Living Your Truth Forums

Living Your Truth is a series of conversations with those on the front lines, who bravely and gracefully live the truth of their hearts within their formidable lives. Hosted by the Social Justice Racial Equity Collaborative Council, and convened by The Sophia Institute, it is our hope their words inspire and challenge each of us to find our own truths. Listen to them speak personally and passionately about their work for social justice, racial equity, and transformative change.
Living Your Truth, with Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III and President Alex Sanders

Archive of Living Your Truth Forums

October 12, 2023

Speakers: Brandon Fish is the Director of Community Relations for the Charleston Jewish Federation
and Damon Lamar Fordham

Brandon Fish is the Director of Community Relations for the Charleston Jewish Federation, where his work revolves around advocacy, government affairs, and intergroup relations. Since 2017, he has served the Jewish community and the Charleston community at large through the development of collaborative fresh food distribution programs in food deserts, building meaningful intergroup relationships, and expanding Jewish communal consensus-based advocacy. In 2018, Fish helped found the Stamp Out Hate SC Coalition to advance hate crimes legislation in South Carolina, and currently sits on the Boards of several issue-based statewide coalitions and the Charleston Interreligious Council. In addition to local work, Brandon serves on the Policy Advisory Committee for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Prior to his work in the Jewish community, Fish was an active advocate and organizer for a number of grassroots Charleston organizations, including being a founding member of Charleston’s first Black Lives Matter organization.

Damon Lamar Fordham was born in Spartanburg, SC on December 23, 1964 to Anne Montgomery and was adopted by Pearl and Abraham Fordham of Mt. Pleasant, SC the following year. He received his Master’s Degree in history from the College of Charleston and the Citadel, and his undergraduate degrees at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. He is currently an adjunct professor of World Civilizations, United States, and African-American History at Charleston Southern University and The Citadel in Charleston, SC and has taught US History and African-American Studies at the College of Charleston. He was a weekly columnist for the Charleston Coastal Times from 1994 to 1998, as well as the author of The 1895 Segregation Fight in South Carolina (Charleston: History Press, 2022), Mr. Potts and Me (Charleston: Evening Post Books, 2012) Voices of Black South Carolina-Legend and Legacy (Charleston: History Press, 2009), True Stories of Black South Carolina (Charleston: History Press, 2008) and coauthor of Born to Serve-The Story of the WBEMC in South Carolina in 2006.

Research and articles by Mr. Fordham appear in the books Sweetgrass Baskets and the Gullah Tradition by Joyce Coakley, South of Main by Beatrice Hill and Brenda Lee, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Folklore for the University of Missouri Press, Cecil Williams and Sonny DuBose’s Orangeburg 1968, and The Malcolm X Encyclopedia for the University of Southern Mississippi Press in 2001. He has also commented on history and storytelling for numerous radio and television programs in the United States, Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom. He was on a ten day tour of Senegal and Gambia, West Africa, with fellow educators where he spoke to students at the University of The Gambia and toured the Slave Posts and Goree Island in May 2022 .

He has also appeared on the NBC LX News in 2022. He conducts a walking tour called “The Lost Stories of Black Charleston, and has received a citation form the South Carolina House of Representatives for his work in education, historical research, and social justice. His motto is Educate yourself to lead yourself, for if you wait on others to show you the way, you will wait for a long time.

April 26, 2022

Speakers: North Charleston City Council Member Virginia W. Jameson
and Former Charleston City Council Member Carol Jackson

Council Member Virginia Jamison. Native of North Charleston, SC Educated in the Charleston County Public Schools. She pursued her higher education from the Community College of the Air Force; and the Trident Technical College, she studied at the College of Charleston, Charleston, SC. She knows that “education is a possession; which man cannot be robbed”.

A 1963 Graduated of Bonds Wilson High School in North Charleston, SC; Ms. Jamison Served in the US Army from 1964 to 1968. Upon completion of recruit training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, Ms. Jamison attended the Medical Corpsman School in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Permanent duty assignment over the next four years consisting of two years at Ft Monroe, Virginia, one year at Fitzsimmons General Hospital, Colorado, one year at Ft Jackson, SC. During her Army Service she obtained the rank of Specialist E- 5. She also gained certification as a Cardiology Specialist.  Ms. Jamison is serving in her 2nd term on North Charleston City Council.  She pledges to address infrastructure issues, adherence to the comprehensive development plan for District 3, police sustainability through training and increase diversity, communication and inclusion of all citizens of these communities.

Ms. Jamison is the mother of two adult daughters: Felicia Lecque US Army Retired & Thayer Lecque (Deceased). She has one Granddaughter (Lady Kennedy).

Former Council Member Carol Jackson is a retired non-profit executive and served the National Trust for Historic Preservation as Director of Administration when she first came to Charleston in support of NTHP’s Regional Office establishment as a vital step in the redevelopment of Upper King Street in the 1980’s.  She served, first as a Board volunteer, and later as Executive Director for her local Northern Virginia community’s non-profit housing organization.  Non-profit housing and community development have defined the latter years of her management career.  She was most recently the Director of Alexandria Housing Development Corporation in Virginia prior to retiring and moving fulltime and permanently to Charleston, where she and her husband first became property owners in 2002.  She currently works for friends and family in Residential Real Estate Sales for Charleston Real Estate Group, is a volunteer for Charleston WaterKeeper, and an active member of a number of local organizations.

Upcoming (Date TBD)

Speakers: Mayor Steve Benjamin
and Mayor Joseph. P.Riley, Jr.
Moderated by Dwayne Green

Mayor Steve Benjamin. At 29 years old in 1999, Benjamin was appointed to Governor Jim Hodges’ cabinet as director of the state’s second largest law enforcement agency, the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services. Mayor Benjamin has continued his service to the community in serving on numerous boards for nonprofit organizations such as the Columbia Urban League, Benedict College, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and as a founding board member of the Eau Claire Promise Zone. He also served as a founding member of Choose Children First and chief legal counsel for Midlands Crimestoppers. His accomplishments have drawn national attention and accolades including his being awarded an Aspen Rodel Fellowship and receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humanities from Francis Marion University. President Obama’s administration has also commended Mayor Benjamin on his work on behalf of My Brother’s Keeper (MBK). The city’s MBK efforts, in addition to Mayor Benjamin’s leadership, have led to Columbia being seen as a nationwide leader in implementing and upholding the missions of the program.
Mayor Joseph P. Riley Joe Riley is widely considered one of the most visionary and highly effective governmental leaders in America. He served ten terms as Mayor of the City of Charleston from 1975 to 2016. Under his leadership, Charleston increased its commitment to racial harmony and progress, achieved a substantial decrease in crime, experienced a remarkable revitalization of its historic downtown business district, supported the creation and growth of Spoleto Festival USA, added significantly to the City’s park system including the highly celebrated Waterfront Park, developed nationally acclaimed affordable housing, and experienced unprecedented growth in Charleston’s size and population. In 2000, he was honored as the first recipient of the Urban Land Institute’s J. C. Nichols Prize for Visionary Urban Development, and also in 2000, was honored with the Arthur J. Clement Award in Race Relations for his battle to remove the confederate flag from the S.C. Statehouse. Mayor Riley’s current project, the International African American Museum, is the culmination of his lifelong passion to commemorate Charleston’s significant role in the slave trade and the history of this country. It is scheduled to open in fall of 2022.

September 2021

Speakers: C. Edward Rawl, Jr.
and Dr. Tommy Preston, Jr.
Moderated by Dwayne Green

TOMMY PRESTON, JR. Vice President Ethics Law & Global Compliance, The Boeing Company – Tommy Preston, Jr. is the vice president of Ethics at The Boeing Company, where he leads a team of global professionals focused on articulating, amplifying and embedding the company’s values across the enterprise. The Ethics organization also ensures efficient and trusted reporting mechanisms and a strong anti-retaliation policy; works with senior leadership to foster a speak up culture through messaging and employee engagement; and embeds ethics advisors across Boeing business units and sites to identify risk areas, reinforce expectations of ethical behavior and provide bespoke guidance to employees. Preston is also co-chair of the company’s Racial Equity Task Force, and collaborates with stakeholders to advance key measures of equity, diversity and inclusion within the company.

C. EDWARD RAWL, JR. Senior Counsel, Boeing South Carolina
 – C. Edward Rawl, Jr. is a Senior Counsel at The Boeing Company in its Labor, Employment & Benefits Law Group. He works on a wide range of labor and employment matters related to strategy, counseling and advice, union avoidance, and litigation across the Boeing enterprise with a geographic focus in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and West Virginia, supporting Boeing Commercial, Defense, and Services businesses. Prior to joining Boeing in 2016, Edward was a partner at Fisher Phillips LLP in Columbia, South Carolina. Edward is a member of Boeing’s 20-member Racial Equity Task Force advising the Company’s CEO and Executive Counsel on matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, driving systemic improvements across the enterprise.

November 2020

Speakers: Ralph Dawson
and Henry Smythe
Moderated by Dwayne Green

Ralph Dawson Ralph is a native of Charleston, South Carolina, where he grew up as one of 12 children on the eastside. He attended various segregated public schools, graduating from C. A. Brown High School with honors in 1966. At Brown, he and some friends formed a social club called the “Corsairs,” a group of nine guys mentored by its then 22-year old teacher/advisor, Jim Clyburn; among that nine was the first African-American to graduate from the Citadel, and the first African-Americans from Charleston to Graduate from Harvard and from Yale. In the summer of 1966, Ralph was introduced to a Yale Admissions officer by a then guidance counselor, Lucille Whipper; the Admissions officer invited Ralph, who was about to attend Morehouse College, to participate in a new program at Yale for talented youth from low income backgrounds called the Transitional Year Program (“TYP”). He accepted a position in TYP along with 42 other students and, upon completion of the year, he was one of the four students admitted to Yale College on a full scholarship.

Ralph enjoyed and participated in the stimulating academic environment at Yale, and he also became a campus activist, participating in the establishment of the first African-American Studies Major at a leading American institution. He was also the leader of the Black Student Alliance at Yale (“BSAY”) during the tumultuous period known as “May Day 1970,” when New Haven, Connecticut and Yale were the site of a major murder trial involving the Black Panther Party, and a series of protests against the Vietnam War. The BSAY played a crucial role in keeping the peace on the campus, generating support for the conduct of a fair trial for the Black Panthers, and encouraging Yale to embrace its civic responsibilities to the New Haven Community.

Henry Smythe is a trial lawyer with 40 years of experience representing major corporations in complex litigation in the areas of product liability defense, mass tort defense, class action, and multidistrict litigation. Admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1977, Smythe received his Bachelor of Arts from Yale University in 1970 and his Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia in 1976. His clients range from major national and regional companies to locally owned concerns, in court cases in both the state and federal systems. Other work includes representing automobile service companies in personal injury matters as well as corporations and individual clients in business litigation matters.

With an AV rating by the Martin Hubbell Law Directory, Smythe has been named as a Leader in his field of Litigation by Chambers USA as well as Defendants Lawyer of the Year in 2013 by The Best Lawyers in America. He is a member of the American Bar Association and the South Carolina Bar Association where he has served as a past president. A certified mediator, he is a member in the Product Liability Advisory Council, Sport and Fitness Industry Association, American Board of Trial Advocates, American Counsel Association, Defense Research Institute-Products Section, Litigation Counsel of America, SC Defense Trial Attorneys Association, and World’s Leading Product Liability Lawyers.

A former Charleston City Council member from 1992-1996, Smythe currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International African American Museum and the Saul Alexander Foundation. He served as the President of the Board of Directors of the Coastal Community Foundation from 1988-1991, where he was a board member from 1985-1991 and 1999-2005. He has also served on the boards of the College of Charleston Foundation and Spoleto Festival, USA. A member of the Leadership South Carolina Class of 1982, he also served as the Town Attorney for the Town of Sullivan’s Island from 1977-1978.

June 2020

“A Focus on Youth Social Justice”
Speakers: Students Maya Green
and Courtney White
Moderated by Lavonda Brown.

Maya Green, a 2020 graduate of Charleston School of the Arts, was a creative writing major and served as a 2019-2020 school council President and a national merit scholarship recipient, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. She is also a volunteer for the Charleston Area Justice Ministry and in the YWCA SheStrong program. In 2018, Maya was selected as one of eighteen, national Student Voice Journalism Fellows, by Student Voice, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to position students as storytellers, organizers, and institutional partners who advocate for student-driven solutions to educational inequity. She is also an accomplished public speaker and delivered the student address for the 2020 MLK Leadership Breakfast leadership breakfast. Most recently, Maya spoke at the Charleston County Bar’s Lawyers for Justice rally. In August, Maya will be part of the freshman class at Stanford University and plans to major in political science.
Courtney White, was born in raised in Charleston, South Carolina. She is a proud alumna of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership class of Fall 2018 and the a founder of SheStrong. Courtenay was Editor of the Porter-Gaud School yearbook, The Polygon, for three years. She was also the Vice Chair of the Porter-Gaud Honor Council; a chorister in all three campus singing groups; an actor in both the Fall Play and the Spring Musical; a service project leader for elderly outreach programs; a member of the Youth in Government, Model United Nations, and Quizbowl teams; and a campus tour guide for prospective teachers and families. She is a National Merit Finalist and a member of the Cum Laude Society. In her free time, Courtenay can be found playing classical piano or hanging out with her mom. She will be attending Georgetown University this fall.

September 2019

Speakers: Dr. Thaddeus Bell
and Dr. Chanita Hughes-Halbert
Moderated by Adam Parker of Post and Courier.

Dr. Thaddeus Bell has been a community and statewide leader in medicine for many years. A graduate of South Carolina State University, a historically black university, and of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston (1976) Dr. Bell has been designated as a distinguished graduate from both institutions. He is a graduate of Atlanta University Graduate School with a master’s degree in science education and is a graduate of the School of Aerospace Medicine San Antonio, Texas certified Fight Surgeon U.S. Air Force. He is a retired Major Air Force reserved. He served in operation Desert Storm.

In 1980 he cofounded the Elijah Wright Cross-Family Health Center, a free clinic for the underserved people in the rural community of Cross, SC. He was the only physician in Cross for 10 years. The Cross-health center is now a part of the Franklin C. Fetter health network a federally funded center which Dr. Bell assisted in making happen.

Dr. Bell joined the faculty of MUSC in 1993, serving as Associate Dean for Minority Affairs in the College of Medicine for 17 years (1993-2010). Dr. James B Edwards (President of MUSC) appointed Dr. Bell Director of the University’s Office of Diversity in 1996, a position he held until 2004. In those positions, he created many programs to improve the recruitment, retention and graduation rates of African American students at MUSC.

During his tenure at MUSC as a student, faculty member, and administrator Dr. Bell became very disturbed about the apparent disparities in health at MUSC, South Carolina and the nation. Theses disparities were apparent to him his entire journey throughout his career

He was inspired to address health disparities in South Carolina and focused on health literacy in the black community. To that end, he found Closing the Gap in Health Care (CGHC), which is a non-profit organization aimed at decreasing health disparities by providing health education for African Americans and other underserved populations. He began to address the health issues of African Americans in health seminars, lectures, barber and beauty shops, and health fairs. throughout the state of South Carolina. Radio commercials were suggested to reach a larger target audience.

The Closing the Gap in Health Care Inc is the parent organization for Thaddeus John Bell Endowed Scholarship for African American Students at MUSC through the Community Foundation of Charleston and has an endowed scholarship which will be given to a student in perpetuity. This scholarship is already assisting African Americans students in the health care professions. The Low Country Jazz Festival helps to raise funds for the scholarship, and in 2012, this event was voted one of the top 20 festivals in the South.

Dr. Chanita Hughes-Halbert The goal of Dr. Hughes-Halbert’s research program is to identify sociocultural, psychological, genetic, and environmental determinants of cancer health disparities and to translate this information into sustainable interventions in clinic and community-based settings to improve cancer outcomes in racially and ethnically diverse populations. Dr. Hughes-Halbert is a nationally recognized expert in cancer prevention and control among diverse populations and her research is supported by numerous grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Previously, she was a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors at the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute Advisory Council. Dr. Hughes-Halbert is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

May 2019

Speakers: Dr. Melvin Brown
and Dr. Andrew Savage
Moderated by Dwayne Green.

William “Melvin” Brown III, MEd, MD, FAAEM – “Melvin” Brown has practiced medicine around the world, but keeps returning to his native Charleston. The son of high school sciences teacher, Juanita Washington, and deceased business leader William Melvin Brown, Jr., Melvin first left Charleston to receive his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the US Naval Academy. He returned to Charleston to join the crew of the USS Sierra (AD-188) as an Electrical Division Officer until it was decommissioned and he moved to Norfolk, Virginia. Upon completion of two sea tours, he took a shore assignment back in Charleston as a Naval ROTC advisor and Assistant Professor of Naval Science at The Citadel. In his spare time, he pursued a Masters of Education with a concentration in Biology and then went on to medical school at MUSC, where he graduated in 2002. He returned to sea as the ship’s doctor on the US Marine Carrier, the USS Carter Hall (LSD-50). He completed three years of residency training in Emergency Medicine, received his board certification in Emergency Medicine by The American Board of Emergency Medicine, and served as the Emergency Medical Director at Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan and Naval Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida. After 20 years of service, Dr. Brown retired from the military and returned home to Charleston with multiple Navy Commendations, two Achievement Medals, and several unit commendations. A Fellow of The Academy of Academic Emergency Medicine, he currently holds staff privileges at Trident Medical Center (Charleston, SC), The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center (Charleston, SC), and Lexington Medical Center (Columbia, SC). Dr. Brown is a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and the Owls Whist Club. He holds seats on the Boardsof Directors for The Medical University of South Carolina and Porter-Gaud School. He and his wife Deborah live in Hampton Park Terrace, near the Charleston Rifle Club, and have two children, Gabriel and Lillian.
Andrew J. Savage, IV, M.D. – Andrew Savage is a pediatric cardiologist with the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital and their Medical Director of Ambulatory Services and Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant. Recognized as one of the Best Doctors in America since 2013, Dr. Savage has served as principal investigator on several research initiatives and has made multiple presentations on the challenges facing pediatric heart transplant patients and the latest research on the subject. A teacher of the year nominee, Dr. Savage teaches both medical and nursing students about pediatric cardiovascular health, heart failure, and transplants. He is an active mentor and leads a variety of hospital and university committees. A resident of Lowndes Point, Speaker for Lifepoint “Donate Life,” and a City of Charleston Flag Football Coach, he is the son of Andy and Cheryl Savage

January 2019

Speakers: Mrs. Melissa Maddox-Evans, JD
and Rev. Bill Stanfield
Moderated by Amanda Lawrence.

Melissa Maddox-Evans, Esq. is the General Counsel for The Housing Authority of the City of Charleston. During her tenure at CHA she also served in a dual role capacity as the Chief Executive Officer of the Charleston County Housing & Redevelopment Authority. She is also the President & Chair of The Charleston Redevelopment Corporation (nonprofit). Maddox-Evans graduated from Georgetown University and received her law degree from the University of Georgia. She is a national speaker on affordable housing and fair housing laws, non-profit/corporate governance and is an advocate for domestic violence victims, disability and education issues. Prior to working in the housing industry she spent several years working in early intervention programs for developmentally delayed children and as a grassroots organizer for non-denominational churches throughout the Southeast. Maddox-Evans is active in her community and serves on several boards including the Septima P. Clark, Inc., Thrive, SC, Communities in Schools, and is on the Leadership Team for the Social Justice Racial Equity Collaborative.
Rev. Bill Stanfield is a co-founder and CEO of the Metanoia Community Development Corporation of North Charleston. Metanoia, begun in 2002 with support from the South Carolina Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, works to combat child poverty in the zip codes with the highest concentration of child poverty in SC. Stanfield graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received his Master’s Degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. Stanfield is a graduate of the SC Governor’s School for Economic Development, The SC Department of Commerce Economic Developer’s School, the SC Community Development Institute of Clemson University, and SC Association of Community Economic Developments, Liberty Fellowship Program and Living School for Action and Contemplation. Voted the 2012 North Charleston Citizen of the Year by the North Charleston Citizens Advisory Council, Stanfield is also an associate minister at St. Matthew Baptist Church. He and his wife, Evelyn, are the adoptive parents to two boys from Ethiopia ages 9 and 13.

November 2018

Speakers: Mayor John Tecklenberg
and Dr.Damon Ford
Moderated by Ms. Marion Gill

October 2018

Speakers: Senator Marlon Kimspon
and Rep Peter McCoy
Moderated by Madeleine McGee

September 2018

Speakers: Rev. Dr. Kylon Middleton
and Mr. Thomas Tisdale, J.D.
Moderated by Dr. Roof

May 2018

Speakers: Mr. Darrin Goss
and Mr. Brian Duffey
Moderated by Rita Scott

March 2018

Speakers: Rev. Dr. Kylon Middleton
and Mr. Thomas Tisdale, J.D.
Moderated by Dr. Roof

January 2018

Speakers: Mrs. Lucille Whipper
and Ms. Linda Ketner,
Moderated by Patricia Williams-Lessane

November 2017

Speakers: Dr. Millicent Brown
and Mr. Armand Derfner
Moderated by KJ Kearney

May and September 2017

Speakers: Mrs. Lucille Whipper
and Ms. Linda Ketner
Moderated by Patricia Williams-Lessane