protests

The authors of "We Are Charleston" (left to right) historian Dr. Bernard Powers, State Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth and former journalist Herb Frazier
Jack Alterman

In the months following the unimaginable church massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, a poet, a journalist and an historian came together to write a book.  They wanted to explain to a nation not only what happened, but why.

Why were nine Black parishioners gunned down by a white stranger?

Five years later, the authors of "We Are Charleston" find themselves trying to explain again why more African Americans continue to be killed across the country, repeatedly and publicly, this time by white police officers.

Statue of John C. Calhoun is lifted from its more than 100 foot tall base at Marion Square on June 24, 2020.
Victoria Hansen/ SC Public Radio

It’s been nearly impossible to see the face of John C. Calhoun perched atop a more than 100- foot pedestal over the Charleston city skyline for 124 years, but now the likeness of the South Carolina statesman is gone.

It took time to take down.

Calhoun was a former State Senator and Vice President of the United States. But he was also a well-known advocate of racist policies, especially slavery.

The Debate

His stature in one of the city’s most prominent parks, Marion Square, has been debated for years.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Back in January, South Carolina Public Radio spoke to Dr. Alecia Watt, the director of Greenville Technical College’s Educational Opportunity Program, about the school’s initiative to identify and retain African-American male students who were at risk of dropping out.

The original feature is here.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Two calls to change names tied to the Confederacy occurred in Rock Hill Friday. One was the call by the Winthrop University Board of Trustees to change the name of Tillman Hall back to Main Hall – a move echoing this exact call at Clemson University last week and similar to the one at the University of South Carolina to remove the name Sims from a dorm; the other an effort to rename Confederate Park.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Capt. Cheryl Cromartie knew she wanted to be a police officer when she was nine years old. She was driving with her grandmother and saw something she'd never seen before -- a black female cop.

She joined the Greenville County Sheriff's Office 27 years ago and still did not see many colleagues who looked like her. She decided to be a game-changer for African-American women who might want to consider police work.

She succeeded, all the way up to a leadership position -- the first black woman in the department to achieve every new rung on the ladder.

And now she's concerned that without some reform in the wake of so many racially charged incidents involving police officers, young black men and women will not want to enter law enforcement when the community most needs them to.

Below is a conversation with Capt. Cromartie, who describes in complex, anguished detail what it's like to be torn by two sides that always seem to be at odds with each other.