Scott Suchy photoillustration

Looking ahead, looking back

How about one final look back at 2020 before we close the book on this wild year and throw it on the fire? We’ve enlisted a group of local figures, some of whom you may recognize, to jot down some of what they learned over the course of the year. With one foot already in 2021 for many of us, there are some smart takeaways here from local folks you should keep your eyes on. Bye, bye, 2020! Here’s to 2021. Can’t wait to see you there. —Sam Spence

Jaime Tenny
Co-owner, Coast Brewing Co.
North Charleston

I’ve been reluctant to write down anything to do with 2020. Maybe if I didn’t leave a written record of this year, it would be like it never happened. Then, it dawned on me that this wasn’t a fair assessment. Gratitude for the “little things” (that are actually the big things) has cemented in my soul even more. “Be here now” has never been more true.

Good things still happened; I just had to look a little harder for them, especially when it comes to operating a small business through it all.
Being in a beer-making business that is also in the midst of construction of a new taproom (with a kitchen!) during a pandemic is not a pretty picture. Unsurprisingly, burning the candle at both ends will eventually burn you out big time. Taking on too many roles at your small business is not sustainable. Time is the most important thing in the world, and there is not enough of it to spend on the things we want to do. Time with our kids, and loved ones, and friends, is what we gave up to get this brewery off the ground. The problem is, 14 years later, it’s still in that same start-up feel, in terms of time and energy investment.

COVID put the spotlight on these shortcomings. I know, for many of us, it has brought a reassessment of where we are and what we want out of life. For 2021 and beyond, I plan on getting me some more of that elusive and precious commodity of time as soon as …

Christie Rainwater
Mayor
Hanahan

The year 2020 was anticipated to be the year of perfect vision, the year of focus. However, the year was met with chaos and one challenge after the next. As the year comes to a close, many find themselves feeling lost and without hope.

However, it is noteworthy to share that focus does not come by way of feeling. It arrives by action and by choice. One definition of focus reads, “to direct one’s attention or efforts.”

What if all the chaos and all the challenges we have faced were essential to bring into focus what really matters? I propose that 2020, and all the events that came to pass, did just that. Our priorities and what is truly important are now clearer than ever before. Our need is to focus on life and freedom for our neighbors and for ourselves. Our vision is to see how essential each one of us is to both our loved ones and to our community. Our stance, when faced with adversity, is to overcome whatever comes our way.

My prayer is that we leave 2020 feeling hope and strength. As we enter 2021, let us choose to be purposeful in our priorities and resilient in all we face.

Harve Jacobs
Reporter, WCSC-TV
Charleston

Photo by Ruta Smith

I knew this pandemic was real when back in March my news director told me and several other staff members that we would not be allowed back in the building to allow for social distancing. I certainly understand why that was done.

Since that time I’ve only been allowed back into the building twice, for a flu shot and a COVID test. Soon, I was told I would no longer be allowed to ride with a news photographer to my daily news story because of the pandemic. I rarely ever had to drive a separate car and this was a huge change for me. That meant I could no longer write my story or look at my interviews until we stopped somewhere. It gave me a taste of what multimedia journalists have to do everyday, and I admire them for that.

Julio Caceres
Latino Student Advisor, The Citadel
Charleston

Photo provided by Julio Caceres

It takes a tribe to survive.

My family and I had done everything we could to avoid COVID-19. We wear masks, we limit how often we go out and avoid large crowds. Due to health issues, I had transitioned to working from home and my kids had transitioned to online learning. Even with all that, we had a couple of family members who had to work, and despite everything, we ended up with four positive cases in the house.

Being a large family of seven, quarantine was an experience we will never forget. Thankfully, the kids did not have severe symptoms and recovered quickly. We learned a lot about each other during this time. We learned to have fun again as a family.

Sometimes, in this busy time, with all the electronics that tend to keep us all too busy to pay attention, we lose track of each other. We forget that our family is the most important thing in the world. We rediscovered each other. It was not all fun, there were days when we wanted to vote each other off the island. But in the end, we learned patience, we learned understanding and we learned grace.
So, despite COVID, and as the holidays approach, we were reminded that the most important thing in the world, and the only thing that can survive a year like 2020, is family.

Kris Kaylin
On-air personality, Z93 Jamz
Charleston

Photo by Ruta Smith

To be honest, 2020 has been a blessing for me. Was I able to travel abroad and take pictures in my swimsuit channeling my inner Sports Illustrated model? Absolutely not, but I gained much more that travel miles cannot replace.

I have had the opportunity to grow as a media influencer, sharpen my interviewing skills and gain more exposure than I could have imagined. If 2020 went on without the life-changing pandemic, I highly doubt I would have interviewed Kanye West, Brandy or Megan Thee Stallion to name a few.

Since I had a lot of free time, it allowed me to make sure my community was taken care of, our voices were heard and the feedback was received.

Now that I have conquered 2020, what should I look forward to in 2021? My goal is to stay consistent. Maybe I will release a book, host my own show, or start a new venture? 2020 has shown me that during a storm, all things are still possible! Always remember: Never let success go to your head and never let failures go to your heart.
Do not forget #BlackLivesMatter now, always and forever!

Joe Cunningham
U.S. Representative
Charleston

Photo by Ruta Smith

After two years in Congress, it is clear that our country is as divided as it ever has been. Our politics are completely toxic, and Washington is more gridlocked than anytime in recent history. We can’t keep functioning like this.

So, each of us needs to make a choice and decide if we are serious about changing our politics, or if the next few years will only be a continuation of the same dysfunction.

The other side is not the enemy. The enemy is the stubbornness of our own biases. The enemy is a political system that seeks to divide us for sport. Instead of fighting with each other, we need to unite and fight the serious challenges we are facing, from COVID-19 to climate change. We have to start talking to each other again. And most importantly, we have to start listening to one another again.
In 2021, I will be a private citizen, just another voter, asking my government and our elected leaders to do better. But, I am committed to being a part of that solution.

Chase Glenn
Executive Director, Alliance for Full Acceptance
Hanahan

I learned that I really like gardening, and given some extra time, I can actually be somewhat successful. Just ask my wife, who said she was actually tired of homegrown tomatoes by the end of this summer.
I learned that I’m not good at giving haircuts. I never had the guts to try and cut my own hair, but that didn’t stop my wife and me from butchering our son’s haircut — giving him a bowl cut that would rival Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber.

I learned I’m pretty decent at making bagels, but not good at sourdough. I had wild success at making everything bagels right out of the gate, so I got cocky and thought I’d join the rest of the world and perfect my own sourdough — only to find out that I couldn’t grow a starter to save my life.

I learned that my wife and I are poor substitutes for actual teachers. God bless our educators.

I learned that I’m kind of a homebody and I’m okay holing up in our house with my wife and son. We actually really like each other. I know that there may not be another season like this in our lifetime. And, getting to see my son turn from a toddler into a little boy right before our very eyes — wow. Having this time together as a family has been a gift. Bad haircuts and all.

Carol Jackson
City Councilwoman
Charleston

My grandmother always told me, “Patience is a virtue.” Then, she’d wink and add, “But it’s no fun.” The longer this COVID purgatory lasts, I’m ready to follow her elderly years lead — choosing to eat my lemon meringue pie ahead of waiting ‘til after my entrée.

Being patient to wait for the end to our scary pandemic has been no fun. Regardless, I’m determined to heed the advice of our medical and public health community to see it through to a safer, better day.
From the pattern of other hard life lessons learned, I’m grateful on a macro level for this intense community season we are sharing. The suffering, sacrifice and loss experienced by those most affected is tragic and cruel. It’s been an enforced, teachable moment for each of us, and one where I’m praying each day, we will collectively score an A grade.

Maybe we can graduate to a new stage of craving to join our wisdom, energies and resolve for sustainable efforts that will embrace the current and future community challenges that our grandson will face.
While I breathe, I hope. While I hope, I pray.

Jason Sakran
City Councilman
Charleston

January will mark my first full year on Charleston City Council and there are certainly some lessons I have learned:

1.  Energy, passion and  
    great ideas are  
    important, but there  
    is something to be said for wisdom,  
    experience and a few battle scars.
2.  Campaigning is wildly different from 
    legislating and governing.
3.  Some constituents hold elected officials 
    to unattainably high standards, and 
    when the elected official votes in a way 
    they disagree with on one or two issues, 
    they become disappointed and lose faith 
    in the system.
4.  Responding to constituents in a timely 
    manner is not going above and beyond 
    the call of duty. It is our duty.
5.  Some people are going to disagree 
    vehemently with me, and I will 
    undoubtedly hear more from them than 
    from folks who agree with me.
6.  Difficult decisions are much easier 
    when I spend two-thirds of my time 
    listening to my constituents and fellow 
    council members. 
7.  Focusing on my family, my physical and 
    my mental health makes me a better 
    council member.
8.  As far as communication is concerned, 
    nothing can replace a phone call, 
    personal email or a handwritten letter.
9.  The use of social media as a tool for 
    elected officials is ideal for sharing 
    information, but falls short as a tool for 
    true public engagement.
10. The assumptions and quick conclusions 
    people make about me as a person based 
    on a tweet, a media story, a Facebook 
    post or something they read on Instagram 
    is remarkable, disheartening. It speaks 
    to a broader challenge we have as a 
    society about how we receive and process 
    information in our digital age.

Marvin Pendarvis
S.C. Representative
North Charleston

This year has brought more despair than any I can remember, but in the darkest reaches of our collective experiences, there were sparks of the rising sun beneath the horizon.

Our victories are yet young and fragile, and it is unwise to place excessive confidence in them, but credit is owed where it is due. That credit goes to the workers on the many campaigns that brought Trump down; to the myriad activists who charged the streets after the murder of George Floyd to rally for social justice; to the frontline workers who struggled in the face of a pandemic and to the scientists who developed vaccines.

I believe that we can tentatively say that we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. We have gained more progress as a society in this year than in any in the last decade with the only caveat being that it is the comeback from the lowest point, yet the direction is up.
My only advice to everyone is to not get complacent, we can make a kinder, more just, and environmentally friendly society but everyone has to participate and never take democracy or anything else for granted. Let’s lick our wounds and get back into the ring!

Sharon Graci
Artistic Director, Pure Theatre
Charleston

Photo by A.R.S.

I am a bossy person. I make no bones about that. I am a director, after all. But bossiness doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It requires some kind of plan or, at the very least, loose structure with a suggestion of a projected outcome to be bossy about. 2020 is the calendar equivalent of a thumbed nose to planning.

Most humans I know appreciate the chance to set some markers and aim in a general direction, and I think most of us have continued to do that these past 12 months. But, 2020 has been the year of the reroute, and I think that we’ve all become a little more nimble, and a little more open to rolling with it. Those traits aren’t negative at all.
So, here’s to 2021 being whatever it’s going to be. I’ve been exercising my pivot. I’m ready.

KJ Kearney
Founder, @BlackFoodFridays
North Charleston

Screenshot @blackfoodfridays

What has 2020 taught me? I be cappin’. What is cappin’? In a nutshell, it means “to lie.”

2020 allowed me to slow down and stop cappin’. I wasn’t lying on purpose. The lie came from my lack of focus. Trying to be all things and do all things yet accomplishing very little. 2020 gave me a chance to see what I was really contributing to the world and adjust accordingly. It taught me there’s a distinct difference between “doing work” and “being seen.” I had the “being seen” part down pat, but if I am to be honest — which is the entire point of this reflection — I actually got more work done and made more impactful connections during a global pandemic than almost any year before. Go figure!

In 2020, I started a movement by learning how to operate below the level of perception. I made friends in high and low places. I discovered a love for hot teas. I learned the weight of the words “ally” and “activist,” and that just because you call yourself either, doesn’t mean you are. I also learned it’s OK not to know how to be either, so long as you’re willing to learn. And that’s the truth.

Spencer Wetmore 
S.C. Representative
Folly Beach 

Wetmore | Provided

There’s a Saturday Night Live sketch that makes me laugh every time I think about it. Kate McKinnon plays a psychic in 2019 spouting crazy visions: “Yes, I see him. He is washing a bag of Doritos with soap … You are screaming, you are crying, ‘That’s not enough soap!'” I’m no psychic, and my predictions didn’t foresee a global pandemic; not to mention running for office and opening my own law firm.

Nevertheless, here is my attempt at resolutions for 2021.  First, 2020 taught us that when you find yourself simultaneously on a dirt road and a six-lane highway, you still have to find a path forward. So, my first goal is to “stay in the work” by learning, focusing on the details, and pushing ahead. Second, I’ve been reminded this year that we’re not going to get anywhere unless we go together. So, my second goal is to listen and better appreciate others’ perspectives.  

Finally, 2020 reminded us that we’re all the parent hiding in the closet during a Zoom meeting (as I write this, my husband is participating in a federal hearing in our daughter’s bedroom); so we can’t take ourselves too seriously.  Cheers, y’all!