Victoria Hansen

Families Still Question Mother Emanuel Donations Despite State Inquiry

By Victoria Hansen

Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston has been the focus of a SLED inquiryFelicia Sanders held her granddaughter so tight, she feared she might suffocate the child on the church floor, as a racist gunman they had welcomed to bible study executed nine fellow parishioners one by one. Bullet casings scorched her legs. She watched helplessly as her son Tywanza, just feet away in a pool of blood, took his final breath. Sanders and her granddaughter survived the massacred that claimed nine lives that night by playing dead. "This is the child who was underneath her grandmother as those 77 shots rang out," says attorney Andy Savage. "This is the child who heard those shots...

Innovative Recyling Facility Offers Promise and Raises Questions

By Victoria Hansen

Outside RePower South recycling facility in Moncks corner adjacent to the Berkeley County LandfillImagine a world without recycling bins where what can be repurposed is; and discarded items that are typically left at landfills become fuel. That's the world RePower South, a new recycling company, wants to build. "There's a layer of that waste stream that we're taking in and creating a fuel," says a Repower South cofounder and CEO Brian Gilhuly. "It is renewable, clean fuel that is used by industry and utilities." The company set up shop nine months ago in a community in need of a new recycling facility, Berkeley County. There, garbage trucks pick up all the curbside trash from homes, no...

Charleston Artist Honors Our Nation's Veterans

By Victoria Hansen

"Bunker" depicts homeless veteran Dennis of California as if he is surrounded by gunfire.Charleston artist Mary Whyte secretly scoured the country painting portraits for seven years as part of her latest project, "We the People". Her ambition is as extraordinary as her subjects; our nation's veterans. "I really believe our truest Americans really are our veterans," says Whyte. Known for her watercolor paintings depicting American life, Whyte became part journalist part historian for her latest venture. She knew she wanted to depict a variety of veterans from each of the 50 states. But she wasn't exactly sure where to find them. So, she stopped by the chamber of commerce in...

Protecting Gullah Culture

By Victoria Hansen

Nakia Wigfall coils a sweetgrass basket at her Mount Pleasant home.Nearly two hours south of Charleston, over Beaufort's Woods Memorial Bridge, South Carolina's Sea Islands stretch out adorned with palms trees and pines, and grassy marshes that glitter at twilight. The area has long been home to the direct descendants of slaves known as Gullah Geechee. Once freed, they remained isolated on the islands, living off the land and holding on to their African traditions and language. They kept quiet, closely guarding their way of life, until developers began moving in; threatening ancestral land deeply connected to their culture. Now Gullah communities across the...

How Hurricane Hugo Shaped the Life of an Emergency Managment Director

By Victoria Hansen

449fab3e-d2b3-4e77-b9dc-61f26729e5bdThere's a brief lull in the heavy rain that's hit Charleston as Hurricane Dorian lingers off the coast. The city's Emergency Managment Director Shannon Scaff takes a deep breath. He's about to interview live, nationally with The Weather Channel. He's also relieved. The storm isn't over yet and already he knows it could have been much worse. "We got lucky with the tides," he tells the reporter. "The storm surge wasn’t as bad as what was forecasted originally." Orginally, a more than 10 foot tide was expected to swamp the city's battery wall, higher than both Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. That...

Charleston Prepares for Possible Record Flooding from Hurricane Dorian

By Victoria Hansen

The corner of Water Street and East Bay along the Battery in downtown Charleston.  The area is known for flooding.Charleston city officials say they're ready for whatever Hurricane Dorian brings our way. But what about the people who decided to stay? Many were still checking out the winds and waves along the historic city's battery wall late Wednesday, just hours before the storm's anticpated arrival. An evacuation order for the entire coast has been in place since Monday. “I want Charleston to be a ghost town," said Mayor John Tecklenburg Wednesday afternoon, as he tried again to get people to leave. "I want everybody out of sight. If they're not out of town I want them hunkered down and safe.” "I want...

Sister Cities: The Connection between Charleston and Freetown, Sierra Leone

By Victoria Hansen

aebf16e0-0b09-401c-9f3c-bf04c8d2228bDressed in a brightly colored, patterned dress and wearing stylishly large, black rimmed glasses, 51 year-old Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr flashes the most fantastic smile. The mayor of Freetown, Seirra Leone in West Africa has travelled more than 4,000 miles to visit Charleston and South Carolina's Sea Islands. She must be exhausted. Yet she glows with warmth and enthusiasm. "We're family," she tells an audience gathered inside the Frissell Community House at the Penn Center on Saint Helena Island. "We should be a bit closer than we have been to date." Freetown and the Lowcountry are separated by the...

Forgiveness: Four Years After The Charleston Church Massacre

By Victoria Hansen

d81726bc-9869-4bc6-8367-f1245712ff90Many remember where they were when they heard the news: nine people gunned down inside an historic African American church in Charleston at the hands of a stranger they welcomed to bible study. But few know the passage they read. Reporter Jennifer Berry Hawes does. "It's called the 'Parable of the Sower,'" she says. "It's a story where Jesus talks about what happens when you throw seeds of faith onto different types of terrain." Hawes writes about the tragedy in her first book, "Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness.." The idea is if...

Spoleto Festival USA Announces New Opera Based on the Life of a Slave

By Victoria Hansen

Portrait of "Uncle Moreau" elderly man seated wearingheadwrap, suit; left elbow rests on newel, cane in right handIn the city where nearly half of all enslaved Africans were brought to this nation, Spoleto Festival USA will unveil a new opera based on the life of an African-Muslim slave. His autobiography is believed to be the only surviving, unedited story written in Arabic in the United States. Omar Ibn Said came to Charleston through Gadsden’s Wharf in 1807 and was sold as a slave. He escaped his Charleston owner and fled to North Carolina where he was recaptured, jailed and resold. He penned his autobiography in 1831. His story, lost for decades and eventually held in private collections, was...

Selecting the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra

By Victoria Hansen

Director and conductor John Kennedy with the Spoleto USA orchestraThey are sure signs of Spoleto in downtown Charleston; instrument toting musicians and scorching heat. Among the jostling violin cases, is Shannon Fitzhenry. She’s back for her second year with the annual Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, one of 92 musicians chosen to play. “The goal is to get up in time to warm up before rehearsal,” she laughs. The Charleston native grew up with Spoleto, but admits she didn't fully appreciate it until she moved away to study music at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland. “I started hearing more about Spoleto from non-Charlestonians and realized I...

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