Alphonso Brown is the founder and owner of Gullah Tours, in Charleston, South Carolina. Born and raised in Rantowles, a dozen miles south of Charleston, he is a retired band director. With a deep love for his city, Alphonso started a tour company dedicated to telling the stories of the many contributions Black Charlestonians made to the area.
“When you know better, you do better.”-Alphonso Brown
I interviewed Alphonso on his bus after he had given a tour. His Gullah accent was pronounced, and at times I had trouble keeping up with him. Alphonso laughed. “It’s not bad English,” he said. “It’s good Gullah.”
He talked about his experience giving black history tours in Charleston.
“Sometimes we think that whites should know, but they don’t know. The main question is, what can we do now? We don’t want to go down this path of racism. We want to talk to our neighbors and friends.
When I first started my tour, I can remember the very first tour that I did. At the end of the tour, I dropped people off at my house and a lady said, ‘What about the blacks? They haven’t done anything here?’ I stopped doing tours for about 2-3 weeks. I went around Charleston and studied black history and it was like magic. I said, ‘Lord, if you can help me through this…help me to find a route that would be perfect for black history tours, I will promise you that out of everything I make, you’ll get your 10 percent that you ask for.’
It’s rare for me to have a busload of people who are all black. I have lots of whites. These white people are not racist. They are people who are trying to get into heaven. They just want to do right. They see now what is right.
Now they know. It’s like my grandmother says, ‘When you know better, you do better.'”
-Was there someone who mentored you in your youth? How did they help guide your path?
-Do you have a faith community that sustains you? Why or why not?
-Have you read books about racism? Why or why not?
-Are conversations about race difficult for you?
-Have you ever sensed feelings of mistrust in conversations about race? Why might that be?
-Why do unfamiliar things often feel so unsettling?
-When have you been uncomfortable in a new setting? When have you overcome it well?
-Alphonso’s grandmother said “When you know better, you do better.” Can you think of a time this was true in your life?