It's easy to grandstand on the internet, furiously typing out why you, anonymous shouter, are right and why another anonymous shouter is wrong. It can get ugly when the shouting happens in close quarters over local issues, inevitably creating a community divided. Sometimes solutions are floated — let's rally, let's write, let's call — more often than not, though, no conclusions are reached. Just a sad, red-faced shaking of heads.
Tamarra O’Day Washington and Khadijah Dennis are ready to change that narrative. Dennis, a local journalist and creative, says that Charleston, like any thriving community, has its issues. Instead of talking over them, or around them, Dennis suggests we look at where we can start, "so we can start tackling those issues."
Washington, another local creative and founder of The O' Me O' My Experience, an event company, says that the best way to begin — and have neighbors actually talk civilly with one another — is over a shared meal. Enter: the Pink Argyle Dinner Series.
When we meet, Washington is wearing bright pink lipstick — almost neon. It's hard not to feel lighter and more optimistic just looking at her. Even on a gloomy weekday. "Pink is compassion," says Washington. "Argyle is a design, a blank canvas which is the Charleston community. I thought, 'We'll have a dinner, and everyone in the room can include themselves and participate at the dinner table.'"
The first dinner, the 'Phoking Dinner,' will take place Sun. June 23 at 5 p.m. at South Carolina Society Hall. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online now.
Diners will make a meal of pho together (hence the tongue-in-cheek name), combining prepared ingredients (beef broth, rice noodles, thin sliced proteins, fresh chilies and herbs) to their liking. And then they'll talk.
"Let's get together and prepare food together and let's talk about race and sexual orientation and gentrification," says Washington. "Let's talk about all those things that are going on right now in our community. The surface is being scratched, but to me, there isn't really anything where we're bringing everyone together from all sides of it to have those conversations."
Tamarra O’Day Washington
The price of admission includes all food, and the event is BYOB. Washington and Dennis plan to hold a dinner the third Thursday of every month at Society Hall, with themes TBD. (But talks of tacos, Cuban, and Jamaican food are in the works.)
"The important part is the why," says Dennis. "We can talk about it until our faces turn blue, but the important part is the why factor."
That 'it' can be flooding, zoning, gentrification, rising rents, hospitality staffing crisis, meter rates, racial bias, gender identity ignorance. You name it. But then, you delve into it. "Why do you feel this way? Why do things need to change?" Dennis asks. "People can say what the problem is and it's easier to say what the problem is than to come up with a solution."
So bring your favorite six pack, head to Society Hall. Share a drink and a steaming bowl of pho with people you may never speak to otherwise. Ask tough questions, but be soft, open. "It's palpable colloquialism," says Washington. "We want Pink Argyle to be something that we prepare together like a family ... we’re all adults here, let’s all talk in an adult manner. I just think, when you’re with your family sitting around for Thanksgiving dinner you have great conversations. I think that’s something that needs to be had."