Wednesday, February 15, 2012



Right Now!

Easter is on April 8, and Father's Day is on June 17, but don't wait until then to add Dakota's Easter Wish and Papa Didn't Preach to your library. Place your order at,, or on this site.
Donated copies of both books are available for check out at the public libraries in Jasper County, S.C., and Colleton County, S.C.

2012 Book Signing @ UPTOWN, Columbia

Vasilisa will be reading and signing copies of "Dakota's Easter Wish" at UPTOWN gift shoppe in downtown Columbia, S.C., this spring. Bookmark this site for the latest, and read an excerpt at Enter "Vasilisa Hamilton" under the search feature. A reading and book signing is also planned for "Papa Didn't Preach" prior to Father's Day weekend 2012.

Uptown is located at 1204 Main Street; phone 803-661-7651;

Sunday, March 25, 9 a.m.
Vasilisa will present “Sing Praises to His Name: He Forgets Not His Own” during the Celebration Service.
Wesley United Methodist Church
1725 Gervais Street, Columbia
The Celebration Service is held weekly from 9 to 10 a.m.
I hope you can make it.
Up and Coming

Vasilisa is working on a new project, a book that has the working title: "Confessions of a Mac Girl in a PC World." Visit this site for the latest details.

Announcing the Moral Message Movement, 2012

We wear all kinds of T-shirts featuring various and sundry messages about human anatomy, humor, and even photos of family and friends. How about wearing something that enhances morality, kindness, and good will—something like a T-shirt designed in a joint venture by Columbia’s J& S Enterprises and The Hamilton Group?

Your colorful, eye-catching options are available in children’s and adult sizes. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:
Don’t worry about tomorrow; God is already there.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
If you can READ THIS, thank a TEACHER!
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
And the God of Peace shall be with you ALL WAYS!
I Tweet for JESUS! (image of a dove)
Tweet this: JESUS LOVES YOU!
Sweet and Gentle Flower (with image of an amaryllis)
Honey, not vinegar (image of a honey jar)
I formed you in your Mother's Womb

Before you ever came to be, I knew you.

To learn how you can purchase a one-of-a-kind artistic moral message creation, e-mail


Here and Now!

Easter is on April 24, and Father's Day is June 19, but you can share and enjoy Vasilisa's books anytime. To order, go to or You can also find Vasilisa on Facebook.


Right Now!

Read some of Vasilisa's articles and share your thoughts.
The Children We Cannot Forget

By Vasilisa Hamilton

In spite of the perilous journey she took to get here, like all children, baby Montana is a blessing. Born Feb. 15 with jet-black hair, brown eyes, cherub cheeks, and weighing just over five pounds, Montana is one of the lucky ones.

The obstetrician feared he’d have to induce labor because her birth mother’s blood pressure became dangerously high. She delivered Montana via natural childbirth at Columbia’s Palmetto Baptist Medical Center.

When little Montana came into the world, her adoptive mother was ready, willing, and able to take on the endless joys, triumphs, and challenges that mothers and fathers experience.

Montana’s birth mother is a 24-year-old college student. She chose not to see Montana after she was born. But she wants Montana to meet her brother when she’s older. Montana’s adoptive mother pledges to keep her birth mother informed about how Montana is progressing and assures her that Montana will meet her brother.

Choosing Montana’s new mother wasn’t easy. The finalists were baby Montana’s adoptive mother and a married couple who already has a toddler. Her birth mother decided to give Montana to a single professional woman who has a fiancee. She loves Montana enough to give her a chance for a better life. She and the adoptive mother have been practically inseparable since she was admitted to the hospital Feb. 13.

In January alone, eight babies who were born at Palmetto Baptist Hospital joined South Carolina’s foster care system because no one came forward to adopt them. “Currently, there are 5,200 children in South Carolina’s foster-care system,” says Marilyn Matheus of the state Department of Social Services. “They range in ages from newborn to 21.”

As I waited at the security desk to be escorted to the adoptive mother’s room, I met the sister of a young woman who just learned that she is expecting. According to her sister, she just turned 18 and already has a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old. She was rushed to the emergency room with a high fever, nausea, and vomiting.

“If this is her third pregnancy, isn’t she familiar with the symptoms,” I asked. “No,” she replied. “She didn’t have those symptoms with the other two. That’s why we thought it was the flu or a virus.” I didn’t get to meet the mother-to-be because she was still receiving treatment.

In 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available, among unmarried girls and women ages 10 to 19 in South Carolina, there were 3,981 live births. Among that group, the total number of pregnancies was 9,543 (this number includes live births, fetal deaths, and abortions).

“Among 14- to 17-year old unmarried females who gave birth in South Carolina in 2004, there were 1,597 live births and 3,339 estimated pregnancies,” said Mary Glover, assistant manager of data quality and management at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Clearly, teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births are complex, multifaceted issues. Where do we begin?

I believe we can start by loving and caring for the children who are in our lives ­– and for those who nurture and support them. We can also support family and child-friendly quality-of-life initiatives such as preventative and prenatal care; affordable, high-quality day care; childhood immunizations; early-childhood education; faith-based training and character education; etiquette workshops; violence- and drug-prevention initiatives; and comprehensive afterschool programs.

Each of us can make a difference. We can’t afford to wait.

This Guest Column/Commentary was originally published in The State, Columbia, S.C.

In Today’s Changing World, What About the Children?By Vasilisa Hamilton

As most of our state and nation’s schools end another school year, I’ve been reflecting on what education means to me. I say this, not because I work in higher education, but as the daughter of a hard-working farmer and a no-nonsense schoolteacher and the sister and cousin of generations of educators.

My mother, Alneatha Salley Hamilton, was an award-winning veteran educator who “left no child behind” long before the Bush administration adopted the name for its education initiatives. She was born in 1929, less than a decade after women received the right to vote and decades before black Americans received it.

When Mom retired after 48 years of teaching, in lieu of traditional retirement gifts, she asked family and friends to help her establish a scholarship for aspiring educators. She awarded the 15th annual scholarship less than three months before she passed away.

Whenever I meet people, I always tell them, “I’m from the ‘Corridor of Shame,’ but I’m not ashamed.” That’s because when I was growing up, to be educated meant everything in our community, and educated people were expected to lead. An education meant you would live your life more intelligently; that you were always open to broadening your horizons through lifelong learning, and that you’d always have greater earning potential.

People looked to those of us who were educated to help solve problems in the community. If older people needed help balancing their checkbook, deciphering a letter from the doctor, their children’s school, or even the gas company, they’d come and sit at my parents’ kitchen table and ask, “How do you understand this?” which meant they wanted you to explain it in layman’s terms.

If there was a problem at their workplace, you might be asked to help draft a letter explaining their side of the story. When it was time to vote, they expected you to explain how a referendum would affect them and why you would, or would not, support a particular candidate.

That’s why I don’t think education should end for our children when the school doors close for the summer. Education is, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “the great engine of personal development,” which means our children should continue reading, writing, visiting the library, and participating in summer enrichment and physical activity programs such as Vacation Bible School.

For a sobering look at the issues our children face today, consider these statistics from South Carolina native and Children’s Defense Fund president Marian Wright Edelman’s book,
The Sea Is Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation (2008). These numbers are based on seven-hour calculations per school day based on a 180-day school calendar:

“Today in the Life of American Children”

Two mothers will die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth, and four children will be killed as a result of abuse or neglect.

Five children or teens will commit suicide, and firearms will kill eight children or teens.

Seventy-eight babies will die before their first birthday, and 155 children will be arrested for violent crimes. Two hundred ninety-six children will be arrested for drug crimes, and 928 babies will be born with low birth weight.

One thousand, one hundred fifty-four babies will be born to teen mothers, and 2,421 children will be confirmed as abused or neglected.

Two thousand, four hundred sixty-seven high school students will drop out, and 2,483 babies will be born into poverty.

Three thousand four hundred seventy-seven children will be arrested, 4,184 babies will be born to unmarried mothers, and 18,221 of our nation’s public school students will be suspended.

As she reflects on the state of America’s children, Edelman offers this prayer for 21st-century children:
God help us to not to raise a new generation of children with high intellectual quotients and low caring and compassion quotients
With sharp competitive edges but dull cooperative instincts
With highly developed computer skills but poorly developed consciences
With a gigantic commitment to the big “I” but little sense of responsibility to the bigger “we”
With mounds of disconnected and unsynthesized information without a moral context to determine its worth.
With more and more knowledge and less and less imagination and appreciation for the magic of life that cannot be quantified or computerized
With more and more worldliness and less and less wonder and awe for the sacred and everyday miracles of life.

God, help us to raise children who care.

Vasilisa is a publications editor/writer at the University of South Carolina, a member of the League of Women Voters, a volunteer preschool teacher’s assistant at Wesley United Methodist Church, a friend of Richland County Public Library, and director of communications for the Alneatha Salley Hamilton Memorial Scholarship. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Science in Professional Writing from Towson University in Maryland. You can e-mail her at

Greyhound, Human Nature, and Me
By Vasilisa Hamilton
Last weekend, I traveled from Columbia, S.C., to Washington, D.C., to attend my 99-year-old Aunt Minnie’s funeral. A few years ago, I vowed never to take the bus again, after an excruciating ride to Columbus, Ohio, when a dear friend passed away and again when I took the bus to Norfolk, Va., for a friend’s 30-year Marine Corps retirement ceremony and missed my bus back to Columbia after over-sleeping.
After a long time on the bus, I usually feel the need to be “ironed out.” In this instance, I felt I had to travel by bus because air travel was cost-prohibitive, the train was inconvenient, and I could not recruit a driver to share the ride.
I left downtown Columbia at 12:30 p.m. Friday, arrived in D.C. around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, and returned to Columbia at 6:50 a.m. Sunday. All told, I logged around 27 hours on the bus between Friday and Sunday.
I’ve always thought of riding the bus as sort of a study in human nature, only this time, I wondered if Greyhound should require all passengers to complete an etiquette course or sign a code of conduct before boarding.
On the return trip to Columbia, we had been rolling along for just under an hour when suddenly the bus driver pulled off the road and turned on the lights. His facial expression changed as he walked up and down the aisle.
“I announced the rules before we left the station, but someone has chosen not to follow them,” he shouted. “Someone on this bus is smoking, and until I get a confession, this bus will not move. And when it does move, I will take all of you back to Washington, and no one will get where he needs to go.”
Some of the passengers began to complain. “Smoking is a federal offense,” he snapped, “and I read the rules from the beginning.” “Who has the cigarettes?”
A young man sitting about two rows behind me slowly raised his hand. “I do. I didn’t know we couldn’t smoke,” he said, sheepishly.
“It’s also printed on your tickets,” the driver said. “Let’s go. Come sit behind me, and I’ll drive you to the nearest police station. You are breaking the law.”
Some passengers again started to complain. “Anyone who has a problem with this can go with the smoker when the police come,” the driver said.
Rather than taking the offender to the police station, the driver pulled off at the next exit and called the police, who questioned the man for about 20 minutes before taking him into custody. While the police were talking to the young man, the driver apologized to the other riders on the bus for the commotion. He said smoking was a personal issue with him because his father is a lifelong smoker and was dying of heart disease.
Then he passed out forms for each of us to voluntarily fill out verifying what happened and where we were seated when the incident occurred.
We got back on the road about 30 minutes later, and each time we stopped, a bunch of guys raced toward the exit, nearly trampling anyone who stood in their path. I wondered if they’d never been taught courtesy.
When you travel on Greyhound, each passenger is responsible for his or her own luggage, unless they are elderly or handicapped. When we stopped in Fayetteville, N.C., for a layover, a young man was getting his luggage when it fell on a woman’s foot. Rather than apologize, he looked up and said, “My bad,” not, “I’m sorry, are you okay?” Or, “What can I do you assist you?” I was surprised how fast some of those men and boys reached the exit, because a few of them were running with their “pants on the ground, pants on the ground, pants on the ground.”
A couple got on in Fayetteville and behaved in a very “interpersonal” manner, oblivious to all the other passengers and children who were on board. I’m thankful the seats had a limited range of motion.
Even though I was disheartened by some of what I saw on the trip, I was encouraged by a family who boarded in Florence, S.C. A young woman got on with with her three small children headed to Wisconsin. Before the bus stopped, her sons shared the task of hauling their huge bags from a car trunk to the side of the bus. They politely waited for their mother and sister to take their seats before they sat down, and they thoughtfully excused themselves if any of their belongings touched others.
From Richmond to Fayetteville, I shared a seat with Jody, a veterinarian from Boston who was traveling to volunteer in the Gulf region, treating animals harmed in the oil spill. She told me she has only practiced as a vet for three years, having gone back to school at age 32. Before that, she was a classical ballerina who had been in training since childhood and formerly danced professionally with the Joffrey Ballet, America’s premiere dance company, in New York and Ohio.
Jody now works at an emergency veterinary hospital in the Boston area and is paying back $250,000 in student loans. She said she loves her new career and would have soon been sidelined by injuries if she continued to perform with the ballet. She said her husband is a novelist and they have no children.
I asked her to tell me about the funniest thing that ever happened to her when she was a ballet dancer. We laughed out loud when she said it was when she told her veterinary school classmates that she used to be a dancer. Their next question was always “at what bar?”
When I travel by bus, I envision a microcosm of society in all its grit, grandeur, and glory. You see the decadence and desperation, but you also see hope, promise, and the triumph of the human spirit.
As Jody and I continued talking about our lives, I thought of the song, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” from the album of the same title, in which Hill sings, “I look at my environment, and wonder where the fire went.” Last week’s bus trip reminded me that the fire still burns in each of us, even if it sometimes ablaze and sometimes barely flickers.
Vasilisa is a publications editor/writer at USC, the author of two books, and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the League of Women Voters. She can be reached at her Web site,

Easter is on April 4 and Father's Day is June 20, but anytime is a great time to add Dakota's Easter Wish and Papa Didn't Preach to your library. Learn more at this site, on, and on

Vasilisa will be the mistress of ceremony for Springtown United Methodist women's annual garden party, 2 p.m., April 17. Springtown is located north of Walterboro. Keynote speaker is Mrs. Henry Tisdale, first lady of Claflin University, Orangeburg, S.C. Proceeds will support mission work.

Vasilisa will present "What About the Children"? during the University of South Carolina Black Faculty & Staff Association awards luncheon, noon, May 25, at Russell House University Union. Contact any BFSA member for more information.

Please join Vasilisa, her sister Shelia Hamilton Cato, and family & friends at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Pocotaligo, S.C., for the presentation of a gift in memory of their parents Alneatha Salley Hamilton and Merritt Hamilton, 2 p.m., Aug. 28.

Coming soon … "Dakota's Pascua Deseo," the Spanish version of Dakota's Easter Wish, in time for Easter 2011. Return to this site for the latest details!


Latest and Greatest

Cousin’s Wedding Was ‘Cloud Nine’ Event
By Vasilisa Hamilton
Here I am in Atlanta at the J.W. Marriott in Buckhead—Valentine’s Day 2009. God has blessed me indeed, and my heart is merry. My cousin Dawn, the beautiful, doe-eyed Ph.D. candidate who earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Howard University, is getting married to Sam, the man of her dreams. I’m so excited about this wedding that I believe I can fly. Dawn is already on cloud nine.
I am thrilled to see beloved family and friends for a happy occasion—not a funeral or memorial service—and not in a “season of distress and grief,” as the song “Sweet Hour of Prayer” mentions.
Dawn is one of what I call my two “dishwasher-detergent cousins.” She and Joy, my other dishwasher-detergent cousin, share their names with popular consumer products. Joy married in Maryland (no pun intended in summer 2001 in an African-themed wedding. I haven’t seen some of my relatives since then.
Today’s wedding was Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the 4th of July all at once. While there were no fireworks, it was more than spectacular. Magnificent red roses cascaded from luminous candelabras. Delicate chiffon adorned the winding staircase and exquisite crystal chandeliers. There was the pouring of the sands (red and white, of course), and the ringing of the bells, a game in which bells were placed on each dinner table. When the DJ played “Ring My Bell,” Anita Ward’s disco hit, each person seated at the table rang the bell. Every time the music stopped, the person holding the bell won a prize.
Everyone grooved to “The Electric Slide.” No wedding reception is complete without it. There was also a “candy” bar lined with apothecary jars, each one filled with Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers, Cherry Sours, Starburst Fruit Chews, Laffy Taffy, and cinnamon Imperials. Each place setting held a personalized chocolate bar with the guest’s name on it.
A ballet company whirled and twirled to Stevin Wonder’s “Ribbon In The Sky.” Family and friends held hands and formed a circle as the newlyweds greeted each guest with a hug, kiss, fist bump, or high-five within the allotted time frame. For winning this promotional contest, Dawn and Sam won a honeymoon trip to Hawaii.
Although I fancy myself a wordsmith, in many ways, I’m at a loss for words. The entrance of the bride was breathtaking, as she was serenaded by “When I First Saw You,” Jamie Foxx’s hit song from the movie Dreamgirls: “When I first saw you, I said, ‘Oh my! Oh my… That’s a dream … That’s my dream.’”

Read Vasilisa's commentary, 'Thank you' is important, in the Feb. 19, 2009, edition of the Orangeburg Times and Democrat at

Read Vasilisa's letters to the editor in the Jan 20, 2009, inauguration issues of USA TODAY and The State newspapers by going to and

Vasilisa will give a mini presentation on "What Being Black Means to Me" at 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28, during the Black History Month program at Wesley United Methodist Church, located at 1725 Gervais Street, Columbia, S.C.

You'd be surprised to know that …

When Vas graduated from Ridgeland High School, Ridgeland, S.C., at age 16, she was ranked third in her graduating class.

Vas started first grade at age 4, Jonesville Elementary School, Jonesville, S.C.

Along with her best friend, Katrina Busby (now Reed), Vas was one of only two eighth graders ever allowed to join the RHS yearbook staff in 1978, after undergoing a rigorous interview process with teachers/advisors Ms. Hyman and Ms. Sanders. Katrina is a U.S. Army veteran (thanks for serving) and teaches English in Rochester N.Y.

When she was in the eighth grade at RHS, Vas was a winner of Jasper County's "If I Could Talk to the President" essay contest and won a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet President Jimmy Carter.

Vasilisa has been an avid collector of gemstones and minerals since she was in third grade (age 6).

Reading is fun and fundamental …

Easter is April 12 and Father's Day is June 21, but it's always a good time to read and share books! Dakota's Easter Wish and Papa Didn't Preach can be checked out from the Jasper County Public Library in Ridgeland, S.C., and at Colleton County Public Library in Walterboro, S.C. Both are available online and can also be purchased from Pupcakes Pet Boutique & Bakery, 2732 Devine Street, Columbia, S.C.; 803-461-0236; and from The Curiosity Shop, 202 Richland Avenue, Aiken, S.C.; 803-644-0004.

Check it Twice—Editorial Consulting Services

Not sure you are "writing it right"? Vasilisa provides editorial consulting services on a limited basis. Her clients include the U.S. Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand; the U.S. Embassy, Taiwan, Republic of China; the U.S. Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and the U.S. State Department, Washington, D.C.

South Carolina-based clients include Vennie Deas Moore, artist, author, photographer, and freelance field researcher, whose latest work is "A People of The Land: Lowcountry Portraits," and Yesteryear Jewelers, LLC, Midtown at Forest Acres, Columbia.

Dreaming of publishing your own book? Vasilisa can help take your ideas from conception to completion. She can also assist with marketing and public-relations strategies.


Dakota's Easter Wish Is Released

Vasilisa C. Hamilton announces the publication of Dakota's Easter Wish in time for Easter 2008. Dakota's Easter Wish is the humorous but touching story of how a child's quest for a prize leads to a "malodorous" outcome. This read-to-me book is especially suited for children ages 3 to 8.

"I was inspired to write the book after trying unsuccessfully to win the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Sunday School's prize for finding the most Easter eggs during my childhood," Vasilisa explained. Dakota's Easter Wish is based on a true story and is Vasilisa's first children's book.

Dakota's Easter Wish can be ordered online, or you can purchase it from The Happy Bookseller in Columbia, S.C., 803-782-2665 or 800-787-1503. Contact Carrie ( to reserve your copy.

Sunday, March 16

Vasilisa will read Dakota's Easter Wish during the 10 a.m. Sunday-school youth class at Wesley United Methodist Church, 1725 Gervais Street, Columbia, and again during the children's moment at Wesley's 11 a.m. service.

Sunday, April 27

Vasilisa will read Dakota's Easter Wish during the 11 a.m. service at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Pocotaligo, S.C. This is the church, located in the Lowcountry of Jasper County, which held the annual Easter-egg hunt that Dakota always looked forward to.

Tuesday, April 29

Vasilisa will join Alcorn Middle School teacher Sarah Walker and the children from the After-School Program from 4 to 5:15 p.m. to celebrate National Poetry Month and "Poem in Your Pocket Day" at The Happy Bookseller, 4525 Forest Drive, Columbia. Each participant will share a favorite pocket-sized poem. Refreshments will be provided, and students who make the A-B Honor Roll will receive autographed copies of Dakota's Easter Wish, along with other prizes.

Saturday, May 17

Vasilisa will participate in the Belmont Center Public Library May Festival in Charlotte, N.C., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dakota's Easter Wish and Papa Didn't Preach: Words of Wisdom for Daddy’s Girls will be featured at this family-friendly event. For more information, visit

Thursday, July 10

Vasilisa will be a guest speaker during the Adventures in Writing course for 6th–9th graders presented by the University of South Carolina’s Pre-University Programs. The adventurers will meet at 3:45 p.m. in Maxcy College on the University’s Columbia campus. Vasilisa will discuss the two-year process of publishing Dakota's Easter Wish.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Think you’re doing all you can?
By Vasilisa Hamilton

South Carolina, like much of our nation and world, is experiencing some of the toughest economic times many of us have ever seen. I’m finding, though, that I can still find a way to help someone who is in need. I’m inspired by the stories of people who are rising to the occasion.

In the pages of The State, I read about some S.C. Department of Education employees who are volunteering at Harvest Hope Food Bank while furloughed due to state budget cuts. They are looking beyond themselves, realizing how blessed they are in spite of being furloughed, and still finding a way to contribute to the common good.

I learned of another example of this sort while talking the man who services the vending machines in the building where I live. When I ran into him last week and asked about his Christmas vacation, he told me about a homeless family he and his wife helped during the holidays just by sorting through some their unused wedding gifts. Realizing that they had at least two of every gift they received, they were able to provide a new microwave, blankets, and other items for a local family.
For the other items the family needed, he posted a flyer at his workplace. He said several of his coworkers at Shealy Sales & Vending donated other household items, and the company regularly donates old uniforms and surplus snack foods to homeless shelters and other Midlands charities.

As part of my 2008 Christmas celebrations, I collaborated with my coworkers at University Publications; fellow residents of the building I live in; the hometown churches I attended while growing up; and members of my local church to support a number of charities and community organizations—cookies for the prison ministry; books for young people who are in the custody of the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice; canned goods for Harvest Hope Food Bank; money to purchase gifts and clothing for needy students at an elementary school in Lexington County. After all of that, I felt certain that I’d donated every surplus item I had. What else could I possibly give?

Then a coworker appealed to us for donations of jeans and coats for underprivileged children at her son’s middle school. I somehow managed to find the overcoat I “had to have” when Stein Mart discounted it two or three Christmases ago. I only wore it once. If I don’t pass along these items to organizations like Sister Care, Goodwill, or His House , I should give them directly to a person I know who is in need.

Just when I think I’ve done all that I can do, I find out I can actually do just a little bit more;
May it ever be so for all of us.

This article originally appeared in Carolina Panorama.

For Seven S.C. State Alumni, Justice Was Delayed, But Not Denied
By Vasilisa Hamilton

Some of them hadn’t seen each other in 48 years, nearly five decades. Many of them have returned to their native South Carolina. The Queen of May, 1956, Jimmie Mae Payne Grayson, traveled from Hayneville, Ala. The journalist, Rudolph A. Pyatt Jr., now calls Fort Washington, Md., home.

They gathered at the State Museum on Feb. 7. At least one of them is on crutches. One of them now walks with a cane. Many are retired educators and members of the clergy. They came to celebrate Black History Month, to discuss and reflect on “Student involvement in the Civil Rights Movement,” and to lay the groundwork for what will eventually become a permanent exhibit at the State Museum.

The year was 1955. The seven students—Charles H. Brown, Nathaniel Irvin Sr., Joshua Johnson, Fred H. Moore, Jimmie Mae Payne Grayson, Alice A. Pyatt, and Rudolph A. Pyatt Jr.---returned to South Carolina State College (now University), just weeks after the brutal murder of Emmett Till, who was his parents’ only child.

All were expelled for participating in civil rights protests while students at S.C. State. A couple of them lost, or nearly lost, their four-year academic scholarships. A few of them were overcome with emotion as they told their stories. Their tears flowed freely.

“It happened before the lunch counter sit-ins began at N.C. A&T State University and even before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus,” said Pyatt Jr., describing what it was like to be a college student in that era.

“People were harassed on their jobs, milk deliveries to their homes were halted, and those who worked around the clock in white people’s kitchens were denied credit to get the goods and services they needed for themselves and their families, “ said Rev. Charles H. Brown. “The presence of state troopers on campus was not conducive to learning,” Brown said. He earned a degree in social studies and was later commissioned in the U.S. Army.

“If we didn’t go underground, we would have never gotten of the ground,” said Rev. Dr. Fred H. Moore, who edited he underground newspaper the students established. He described the period as “a time of beautiful unity and nonviolence.”

It was the leadership of students like Moore, who presided over both his class and the S.C. State student body, which held the students together. “We felt a sense of duty and obligation to one another,” said Moore, who studied chemistry at S.C. State. After his expulsion, Moore enrolled at Allen University, where he completed his undergraduate degree in chemistry.

When the students learned that the local dairy owner was a member of the White Citizen’s Council, they decided they would no longer drink the milk that was served in the school’s cafeteria. “We would meet in the cafeteria, join hands, say our grace, and then walk out,” Moore said.

“Lord, you know it’s a new day when college students walk away from potato salad and fried chicken,” Pyatt Jr. exclaimed, as sounds of laughter rang through the auditorium. After while, students would eat nothing that was served in the school cafeteria, Moore said. He said members of the local NAACP usually provided the students’ meals. White faculty members and some black staff members at S.C. State frequently assisted the student protesters, often secretly, Moore said.

Eventually, in collaboration with students from Claflin College (now University), the students stopped shopping in Orangeburg’s downtown businesses that discriminated against blacks and virtually shut them down for two weeks. Occasionally, they would march to the home of S.C. State’s president to lift their voices about some of the injustices they were experiencing.

One panelist recalled how the students helped integrate one of Orangeburg’s movie theaters; the “coloreds only” balcony was packed with students, while the lower level, "whites only,” section was empty.
If a student was hurt or injured on campus, the college’ white physician would not make bodily contact with a black male student, the panelists said. They said he would only examine the black female students.

“We were in an era that bred truth, and the truth was that the black citizens of Orangeburg, which has one of South Carolina’s largest concentration of black residents, were being treated as second-class citizens,” Moore said. “When the black parents tried to fight segregation in local schools they were penalized.”
The students had the courage to stand up amidst firings, expulsions, being drafted into the Army, and being expelled.” Moore stated. Some transferred to church-affiliated schools like Benedict College and Allen University, he said. In some cases, Moore said the state of South Carolina seemed to encourage the expelled students to enroll at a church school in hopes that they “would not cause trouble” nor try to enroll at institutions such as the University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston.

But there were other casualties.

Pyatt Jr's sister, Alice, was attending S.C. State on a four-year academic scholarship. After she was expelled for participating in civil rights protests, her scholarship was rescinded. They could not expel my older brothers,” she said, because they were enrolled in ROTC. They belonged to Uncle Sam.” Pyatt said FBI officials came to the campus and insisted that her brothers could not and should not be expelled. She paid a heavy price. After her parents intervened with education officials in Charleston, she transferred to Allen University and earned a bachelor’s degree in business education.

Jimmy Mae Payne Grayson was expelled in 1956 and was never officially crowned Queen of May. She brought along a photo that was taken some 48 years earlier, in which she wore the white lace gown that S.C. State passed along to each May Queen. Moore crowned her for the first time as family and friends watched. The entire panel saluted her.

Upon conclusion of the two-hour panel discussion, the audience, gave the panelists a standing ovation.
For more information about South Carolina State Museum’s upcoming exhibit, “Student Involvement in the Civil Rights Movement,” contact Elaine Nichols at 803-898-4954 or e-mail her at
This “Black History Flash” article originally appeared in S.C. Black News, published by the S.C. Black Media Group.

Working with the Homeless is Enlightening

By Vasilisa C. Hamilton

Every two years, the U.S. Government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a count of the homeless population but provides no funding to facilitate it. Agencies like the United Way rely on volunteers like Vasilisa to donate time and supplies to assist with their efforts.

I arrived at about 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 25. We made care packages until it was time to leave. Additional supplies were donated since we assembled care packages the week before.

I volunteered with Kristie Marshall and Heather Winkleman, two women from the Women’s Bible Study group at USC, where we work. We attended training together and assembled care packages, which we filled with socks, gloves, hats, blankets, and personal-care items.

I went out with two Colonial Life Insurance Company employees, John Quattlebaum and Debra Goins. They said Colonial Life has a local, as well as a corporate goal of at least 24 hours of community service per employee per year.

We were assigned to the Senate Street Shelter in downtown Columbia’s Congaree Vista area. I also worked with women from Edens & Avant, a commercial real estate company, and the S.C. Department of Mental Health.

Our team leader said it went well because 97 of the 102 men who checked into the shelter completed the survey. We had to walk about two blocks with our care packages, but that was much better than being outside all night long. It was very cold.

What an enlightening experience! The aroma in that place was so powerful that I had to hold my breath. Some of the men seemed to love the attention and were eager to tell their stories. I’m sure living in a place like that doesn’t exactly boost one’s self-esteem.

One man told me that he gets free clothes from various places like Oliver Gospel Mission, and if he can’t afford to take them to the Laundromat, he throws them away and gets new ones. They said the shelter washes their linens about once a month. I spoke to a man who has a prosthesis (his left leg), and one that I surveyed has two missing fingers and is unable to use his right hand. The shelter workers frisked a couple of the men before letting them get into the dinner line. I assume those people have caused trouble in the past.

Many of the men said they were veterans and have had problems with depression, drugs, and alcohol—one told me he has HIV/AIDS. There were some who looked pretty young and others who looked like they were in the winter of their lives. I didn’t’ survey any Hurricane Katrina evacuees, so I don’t know if there were any at our location.

One man said to me, “I bet you work for George H.W. Bush, don’t you?” “No sir,” I replied. “Then who are you working for,” he snapped. “No one,” I told him. “I’m a volunteer.” He proceeded to tell me that he is originally from Anderson County and owned a big farm before his wife died.
There was also a man there who looks exactly like Snoop Doggy Dogg, the rapper. He had a cell phone. One of the men we surveyed told one of the volunteers that he lives in Hopkins (about 20 miles southeast of Columbia) and doesn’t have a car to get to and from work, so he lives at the shelter and catches a ride home on weekends.

I kept thinking that it’s God’s grace that allowed me to go home to a warm apartment when the survey ended. I hope these kinds of experiences will enrich my faith—and my writing.

This article originally appeared in the Press and Standard, Walterboro, S.C.

Saturday, Feb. 24–Sunday, Feb. 25

Join Vasilisa at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center for the South Carolina Book Festival, and purchase Papa Didn’t Preach at a special discount. Also, learn about her current project, a children’s book, Dakota’s Easter Wish.

Coming in 2006

Friday, Feb. 24
Look for Vasilisa and other self-publishers on WLTX News 19 (CBS affiliate) on the early morning newscast with Curtis Wilson, Nat Roers, and Scott Ryan. The show airs from 5 to 7 a.m. They will be discussing their appearance at the South Carolina Book Festival at Columbia’s Metropolitan Convention Center, Feb. 25, and 26.

Saturday, Feb. 25–Sunday, Feb. 26
Vasilisa will share a table with some other self-publishers at the South Carolina Book Festival’s 10th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, Feb. 25, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Papa Didn’t Preach will be available for a discount.

Spring 2005

Thursday, April 14
The After-School Program, Alcorn Middle School, Columbia, S.C., 5:15 p.m. Vasilisa will share some of her favorite poetry with students in observance of National Poetry Week.

Saturday, May 7
Ridgeland Book Club, Ridgeland, S.C., 9 p.m.

Sunday, May 8
"Awareness" with Craig Melvin; WIS TV-10 (NBC affiliate), Columbia, S.C., 10 a.m. Vasilisa is one of the writers who will be featured.

Monday, May 9
Career Awareness Program, Ridgeland Middle School, Ridgeland, S.C., 8:45 a.m.

Traveling in the Kingdom of Thailand
By Vasilisa C. Hamilton
Plush forests in the greenest greens you’ve ever seen. Rich vegetation, plant, and animal life as far as the eye can see. Coconuts, bananas, and other fruits burst from majestic trees that appear tall enough to kiss the edge of the bluest skies, all nourished by the waters in the Gulf of Thailand.
I recently returned from a three-week trip to the Kingdom of Thailand, where I was the guest of Foreign Service Officer Norma E. Brown and her husband, Ibrahim Ramahi. Brown is chief of payroll, training, and outreach for 18,000 federal employees in 59 countries. She is based at the Financial Service Center, U.S. Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand. Ramahi is a security and surveillance expert.
“Bangkok has the sweetest fruits I’ve ever tasted and magnificent flowers in every color of the rainbow,” Vasilisa remarked about Thailand’s capital city.
While in Bangkok, she attended the United States Marine Corps’ 228th birthday ball on Nov. 15, where the guest speaker was Brigadier General Jerry C. McAbee, commanding general, Marine Corps Base Hawaii/Deputy Commanding General III Marine Expeditionary Force, Hawaii. The Marines provide security at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

The guest of honor for the evening was Darryl N. Johnson, American Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand, who was accompanied by his wife, Kathleen.

In addition to visiting the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, Vasilisa attended the 60th anniversary festival and parade to commemorate the completion of the River Kwai Bridge, setting of the well-known film, "Bridge on the River Kwai," which featured a boat ride across the river, a train ride over the “Death Railway,” and a tour of the Jeath War Museum, which was established in 1977 to collect various items connected with the construction of the railway by prisoners of war during the second world war. It is called the Jeath museum for the abbreviation of the names of the six countries that were involved: Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand, and Holland.

Other points of interest in Southeast Asia included a visit to the Bangkok Rose Garden, with its popular elephant rides, colorful musical performances, demonstration of Thai boxing, a traditional Thai wedding ceremony, and other highlights of Thai culture.
Also on Vasilisa’s itinerary was a visit to the golden Grand Palace and the Jim Thompson House. Thompson was an American veteran who helped revive Thailand’s silk industry. He was renowned for the construction of his house, which represented the best in traditional Thai architecture, and his support of initiatives that helped preserve Thailand’s vibrant cultural heritage.

During her stay in Thailand, Vasilisa attended the International Church of Bangkok, where the Rev. Bill Anderson is pastor. The church is located at Bangkok Christian College.

She also visited Beijing, China, the republic’s capital and third-largest city, during her recent trip. Highlights of the Beijing tour included the Great Wall of China, Tinnanmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Friendship Store, the House of Jade, and the Pearl House.

During Vasilisa’s odyssey, members of the Springtown Church family joined her in praying for traveling mercies, thanks be to God.
How Great Thou Art.