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Not In Our Town Daniel Island

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Addressing racism in our community: Where do we go from here?

By Elizabeth Horton in The Daniel Island News, June 24, 2020

DANIEL ISLAND, S.C.: Life in an island town, nestled in the Lowcountry, has a built-in, idyllic charm. Quiet, oak-lined streets, neighbors waving from front porches, carefree kids meandering on bikes, beautiful trails to connect with nature — this community is touted as having a small town, modern-day “Mayberry” feel.

Beneath the surface, however, there’s an undercurrent of racism that has bubbled to the surface in recent weeks. There are subtle examples, slight enough to remain undetected. There are acts of racism left behind in the middle of the night — hate-filled images spray painted on office buildings and playgrounds on Daniel Island and in neighborhoods off of Clements Ferry Road. There are blatant occurrences, such as targeted, inappropriate posts left by a local student on social media accounts that later resulted in expulsion. And there are indicators that racism is here.

Last week, Sherrel Singleton, a Black resident of Daniel Island and mother of a 2-year-old, was harassed by a group of white men while crossing the street in the commercial district in her own hometown.

The community response has come from multiple sources.

The citizens

Singleton used the Daniel Island Moms Facebook page as a platform to share her experience. In summary, the group of men she encountered shouted obscenities, told her that “Black lives don’t matter,” and screamed from a truck window, “Get off our island, blacky.”

When asked how the comments made her feel, Singleton said, “I felt less than human. I’ve never had to really have anyone call me out on the color of my skin. I have most definitely never encountered someone blatantly expressing so much hate and verbalizing that ‘Black lives don’t matter’ so close to my face. It was dehumanizing.”

Harriet LoPiccolo, a fellow Daniel Island mom, read the post, connected it with other incidents on the island, and couldn’t shake it off. LoPiccolo, a retired White woman, said she “had never led anything in her entire life.” But a spark ignited. Stepping out of her comfort zone, she invited residents to join her in starting a chapter of “Not in Our Town” (NIOT). According to its website, NIOT is a national movement to “stop hate, racism, and bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all.”

LoPiccolo was overwhelmed with support, and a leadership team quickly formed, made up of two white women, LoPiccolo and Heather Hawkinson, and two Black women, Shaunda Campbell and Singleton. The Daniel Island chapter has plans for faith/memorial walks, community meetings, events, and collaborations with local businesses and civic leaders. The group already has about 125 members, with new supporters joining daily.

“Change starts from within. Everyone has to take a look in the mirror and see the world beyond what they see in the mirror,” Singleton said, adding we must change our world even if that means being uncomfortable.

“When a neighbor within our community feels unsafe, it is time for more of us to rise up and create that safe place,” Hawkinson said. “We stop the hate and we build safe, inclusive environments in our neighborhood. We combat the hate with visible, swift responses. We don’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations.”

Read more at The Daniel Island News