See Johanna Martin-Carrington’s full story in The Charleston Magazine
Excerpts from CHARLESTON MAGAZINE WRITER: Stephanie Hunt
After a barrier-breaking career, North Charleston’s indomitable Johanna Martin-Carrington is still breaking new ground, this time with an innovative plan for affordable housing in Union Heights
The youngest of 10 children raised in North Charleston, Martin-Carrington was on the go from an early age. Her father, Samuel Martin Sr., was born on Daniel Island and was a successful carpenter, with a woodyard in the Union Heights community, as well as a Baptist minister. Her father was also a savvy real estate investor, partnering with a friend to buy 25 acres from Seaboard Railroad along Spruill Avenue and instilling in his daughter an understanding of the value of land and home ownership as an anchor for community. This interest is now fueling Martin-Carrington’s latest endeavor—a plan to build regenerative, affordable housing near the neighborhood where she grew up.
“Resilient Communities and Affordable Housing Solutions”
Martin-Carrington’s “get things done” fortitude was celebrated and recognized on November 3, when former US Attorney General Eric Holder came to town to present her with the 2018 Charleston Branch NACCP Lifetime Achievement Award. But as lovely and well-deserved as the accolades may be, Martin-Carrington still prefers to roll up her sleeves. Her most recent undertaking ties together many of her lifelong passions: community development and equitable housing, especially for veterans and young single mothers. “I’ve always believed you never change anybody by telling them something, but by showing them,” she says, which is why she’s so excited about an opportunity to create sustainable and affordable housing in Union Heights while teaching under- and unemployed people marketable construction skills.
“Union Heights was a close-knit community. African Americans there owned their own homes, had good jobs, sent their kids to college,” she recalls. With her older siblings already out of the house, Martin-Carrington tagged along with her parents to civic and church meetings.
“I learned from them that we all have to take care of our community,” she says.
Their family was the first in the neighborhood to get a telephone, so the Martin home became a hub of comings and goings, with plenty of opportunity for a curious little girl to overhear conversations of “joy, sadness, and pain,” says her granddaughter Ashley Meachem. “She was happy to be part of that. I think that’s where much of her sense of empathy and service to others comes from.”