufort History Museum’s current special exhibit, ‘Reconstruction Beaufort: Islands of Hope in a Sea of Distress,’ as well as for reviewing and vetting the detailed content. They are preeminent scholars, great storytellers, approachable people, and wonderful friends to the Museum.”

Dr. J. Brent Morris, University of South Carolina Beaufort Associate Professor of History and Humanities Department Chair:

“For our upcoming NEH Reconstruction Institute [America’s Reconstruction: The Untold Story] we have visiting faculty coming from Yale, Cornell, and other prestigious institutions across the country and Europe, but Larry and Steve might just be the most important additions to our staff. For an institute that focuses on the Reconstruction era, specifically in Beaufort County, nobody knows the history better than these gentlemen—nobody. Just look at the endorsements on the back cover of their book on Beaufort in the Reconstruction Era: Eric Foner, James McPherson, and Walter Edgar pick Beaufort County Volume II off their shelves when they want to learn more about this riveting story. I’m privileged to be able to help bring their narrative history to teachers from across the nation, from California to Maine, Florida and points in between, and I know from many of the alumni from our 2015 NEH institute that the knowledge they gained in their three weeks in Beaufort has made its way into a privileged spot in their curriculum.”

Larry Rowland and Steve Wise have spent their lives tirelessly researching and poring over historic records, letters, newspaper articles, journals and military regimental histories to unearth the nation’s and Beaufort’s past. They’ve woven an intricate tapestry of what has happened here over the past 500 years and how Beaufort has shaped what America has become. With Beaufort County’s designation in January as the Reconstruction Era National Monument, everyone will soon understand how Beaufort has changed history.

Two Lifetimes of Work  

Dr. Lawrence S. Rowland is distinguished professor emeritus of history at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, where he began his career in 1971 as USCB’s assistant director and as professor of history. He earned his bachelor degree from Hamilton College in Upstate, New York, and his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of South Carolina at Columbia.

Dr. Stephen R. Wise is the director of the Parris Island Museum and the Cultural Resource Manager for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island. He earned his bachelor degree from Wittenberg University, his master’s degree from Bowling Green State University, and his doctorate at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Wise serves as an adjunct history professor for the University of South Carolina at Beaufort and an advisor to the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust. He also served on the faculty for Penn Center’s Gullah Institute. He’s written and edited a number of works including Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War and Gate of Hell: The Campaign for Charleston Harbor 1863, which was named by the South Carolina Historical Society as the best book written in 1994 on South Carolina History.

Both Dr. Rowland and Dr. Wise serve on the editorial board for the South Carolina Historical Magazine and are past presidents of the Beaufort County Historical Society.

Telling the Stories of 500 Years of Beaufort’s History 

• Dr. Rowland is the co-author of The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Volume 1, 1514 -1861, with Alexander Moore and George C. Rogers, Jr.

• Dr. Wise and Dr. Rowland are co-authors of Rebellion, Reconstruction and Redemption, The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Volume 2, 1861-1893

• Dr. Rowland and Dr. Wise are co-authors of Bridging the Sea Islands’ Past and Present, 1893-2006: The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Volume 3.

story by mary ellen thompson

photography by paul nurnberg

Trey Nelson is a young man with a vision, not only for himself, but also for the people in his community of Saint Helena Island, and his medium is music. Not gospel music, not soul music, not even really rap music, although the similarity is definitely there, but what Trey calls “Klassy Hip Hop.” The most notable departure from rap, Trey explains is, “I don’t curse, I don’t use that language so I can take my music anywhere – the library, church, wherever; that’s why I’m ‘klassy.’”

Tracing his musical heritage to his dad, Kevin Nelson, Trey remembers, “My daddy was from the Bronx, NY and when I told him I was making music he told me he knew all the people from there and he gave me their tapes to listen to. He raised me around music, he had an old stereo system that I still have, I remember the day he handed me a microphone.

“I had a laptop with a program for mixing music so I didn’t play outside or walk the road like the other kids; I just stayed inside with my music.” Another influence was church music; Trey was part of the youth choir, Angels of Harmony, at the Brick Baptist Church on St. Helena.

“Finesse’” is Trey’s other moniker. If you google him you will find: “Finesse’ is more than music. As hip-hop is a lifestyle and expression from downtrodden backgrounds, style and skill arises from a place arrived anew here.” (Artist Trove). “Finesse’ is a hip-hop artist from Saint Helena Island, SC. His music is introspective and beautiful. As artistic and raw as it can be, you get the truth when you listen to Finesse’.” (indieonthemove.com)

BL: Explain Finesse’ to me – the how and what of it.

TN: “Definition of style and skill, in hip-hop. No Souf Cak rapper is as klassy, in a way similar to my performance or presentation.”

One of Trey’s favorite venues these days is the St. Helena Library where he was instrumental in the formation of the media studio, and where he performs his event, “Spoken Word.”

BL: What is Spoken Word?

TN:  “Poetry in the purest form. The Spoken Word is the words straight from the people, how they feel and what they want from life. The program that spurred a lot of creative energy in me was named LOUD. They had a program named Poetry and Pancakes. They did a version named Slam Poetry. I don’t categorize anything like that, name or what type of Poetry. Right now, it’s open and based off the community.”

BL: When is your next performance?

TN:April 10, from 12-2PM, at the St. Helena Library; it’s a Spoken Word event, named Spoken Word in the Reading Garden. It’s good for the public to address their emotions in a public, comfortable setting. As my music of Finesse’ is thanks to poetry, I have to be the one to host it when the community asks.”

Trey comments that many people from St. Helena leave the island in search of bigger and better opportunities, and he was one of those. “I had planned to leave as soon as I finished school and I did, but I came right back. I was recording in a sound studio in Manhattan when I was asked to perform my first paid show back here at the Technical College of the Lowcountry. The youth of the island are important and they’re influenced by those who move away and then come back.”

BL: What was the performance, and why was it important?

TN: “The College Jam, hosted by PILAU. It was important because I got the call the day after graduation. Waking up from that night I just finished high school with a paid show, my first paid show was different. I didn’t even know what I was worth. So, going to NY was the start of learning what I was worth. They wanted me to stay, and I was doing that all out of my pocket. I knew I had to be back for that show, and I was thankful for that. It started me off to learn what I was worth, in music and business.”

 

An inspiration Trey remembers is his third grade teacher at Saint Helena Elementary School, Miss Christina Johnson, and her class in which the students read and recited poetry.

BL: “What do you specifically remember about that class as being inspirational for you in terms of your music?”

TN: “Memorization. We’d have to memorize and then recite the lines. Same thing when you write songs and go to record them.”

Trey also recalls,“People thought I was saying something beautiful when I was just saying what I was saying.”

When asked if she would share what she remembers about Trey and that class, Miss Johnson replied, “I would be glad to share. I was Trey’s third grade teacher.  Every year,  I invite all of my students to become storytellers. They would have to prepare by choosing an interesting book to share with the class, practice reading that book at home,  and create an activity that corresponds to the book. The students would read to the others on Fridays.  Trey chose Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. I distinctly remember thinking, “Not Green Eggs and Ham again!”  This was because so many of my students had previously chosen the book that I dreaded hearing it again.  However, when Trey read that story, the whole class was mesmerized, including me. I don’t remember his activity, but his voice was unforgettable. The way that he told the story taught me a valuable lesson. Never underestimate the creative ability of someone even when he’s working with a text that has stood the test of time. What a genius he was at the age of eight!”

“southerNothings” is another component of Trey’s endeavors; he says, “Think: ‘…whisper sweet nothings into my ear…”’.

BL: What, exactly is southerNothings?

TN: “southerNothings is an artist development and research kompany. Found on twitter (@southerNothings), it’s one of those companies that works to make artistry a living. We analize an environment and an art’s revenues streams, looking at everything that may make money and may not make as much money as usually thought, develop the art and artist, and the artist or business makes investments into themselves. It gives the youth something to do, some tools. They need music direction. If they can learn how to use their voice, they could get work – for example, singing, doing voice overs.”

Trey’s community involvement is widespread. He’s a writer and contributor to “gullahconversations.com”, and is involved with the BlackButterfly Foundation.

BL: Tell us about the BlackButterfly Foundation.

TN: “One of those youth that needs it. I won’t go into how me and Angel Ryan met, but how we started is how we remain. I’m usually an all around person, you tell me to do something I do it. To the youth that are in Black Butterfly, I would say I’m an inspiration because I’m just like them.”

BL: What is the message you’re trying to convey with your music?

TN: “Uplifting spirits through the most extreme times and unlocking your mind to get through the fog that things give.”

BL: Do you have a local idol?

TN: “No.”

BL: Why do the youth of Saint Helena Island mean so much to you?

TN: “I’m one of them. I can’t go shining with all my gold and money and act like I’m better than them. I wouldn’t last out here that way, and I wouldn’t feel good about myself anyway.”

BL: What about all youth?

TN: “Well, we all got to look at different things. Youth ain’t that different wherever you go. Same things.”

BL: All Black youth?

TN: “Definitely in need of something positive to look at. We don’t get it at home.”

BL: How has the Gullah heritage affected you, and when did you become aware of it?

TN: “The vibes you feel, are very important. It helps me wade through the environments and situations I always find myself in. I became aware of it, seriously in 2016 to be honest. That’s when I really started to say and feel it all.”

BL: What do you think is most important for people to know about the Gullah culture? Do you have any advice for the young people here who, may like you, now have a new awareness of their culture?

TN: “Yes, I’m glad you asked this question. Gullah was the language used by our area slaves in the Lowkountry and the sea coasts to communicate with and against the master (at the same time) and still being true with themselves.

“It’s in everything where I go, and everything I do. I don’t like to sugarcoat things, don’t like things being sugarcoated with me. When I really started to delve into what it meant to be Gullah and being from the Gullah kulture, I had to be true to it and keep it alive with my modern way. It’s important for it to be known, to go through komplex situations and remaining true. The devil is around you same time as God, because they do work together. That’s apart of Gullah’s foundation. For the young people, I would say stick to it. It’s probably best for you to stick with what you now know, regardless of what you’re told unless it really makes sense with proof.”

BL: What is your long term goal and how to you hope to achieve it?

TN: “To have a happy home, and build my family as to be driven by God. I believe that only way I do that is by always having faith no matter what goes on.”

Keep your eyes open for this young man, listen to his Spoken Word if you can, and his music, and wish him the best in realizing his vision.

story by cindy reid    photography by john wollwerth

Some people light up a room by their very presence. Their joy of living is obvious and even inspirational  to those lucky enough to be around them. Don Wersler, at 93 years young, is just such a person. Known around town as “Dancing Don,” he can be found at most local dance floors at least four nights a week, tapping his toes to everything from shag to swing.

It is not just dancing, Don’s busy life includes volunteering at the Beaufort County Library and in several area nursing homes. His day starts at five in the morning and his weekly schedule would tax people half his age.  Every  week on Mondays and Thursdays he volunteers three hours in the morning at the downtown Beaufort county library. Several times a week he takes his turntable and records to local nursing homes and calls bingo, runs table games and plays music for the residents. And, of course, there is his four nights a week dancing schedule. When he is not on the go, he is home cataloging his 1000 plus LP collection. When asked what time he goes to bed at night he answers “When I am ready!”

Don‘s beloved wife Emily passed away nine years ago and, to combat his loneliness, he filled his days with volunteer work and his passion for dancing. He explains, “What is the last word in ‘lonesome’? That word is ‘me’ and being by yourself is lonesome!” He started his volunteer work at the library by offering a dance program which lead to regular volunteer hours. Don is such a wonderful asset to the library that he was named “Volunteer of the Year” last year. He says, “The library people are the nicest bunch of people!” Don says due to his work there he “will never need yoga or an exercise class!” He says shelving books, stretching and reaching for shelves, and being on his feet for three hours twice a week keeps him in good shape.

USMC Service

Although Don has been a Beaufort resident for many decades, his story starts in a small mill town in Pennsylvania. He says, “I finished high school and World War II had started. I graduated one week and the next week I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.” Along with his twin brother Vernon, Don served in South Pacific. “We fought from Marshall Island to Okinawa over the course of eighteen months. I was on my way back to the US when the war ended. Back in Philadelphia, I was separated from my wartime service in USMC in the morning and reenlisted in the afternoon.” Don went on to serve in the USMC for twenty three years. His career included three tours of duty at Parris Island, as well as other stations. While stationed at Camp Lejeune he got into the military legal field, eventually going on to teach court reporting . When asked if the fictional world of NCIS as seen on television bore any resemblance to the real world he shook his head and said “Not at all!”

In light of his age and years of service, Don was honored at the Centennial Celebration of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in 2015, when he was asked to cut the anniversary cake at the ball.

Home Sweet Beaufort

Beaufort became home, because as he says “I served three tours on Parris Island and I met my wife Emily here.” Emily was a “Beaufort girl,” in fact her family owned a grocery store downtown. They married and had two children, a boy and a girl. “One of each -no encores!” laughs Don.

Son Charles and daughter Donna Emily were born and raised here, Charles works at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Donna resides in Spartanburg. Don is proud to say that his son is named after his father and that the three “Charles Wersler” in the Beaufort phone book are his son, grandson and great grandson.

“I have been in Beaufort all of my adult life’, he says, “I built three houses here, and ended up on Lady’s Island.” He says it was very different back then, much more rural. “To the west was just farm land” he says , “and the local fishing industry and there were just three blocks of businesses in downtown Beaufort. “He remembers when Sam’s Point Road was a sleepy county road and says, ”we used to ride bikes down Meridian Road, and it would dead end in a park, which has since burnt down.” In fact his son Charles Wersler wrote a book , “a story about the old times” according to Don, called “Last Ferry to Beaufort: The Life and Times of Captain Willie Roberts, 1865-1952” The book is about the life and times of Captain William P. Roberts, Charles’ great grandfather

(on his mother’s side). “Captain Willie” was best known as the last operator of the White Hall Ferry that once connected Lady’s Island and Beaufort, South Carolina before the first bridge was built in 1927.

Art of Dance

Don says, “I have been a lifelong dancer. It started in Pennsylvania with square dancing. I started dancing and next thing you know I was calling the dances!” Don still enjoys square dancing, in fact he loves most every kind of dancing. He says, “I like fast, slow and everything in between. I like shag, swing and ballroom dancing, which  I started to  learn about two years ago. “

Don is an old fashioned gentleman and enjoys squiring the ladies on the dance floor. He says, “The ladies need a partner. They want to dance and they don’t have anyone to dance with!” He can be found at Am Vets every Thursday night, dancing to the karaoke songs.  People enjoy just watching Don and his lady partners dance the night away, it is lovely reminder of a more gracious age.

Don’s business card says, “For Dancing Fun – Jukebox Memories” which means he will bring his trusty turntable and records to community and other functions at no charge, just to spread the joy of music and dancing.  He has an extensive collection of music, all on LPs and 45s. He says,“ Right now I am cataloging my thousand LPs on the Dewey decimal system. My dance music is on 45s,and I am trying to index it all. “ If you want to book Don  you better call in advance because he is out seven days a week and keeps a very busy schedule!

Words to Live By

Favorite dance? “I’ll take the waltz number.”

Favorite kind of party? “A dance party!”

Daily motto?  “Keep busy, keep active, and don’t sit without motion.”

Best Advice ? “Learn to dance and enjoy the art of dancing”

story by karlee collins    photography by paul nurnberg

In the years since the Beaufort International Film Festival began, Director Ron Tucker says that the attendance has grown from about 500 to over 12,000 in total attendance. As the years have gone by, a venue change had to be made in order to accommodate the “swelling” audience that had doubled and quadrupled in the first three years.  “We actually had two records for total attendance at one screening last year; we had 473 that broke the record on Thursday, and that record was broken on Saturday with 474,” Tucker shares. The continual increase in attendance comes from a diverse audience that includes not only Beaufort residents but also people that travel from many surrounding areas. Last year’s festival boasted an audience that represented thirty-seven states and five countries, and many of those will return again this year. The film festival brings people back no matter how far they travel. Mr. Tucker says, “We have a group that comes from Connecticut almost every year and a couple from Texas that comes every year.”

The film festival’s success has developed an audience that continues to return for more which has a positive impact on the community. Hotels and restaurants in the downtown area get the opportunity to host the festival’s attendees, and that is a healthy benefit to Beaufort’s economy. When the people are not occupied with enjoying the films, they are roaming the beautiful city, and Mr. Tucker says that they all “fall in love with Beaufort” especially the downtown area. The atmosphere of the community and the success of the festival have worked together to sell to the audience an event worth returning to experience again and again.  “It’s one of the things that we like,” Mr. Tucker explains, “that it has become a destination for people. It wouldn’t be Beaufort in February if it weren’t for the film festival.” The growing loyal audience would agree.

Audience Write-Ups

Jan Bruning and her husband, Ken, have been attending the Beaufort International Film Festival since its beginning. From hosting house guests to celebrating the films, they are a part of every aspect of the festival: “We are always there for the first showing of the day and do not leave until the last film is over.  We attend every party and event associated with the festival.  We have ‘film audience’ down to a science now and arrive to spend the day in our little enclave of seats,” Jan shares. They have high praise for directors, Ron and Rebecca Tucker saying, “They have turned our little festival into one that is growing amazingly fast!”

“I have seen every single film!” says Katherine Zalusky, Beaufort resident of twelve years and loyal attendee of the film festival. She would not miss being at each film every year: “My husband knows that every year for that week I have a commitment.” She loves the movies and has a list of favorites. She says, “Initially, I preferred feature films…but now I prefer and look forward to the documentaries.” For Katherine, the fantastic films are not the only reason she continues to attend. “Even though the festival has grown and continues to improve, it has not lost that feeling of intimacy,” she explains. The common ground of watching films together makes large crowds into one big family, and that is the intimacy that Katherine describes.

Arlene Hull will be attending the film festival this year for the tenth time. She heard about it through friends and has joined in on the fun since that time: “I come back every year to see the new talent and efforts of both new and experienced people in the industry.” For the Beaufort native, it is exciting to see how the festival gives exposure to her hometown. She says, “I think the impact on Beaufort is incredible, it helps to secure our place in the realms of truly being a very diversified arts community and gets us National recognition for such.” Through the festival, Arlene knows that Beaufort is being highlighted on the map, and she thanks Ron and Rebecca Tucker for it. “Every year is bigger and better,” she says, “and that is because of Ron and Rebecca and their commitment to the festival.”

In March of 2010, Lloyd and Jane Sidwell chose to make Beaufort their home. Soon afterwards they discovered the film festival through their new friends Ron and Rebecca Tucker. “The films, the excitement of the fest, the organization and attention to detail provided by Ron and Rebecca, the experience of meeting filmmakers, [and the] discussion [of] films with other filmgoers” are all reasons that they come back each year. Jane says she loves “sitting cocooned in [her] seat, in the upper reaches of the auditorium, and enjoying films for the entire day, one right after the other.” To the Sidwells, the film festival is a “world class” cultural event that is beneficial to locals and visitors alike.

Liz Entwistle first learned of the film festival through reading about it in the newspaper. She attended the first year and has been back to the festival each year. Liz says that she returns for “the comradery, the movies, the parties, and the people.” She enjoys sharing the festival with her fellow Beaufort locals and those that come from out of town. Liz says, “It exposes [Beaufort] to the world for having a real quality of life.” Her contribution to that exposure has been bringing family from New York to attend the festival; she enjoys sharing the excitement of the festival with others.

Carolyn Roos will be attending the festival from opening to closing for the fourth time this year and has been for the Saturday showing for many other years. Through the invitation of friends, Carolyn discovered a place that gives her “the opportunity to see film making at its best from newbies to remakes.” She has enjoyed getting to know the film makers and their families as well as watching Beaufort be show cased as a location for future film making. She says, “Those that come to Beaufort because of [the festival] fall in love with Beaufort and some have made it their home.”

Long-time Beaufort resident, Debbie Dawsey-Davis has attended all ten years of the film festival. She looks forward to returning to the festival, and she says, “Each year continues to be the best!” Some of her favorite parts include the question and answer sessions with those involved in making the films and the parties. She says that she and her friends “love to sit all day and become one with the festival.” The annual film festival is another reason that Debbie is proud to live in Beaufort; she is thrilled to see “so many people come together with love and passion for the arts!”

Gerry and Dianne Kenny call Beaufort their home and have been attending the film festival since the beginning. Gerry and Ron Tucker are friends which is how the Kennys discovered the festival. Although Gerry does not claim to be a film buff, he feels that this unique event is enjoyable for all audiences. “I enjoy the diversity, seeing different kinds of movies,” he says. “I like the offbeat movies and the documentaries.” Gerry thinks something can be found to suit anyone’s interest, and he believes that Beaufort residents should support and relish in the culture that the festival provides. He says, “It’s important to promote local events, and this one is convenient and of good value.”

story by mary ellen thompson    photography by john wollwerth

Daughters of the Dust will screen at 7:30 p.m. at BIFF on Saturday, February 19. Twenty five years ago, this film was the first feature directed by an African American woman to receive general theatrical release and writer and director, Julie Dash, will be here to receive an award at the Awards Ceremony on Sunday evening, February 20.

This film was made here in 1989 and the following members of the community who were associated with the film are very excited about the fact that it was restored and will be shown again at BIFF. They share their memories and associations with the film.

Kai-Lynne Warren: Actress

Kai Lynne portrayed the character of the Unborn Child in the film (although her voice was dubbed over).  Her grandmother, Jesse Mae Warren, was working at the Penn Center and heard about the movie, so Kai-Lynne’s mother brought her to the casting call and Kai-Lynne was chosen. When asked what she remembers about being in the film, she initially replies, “Not so much, I was only seven. I remember running and playing on the beach. I do remember that I appreciated acting after that, I had seen what it took to film a scene.” Did she pursue an acting career as a result? “No; I auditioned for Queen in Charleston but didn’t get a part and there wasn’t anything else.”

How did Kai-Lynne find out that Daughters of the Dust had been re-released? “My mother saw it on facebook!”

When questioned about the last time she saw the film, Kai-Lynne says, “It was on television some years back. I was talking to a co-worker and she was telling me that she saw a movie on television and thought a little girl in the film looked just like me. I asked her what movie it was and when she said Daughters of the Dust, I told her –  that was me!”

“Oh,” Kai-Lynne said, “there is one other thing I remember. I was constantly having to get my dress fixed. I kept getting holes and tears in it, the fabric was so thin and I was running around playing on the beach and climbing trees.”

Kai-Lynne is looking forward to attending the film at BIFF with her husband who has never seen it. “It was a wonderful film and everyone who was part of it was so nice.”

Willie Faulkner: Actor

Willie had a speaking part in 23 films that were filmed in this area, in this one he played Peazant Man #1. Of Daughters of the Dust, he recalls, “It was different than the other films I had worked on; there was more feeling. The Black culture was and still is trying to be equal, to overcome obstacles. Julie Dash was wonderful to work for. I had a speaking part as Peazant Man #1. I had to be on the set every day, and I still remember that when we were shooting out at Hunting Island, those sand gnats were trouble.”

When asked what about being part of that experience still sticks with him after 27 years, Willie explains, “All of it still sticks.  Daughters of the Dust mirrored our times then and mirrors our time now. As in the film, we were leaving the old world and coming to the new. There were many people here who left to go to New York and then wanted to come back. In the film and life, there were the old ladies, the grandmothers in the old world, who would say, ‘You go on, I’ll stay here. Or they would give their children protective things so they would be safe and remember their roots. The film points up and points out the flaws and attributes of these times, then and now.” Willie has the original script of the film.

Ervena Faulkner: Extra

“It was great fun, I was just an extra in four or five scenes but not all the scenes I was in were used in the movie. I called being on the set ‘hurry up and wait’ time. But I did get in the film in the baptismal scene where everyone was going down to the water. I know my hips and when I saw the movie I could see them! Ron Daise was also in that scene so we both got in the film.”

“We went to the screening in Atlanta. When Julie Dash’s book came out in 1992, I read it with my book club.”

Mary Mac: Hostess 

“I had The Red Piano Too Art Gallery on Saint Helena. At that time it was where MacDonald Marketplace is now and was across the street from E’s Fabric Shop, which was owned by Edith Sumpter. One day when I was in the shop I saw Vertamae Grosvenor, who I recognized from ETV and NPR, and I had read her books. So I chatted her up and found that she was shopping for fabric for the costumes for Daughters of the Dust. My husband, Tommy, had a small side business doing tailoring so I invited them to the house to meet him. He wound up making some of the costumes and repurposing an umbrella that was carried by the character, Yellow Mary, in the film. I invited the cast to dinner and they all came.”

When asked what she remembers now about that dinner, Mary replied, “I put bacon in the gumbo and they didn’t like it; most of them were vegetarians. Luckily I also had salad, rice and cornbread so that was what they ate. I remember putting a bottle of soy sauce on the table,” Mary laughs. “They were excited about the area, the history and culture. I was excited about the fact they were making a movie here.”

Why does she think the film is important? “It’s a slice of life. See if you can put yourself in that role. You don’t have to stay there, but see what it’s like.

“When the film was released, as part of the Ladies of the Lowcountry, in conjunction with the Penn Center, we held a fundraiser for Penn and the film was screened at the theater at the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS). The theater was filled.”

Diane Britton Dunham: Artist

What impressed Diane most about the film was, “The cinematography, the flowing white gowns, the scenery; the location is like a character in itself. The music was ethereal and mesmerizing; I just loved the beauty of it. When people saw the film they really began to understand the culture of the Gullah people; Julie Dash covered so many of the images like net making, basket weaving and the bottle trees. Daughters of the Dust is a cult classic.”

Diane has said that the film had an influence on her art, that many of her paintings have the spirit of the character the Unborn Child. She explains, “I can relate to her as the little girl in my self. She is mystical because she ties the story together; most of my paintings have a little girl in them, some of them are her spirit and some of them are me.”

When asked what her involvement with the making of the film was, Diane replies, “None. Except that Mary Mack wanted me to do a painting that might be used for the movie poster.” Diane did the painting and although it didn’t make it as a movie poster, it did grace the cover of the pamphlet that was used for the film screening at MCAS. She was, however, caught up in the conviviality of picture making. “I was living on Saint Helena and the cast and crew were in the center of the Frogmore Community; they stayed in the motel there and went to the shops. Mary was managing my art and it was in her gallery there so I had the opportunity to watch from the sidelines. I loved the energy of the artsy community. I always wanted to be an artist and hang out in that kind of community. I had just started exhibiting so I was new to this art world and I was shy so I just watched the goings on whenever I could.”

Jacquelyn Markham: Associate Professor

When asked how she first became aware of the film, Jackie remembers, “During the time Julie Dash was filming Daughters of the Dust, she was living in Atlanta and I was teaching Women’s Studies at the University of Georgia. In a course on women’s contributions to culture, we studied some film directors working at the time and I believe Julie Dash’s name surfaced. Shortly after, I viewed the film.”

Jackie recounts her initial impression of the film, “I fell in love with it! When I was in graduate school, I majored in literature and poetry, but I took every film course I could and even considered a minor in film.  Also, I have a great love of visual art.  To me, Daughters of the Dust is like an impressionist painting coming to life with the mystery of poetry.”

As a teacher, what made Jackie want to incorporate the film into her teaching, and how has she done so? “I came to the film from so many angles: literary, artistic, cultural, and this film has the potential to open so many dialogues and explorations. I think that is why it has been my favorite film for 25 years and why I wanted to incorporate it into my teaching.  I like to use film in my literature courses in general because so many students relate to the visual and there are always parallel points in film and literature that students can discuss and write about.  In Daughters of the Dust, we could talk about the nonlinear narrative, symbolism, the mystery or poetic sense of the film as well as the social, historical, and cultural implications.”

The film has stayed with Jackie, and she describes that for us. “This film has made a lasting impression on me in ways I would never have imagined when I was first introduced to it. I had no idea at that time that I would even leave Athens, Georgia or that one day, my interest in culture would entice me to know more about the Gullah culture and an eventual move to the Beaufort area. I first visited St. Helena and Penn Center in 2002 and Daughters of the Dust came alive again. I can’t tell you how many people I have told about this amazing film.  Now that it has been restored and is getting the recognition it deserves, I feel privileged to again see it on the big screen at BIFF and hopefully see and hear Julie Dash tell us more about her vision and current projects.”

Epilogue from the original script: “Just as streams coalesce into rivers, and rivers coalesce into oceans, these black freedpeople entered the larger body of the black experience – remembering, recollecting, and recalling the daughters of the dust.”