“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” —Fred Rogers
Mr. Rogers was a republican pastor from Pittsburgh that turned cardigans and cheap set design into tools for spreading the message of radical kindness: He was an O.G. of Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper and Kinder. His messages paint with a broad brush, but they contain a minute wisdom. Enough Pie—a non-profit in Charleston, SC which uses creativity to connect and empower the upper peninsula—looks to lift up the same kinds of local artists, community members, small business owners, employees, and stakeholders that Fred Rogers would consider heroes.
While it’s easy to feel unaffected by the “think global, act local” tone of many of Mr. Rogers’ themes, the interconnectivity of the world can actually be astounding. While climate change is shaping our landscape and the city of Charleston is literally flooding, local action has never been more important, and a joyful focus on creating versus complaining is Enough Pie’s hallmark. As the poet Shel Silverstein invites us to remember:
If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer
If you’re a pretender come sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
Come in! Come in!
The Butterfly Book Nook, pictured above, is a community garden that grew over two years inspired by Cynthia Graham Hurd, a local librarian, pillar of Charleston, and garden enthusiast who was murdered in the Emanuel Nine massacre. Before deciding on a direction for the fallow ground surrounded by barbed wire fence, the project's steering committee—consisting of librarians, neighbors, a botanist, architecture students, religious leaders, non-profits, artists and residents—gathered for monthly potlucks over a period of six months. By the time we broke ground in fall 2017 and dedicated the garden a year later, we knew each other as neighbors, as people, and as friends. Slowing down the community connection process to build trust and understanding, all while nurturing artistic collaborations as a tool for greater good, was vital in getting to know each other and creating something better and more exciting than anything any one of us could have imagined alone.
Slow processes, like the one that nurtured the community garden, lead to the ability to activate creative placemaking and civic engagement as tools on the fly with that pre-earned trust of community members. Trust can be difficult to establish, especially in shared public spaces, but without trust and slow process, it is hard to make impact when the time calls for quick intervention.
In Charleston, a DOT planning focus on getting around as quickly as possible in individual cars has led South Carolina to have the 7th highest death rate per state for walkers and bikers—with Charleston being the worst city in South Carolina. Walkers and bikers cannot safely use the streets, most of which do not have sidewalks. When a local art gallery owner was seriously injured while crossing a main street, she shared a powerful plea on Facebook: “Please, dear friends, slow down, be extra careful as people’s minds are so distracted these days. Life can change fast. Never stop reminding your loved ones you love them, and you can spare some positive energy, please end it our way.”
In response to her plea, Enough Pie created a Please Slow Down campaign as part of AWAKENING: MOTION, a series of public art projects that aimed to transform the streets by showcasing what’s possible when communities unite to create safe, connected, dignified transportation.
Enough Pie began to envision creative, cost-effective ways to calm traffic, and felt the plea to “Please Slow Down” was a heartfelt invitation, like Silverstein’s poem. With this message at the root, Enough Pie tapped local artist Lisa Shimko, an Eastside resident and artist, to create a colorful sign shaped like a flower so that neighbors and businesses would want to have the sign in their yard (who doesn’t want more flowers in their front yard?). We put the signs throughout the Upper Peninsula, and the response was overwhelming. Calls poured in to request signs, and now Please Slow Down signs are all over the South—from Atlanta, Georgia to Charlotte, North Carolina—but their roots are in Charleston’s Upper Peninsula. This simple effort created in direct response to a local issue touched a nerve across states, and far exceeded our expectations for visibility and effectiveness. Enough Pie hopes creative simple solutions shine a bright light on how we, as individuals, can affect change as we navigate challenges that arise in our streets.
Combining Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper with kinder, Enough Pie emphasizes slow processes during creative placemaking, neighborhood partnerships, artistic collaborations, and civic engagement to push back gently yet firmly at systems that leave people disconnected and disengaged with their neighborhoods. The challenges are huge, but we believe that the responses can start small—in fact, they must. As Fred Rogers, the patron saint of kindness, reminded us: "Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person."
Block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, Enough Pie seeks to offer a small but mighty voice in the joyful revolution. It starts with a kind word, a gesture, a bench, a free little library, a cup of coffee with a new neighbor, a song, a kazoo, a potluck, an olive branch—it starts with all of us.