by Oliver Abar
In his album To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar asks “if these walls could talk.” To me, a white boy in Mount Pleasant, these walls say “yes ma’am” and “yes sir.” These walls say “bless your heart” and “I beg your pardon.” These walls are as sweet as the sweet tea brewed between them, as white as the boy inside them, and as ignorant as the minds around them.
But what do the walls down the block say? You should have checked in a few decades ago. Those walls – oh, they did not talk. They sang. They sang as beautifully as the Black voices within them; they were full and rich like the warm Gullah cuisine cooked between them, and they were firm and loving like the hands that made them. They were Black, they were beautiful.
But those walls, they can’t talk anymore. When the white family from a few towns away looked at those beautiful, black walls, they saw an opportunity. An opportunity to ignore what those walls said, and an opportunity to buy out the owners and get a cheap house. Once that sale was made, the house destroyed, and its beautiful, Black walls razed, those walls lost their story.
Nowadays, when you walk through downtown Charleston, what happens if you pause to ask what “if these walls could talk?” When I listen, I hear “yes ma’am,” I hear “yes sir,” I hear “I beg your pardon,” I hear “how do you do,” I hear darkness being swept under the covers, I hear injustice, I hear the cries of the slaves who created this city, I hear hidden pain, I hear sorrow, and I see a white family sitting on top of it.
I love this state, and I am sure I always will. But to make this state better, it
is time to ask ourselves the same question Kendrick Lamar did. What “if these walls
could talk?” Before another Black family is bought out of their historically Black
neighborhood, perhaps we can pause. We can listen. What would these walls say, “if
these walls could talk?”