By: Chaunte McClure
Last week I made a healthy decision to put my job, assignments and church duties aside to enjoy myself.
A girlfriend’s getaway to Charleston, S.C. last weekend included a group of 20-something to almost-40-year-olds and the birthday girl, who turned the big 4-5.
The beach would have been ideal on a sweltering hot day, but not everyone likes the beach, and since we were celebrating a birthday, it was only right to do what the birthday girl would appreciate.
Since she’s a self-proclaimed foodie, I thought we’d take her somewhere out of the ordinary. Charleston is a food destination with several restaurants and chefs that have been nominated for a James Beard Award. There are endless dining options in downtown Charleston, but I suggested we experience something different, so we headed off the beaten path, down a gravel road.
A couple of times I heard, “Where are we going?” Before we got to our dining spot, the driver was quick to say, “Chaunte chose this.” We saw a huge sign that read, “Bowens Island Restaurant.” We passed two huge houses along the way that everyone admired. Perhaps that eased their concerns a little before seeing cars – lots of cars – parked haphazardly near the restaurant, a large wood structure with a winding ramp leading to its doors with a porch that wraps around the waterfront dive.
That’s exactly what it is – a dive. I warned the crew that there was no need to get cute for this outing. Shorts and a T-shirt would do. No linen tablecloths or napkins here. Matter of fact, you can leave your mark on the walls. Seriously. Remember how you used to write graffiti on desks when you were in school? Okay, well, your friends did. At Bowens Island Restaurant, you can freely write on the walls and we did, as we waited for our food.
In case you decide to take a road trip to try this place out, choose a table when you enter and let someone sit there while you place your orders because the place fills up fast. We made it inside in just the knick of time last Friday. By the time I got to the register, the line stretched to the door! They’ll bring your food out to you, but listen carefully for your name while you’re chatting with family and friends. Actually, they’ll yell it loud enough.
Bowens Island Restaurant serves fresh seafood and I think everyone ordered something different. A couple of us shared our food because our taste buds were curious. I had the seafood platter: a heaping helping of whiting, shrimp, crab cakes and fries. You can’t have fish without hot sauce, so I piled it on. My other friends had everything from Frogmore stew to the big ol’ seafood platter. We were full when we left, but we made sure to take a few selfies. One of the twenty-something millennials brought along her selfie stick and we put it to use the whole weekend.
We obviously stayed up too late Friday night working on vision boards because we missed our 10:00 a.m. spa appointments. However, the early bird in the group rescheduled our appointments for much needed manicures, pedicures and massages. Off to Aqua Day Spa we went and had lunch at Hyman’s, a Charleston classic where many celebrities have been sited. And again, we had seafood. You can’t go to Charleston and not have seafood. This time I didn’t have much room for it because I was still full from breakfast. That didn’t stop me from having fried green tomatoes or crab dip before my entrée arrived.
Before heading back to Columbia, we braved the heat and strolled through the Charleston Market. It was a weekend that can be summed up as: good memories and good conversations while celebrating a good friend.
It’s hard to believe that one week later, the very city where we were celebrating would be overcome with grief, yet overwhelmed with the love and support of thousands, maybe even millions. Life is filled with swift transitions and Wednesday’s massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. Church quickly changed the Holy City’s scene.
I was having dinner at a local restaurant after leaving church Wednesday night when I read this Facebook post: “My prayers and thoughts go out to my old friend Senator Clementa Pinckney and his congregation.” I gasped. The name was all too familiar. Then I saw this headline: Reports: Shooting in Downtown Charleston Leave at Least 8 Dead. I immediately said ‘Oh my God, oh my God,’ while holding my chest. I hurried home and turned on the TV, hoping the news I read was not true. I waited and waited to find out the victims’ names.
I am an A.M.E. so this hit close to home for me. One of those victims was a fellow A.M.E. preacher. As a matter of fact, a few of them were and I naturally put myself in their shoes because I could have easily been a victim. I am black. I am a member of a historic A.M.E. church, and I was in church Wednesday night as the incident unfolded.
The news of the tragedy hurt like I knew the victims personally, but I didn’t. It was hard to focus Thursday and it was hard to focus Friday. It was hard to believe that such a horrific crime happened to such wonderful (innocent) people, in what should be a well-respected place: the church.
My heart goes out to everyone involved and to the grieving families. Remember, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) David cried out to God in a time of desperate need, saying, “but You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain.”
I pray that God will comfort and strengthen the families and friends of the Charleston Nine in the days to come.