All posts by Cecile Holmes

The South Carolina underground: The urban music scene crescendos.

Millz Davis poses during a photoshoot for one of his upcoming projects.
Photo by Millz Davis.

By Kaleb Partilla

It has been three years since South Carolina’s urban music was silenced. Derek McAllister, known to hip hop and rap fans as Speaker Knockerz, died at 19. He was on his way up in 2014. His music videos attracted a few thousand views to three million plays online without a record label.

After his death, the late rapper received over 200 million views, and trended as a popular hashtag on Twitter. McAllister’s most notable video has amassed over 93 million plays on YouTube where it remains playable.

Today, over 3,000 recorded artists across the state of South Carolina follow Derek McAllister’s music marketing regimen. Each person makes a series of social media accounts, and each page is updated once new art is created.

“The scene has changed in the past five years because of the internet and social media. It’s easier to gain attention without having to move around or travel because you can reach an audience by the touch of a button,” says Millz Davis, the CEO of Department 803, a hip hop, R&B and rap group.

The analytics sections on allow you to see just how big your audience is, and what they enjoy about your page.

“Respectfully, there really wasn’t anyone rapping lyrically before me and pushing it as much as I did,” says Davis.

Listening to Davis’ discography, he epitomizes the opposite of braggadocio rap. Having a unique style in an area with a smaller market has produced over 750,000 plays on his tracks online.

Davis runs Creative Music Studios, founded in 2014. He is planning to open his first full-fledged production studio in South Carolina next year. Contrary to some, Davis believes remaining in South Carolina will get him noticed. He says his skills will be displayed in a market with fewer signed hip-hop artists than in other states. Davis can sing, rap, rhyme and produce his own beats and songs.

Two years ago, the legal removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds drew national attention. “I remember seeing a few artists in Columbia after the removal of the flag. Some claimed it’s the only reason they came [on tour] to South Carolina,” says University of South Carolina senior Daniel Kelly.

“I don’t think I know too many of the new hip hop and rap artists in South Carolina,” Kelly says. ” I do have a friend who produces for a lot of artists in the state.”

Welcome South Carolina music producer Jordan Sudderth. He is known as “Jumpman” by his fans.

“I have produced multiple tracks for big name artists but I can’t speak about them quite yet,” says Sudderth.

The complex contracts and unwritten rules to abide by in the music industry are obvious here. It is clear the producer knows his way around the business; as well as crates of well-kept electronic devices in his organized bedroom.

Sudderth is a self-taught master of music. He began creating beats with a bootleg version of Fruity Loops Studio 12. This odd name reflects a D.A.W. or digital audio workstation. Music creations and audio edits are made in these programs.

“I still spend hours in the program every day. Sometimes I get producer’s block and just keep the program open until I get something,” says Sudderth. He began producing two years ago and is slowly learning how the music industry works outside of South Carolina.

“Artists need to look out for work-for-hire contracts. These give the artist or producers a large sum of cash up front but strip your name from the credits entirely,”  Sudderth says.”

“That means the original creator does not receive royalties or profits from the plays because their name is taken off the credits,” says Sudderth. Having credentials on a hit song could generate much more money over time as opposed to one upfront payment.

Sudderth is edging on 600,000 total views in a collaborative video with another artist.

“When it reaches a certain point, I’ll cash out on my AdSense account from YouTube views. I can do all this without ever going to a real studio.”

This tech-savvy way of generating an income without a music label for promotion and distribution deals is another way social media websites are helping artists. Both dependent and independent musicians can profit off this strategy.

Someone looking to push the boundaries in the Palmetto State is Johnathan Hymes, an upscale clothing designer from South Carolina. Hymes targets each pop-up event and applies to be a concert sponsor with his brand Clothesed Corporation. This showcases his product for niche consumers while they are enjoying a show.

“Rap and hip hop are straightforward when it comes to expressing what’s at hand, and Clothesed Corporation is reflected by past, present, and current events on financial subjects,” says Hymes.

He suggests his brand’s high-quality clothing garments reflect the rhymes of a person who acknowledges his or her wealth.

There are currently two big cities in South Carolina holding Clothesed Corporation’s threads: Columbia and Charleston. Hymes’ clothing brand has sponsored 12 shows in those two metropolitan areas.

It’s important in the hip hop and rap scene to consider where an artist is from, and where an artist is making music. Some artists go to other states with larger hip-hop music cities like Atlanta and Charlotte. An urban artist who frequently charts on Billboard is Jeezy, a rapper from Columbia,. Although he is from South Carolina, Jeezy moved  to get his career going.

Nick Grant is another artist who relocated to Atlanta from South Carolina. While he is proud of being a South Carolinians, he paid attention to the success of  artists from Atlanta. His talents eventually led him to cosigns from Talib Kweli, Nas and Andre 3000. These three artists have earned millions  from making music from  platinum record sales.

Grant’s 5,000-person town — Walterboro — shaped his musical sound. But many of his followers see him as being from Atlanta because of his success there.

“Just because someone is born somewhere doesn’t technically mean they’re ‘ from there,’ ” Hymes says.

He says people leave their hometowns as children or for various reasons as adolescents and young adults.  This pattern parallels that of an athlete. While many athletes come from smaller towns, they spend their careers on teams based in larger cities. So when they stop playing their jerseys are retired, but retired from the largest team for which they played.

So metaphorically, while Speaker Knockerz was born in New York, his jersey eternally hangs somewhere along Two Notch Road in Columbia.

Right now, there are only five rappers associated with the official Wikipedia page for rappers in South Carolina. Additionally, no current musicians from South Carolina possess rankings on Billboard charts. The exception is country music singer Darius Rucker. Hip hop and rap artists from South Carolina may face a similar uphill battle.

Partilla is a mass communications senior.

From Aynor to Air Force One: USC grad joins top cadre of journalists

Josh Dawsey sitting in The Daily Gamecock offices during an October visit to the University of South Carolina.
Courtesy of Sarah Scarborough.

By Larissa Johnson

When the U.S. fired 69 missiles into Syria, Politico White House reporter Josh Dawsey was with President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

“We were all standing underneath big palm trees and watching people clink wine glasses and all of a sudden the president came out and said, ‘We bombed Syria,’” Dawsey said. “It was a bizarre moment.”

Especially bizarre because less than 10 years before, Dawsey was living on a farm in Aynor, South Carolina, a city of 600 people and two stoplights. On the community news page of the city government, there’s just a blank space. The last local newspaper, the Aynor Journal, stopped publishing in 2011.

By then, Dawsey had already gotten his start. He covered local sports and town hall meetings for the tiny paper run “basically out of a barber shop,” he said. In summer 2008, just before he was about to enter the University of South Carolina, someone commented on a Myrtle Beach Online article criticizing the Aynor Journal: “I miss the stories written by Josh Dawsey.”

Perhaps his first accolades, but definitely not the last.

USC Student Media Director Sarah Scarborough remembers Dawsey’s first day of college. He went up to The Daily Gamecock offices and asked how to get involved.

“He was one of those people who had an eye on the (editor’s) office since the day he walked in,” she said. “He certainly scared a few people.”

He was never afraid to cold call anyone or march into his or her office, including Scarborough’s. Even as a writer freshman year, administrators started to recognize his name and persistence in getting people to talk. Jerry Brewer, the long-time associate vice president of student life, became particularly close with Dawsey and was one of his regular sources.

Sydney Patterson started as a freshman copy editor when Dawsey was news editor. Dawsey had collected a few more internships at places like the Free Times and The State and was writing articles almost daily for The Daily Gamecock.

“I remember my impression of him being like, wow this guy is super stressed out and doing a lot, but he’s like a bulldog,” Patterson said. “He never let go of a story idea.”

Dawsey’s coverage for The Daily Gamecock ranged from fraternity drama and struggles in the law school to Columbia’s World Beer Festival. His esteem around campus continued to increase, especially after breaking an investigative story on pay increases for the top echelon of USC staff.

“I cared more about reporting and being out in the field and meeting people than I did going to classes and doing my homework,” Dawsey said. “I felt that The Gamecock was probably the best part of Carolina for me.”

Patterson said that he concentrated on watchdog journalism, and when he became editor in spring 2011 he held the rest of the organization to the same standards. Patterson worked as mix editor under Dawsey.

“He was a very loud editor,” she said. “That was definitely one of the hallmarks of having him in charge.”

He would come out of the office during production yelling about an AP Style mistake and watch over the section editors’ shoulders as they wrote headlines, she said. Even though he was demanding, people wanted to work with him because they recognized his talent, Scarborough said. The perhaps overbearing leadership paid off — Dawsey won 2011 collegiate journalist of the year from the South Carolina Press Association and the Gamecock earned a record 17 awards.

“I’ve seen a lot of people come through up here and there are a handful of folks who led the newsroom that I think stand out, and Josh is probably at the top,” said Scarborough, who has worked with USC’s student media for 17 years.

In his farewell letter as editor in fall 2011, he wrote: “It is bittersweet; leaving anything you love is difficult. Yet we are all born for leaving.”

A few months later he left not only The Daily Gamecock but South Carolina. Two weeks after graduation, he moved to New York City. It didn’t matter that he had a Southern drawl because all his neighbors spoke Spanish, anyway. Without friends in the city, he would sit in his apartment at night listening to the people partying below.

“All of a sudden I moved from rural South Carolina to the middle of Upper Manhattan,” Dawsey said. “It was jarring.”

He worked as a news assistant for the Wall Street Journal covering foreign exchange and economics for seven months before being hired as a reporter for the Greater New York section. He made friends and started covering local politics, including reporting on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaigning and spending. Living in the city for over four years, Dawsey describes himself in his Twitter bio as a “Southerner & New Yorker.”

A recent article in Vanity Fair by Joe Pompeo described Dawsey in his time with the Journal as “a well-respected but not terrifically well-known New York City Hall reporter.” But over the past 12 months, he’s become a rising star, moving to Politico in December 2016. He had just six or seven thousand Twitter followers when he left the Journal, Dawsey said. Now, he has almost 50,000.

Dawsey attributed the rapid gain to his new position as a White House reporter. “Everyone wants to know every move that the administration in making,” he said. His tweets – frequently more than 20 a day – range from live Trump quotes to cheering on Gamecock football.

How many times a day does he check the social media site? “I probably shouldn’t answer that honestly because you’ll laugh at me.”

In addition to always having Twitter open to get breaking news, Dawsey often reads up to two or three hours a day to stay up on what the competition is doing and to get story ideas.

“I hate to lose,” he said. “I compete against a lot of people and I really hate to lose to other outlets.”

When he was at USC, that meant beating The State to any news about the university. Now, he’s competing against names like The New York Times. He has a unique perspective, though, coming from a heavily conservative and Christian small town.

“A lot of people in Washington really think the president’s doing a terrible job; a lot of people in South Carolina really think the president’s doing a great job,” Dawsey said. “You have to remember that how things are perceived here aren’t maybe how they are perceived out there.”

His parents still live in Aynor. He comes to South Carolina around four times a year to visit and to try to find time to relax. Sit on a porch with some iced tea in the rural South and Washington, D.C., seems thousands of miles away, Dawsey said. His parents live on a dirt road and don’t want it to be paved.

“I think they’re kind of amused by [my job],” Dawsey said. “My parents are very conservative and very supportive of Trump and they think it’s great that I get to be around him.”

While frequently seeing Trump at press briefings and on Air Force One, Dawsey has interviewed Trump only once one-on-one — in April for a feature on the first 100 days of the presidency. Trump brought up Dawsey’s South Carolina roots, mentioning his broad support in the state.

“He’s kind of disarming,” Dawsey said. “Actually has a pretty decent sense of humor.”

Dawsey’s expertise in covering Trump – the Vanity Fair article calls him a “West-Wing savant” – has earned his next big career step: joining the Washington Post’s White House team. The move, announced via Twitter on Nov. 3, puts him in one of the most prestigious teams in the country starting late November. He is just 27 years old.

With such a quick rise, Dawsey can’t predict what he’ll accomplish in his career.

“Everything is moving too fast,” he said.

Johnson is a multimedia journalism senior

Medical School Hopefuls Find a New Path

Hennon, Yoseif, and Touma spend time studying at the USC School of Medicine as a part of a post-grad baccalaureate program.
Photos by Kathryn Hennon.

By Kathryn Hennon

Wearing white, cotton coats, carrying stethoscopes, and writing on plastic clipboards are essential aspects of playing pretend doctor. But do the kids who relish in the pretend game ever grow up to make childhood pursuits a reality? Every year, medical school rejection letters force many students to re-evaluate their medical school childhood dreams as competition for a first-year spots continue to grow.

For many aspiring doctors, the smooth path of college to medical school does not exist. After receiving their first round of rejection letters, these students must either choose a new career or create an alternative path to their original goal. The post-baccalaureate certificate students at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine chose an alternative path.

Medical schools know competition for their coveted spots is stiff, so several of these schools have proposed a solution. Today there are over 200 post-baccalaureate programs at accredited medical schools across the Unites States. The schools design their programs to benefit would-be physicians who may lack top undergraduate grades or science coursework. These programs offer medical school hopefuls one to two years of premed science curriculum to boost their chance at medical school acceptance.

The University of South Carolina Medical School offers a post-baccalaureate certificate program in Biomedical Science. In this program, students complete extensive graduate-level course work in the areas of anatomy, genetics, physiology, pharmacology, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, and neuro-science along with several other courses in the biomedical sciences. In addition, faculty and staff offer these students assistance and guidance as they complete their medical applications and interviews.

After several rejection letters from medical schools,  Megan Hennon, 23, decided to take advantage of such a program at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine. As a Clemson graduate, Hennon did not expect to attend her university’s chief rival. However, her determination to get her medical degree led her to the post-baccalaureate program. “Although I don’t exactly want to be in the position that I am now, I am working towards my goal and that is all that matters,” Hennon said.

Thomas Touma, 24, is also enrolled in the USC medical school’s post-baccalaureate program in hopes of getting in to medical school next year. After graduating from Clemson in 2015, Touma began work as a nursing assistant on the night shift at a hospital in Anderson.

“At the time, I was still unsure if medical school was the right move, but I needed to start making money. I began this job to figure out my plans and make some cash in the process,” Touma said.

After working grueling hours on the orthopedic floor while his college buddies went to bars after their daytime jobs, Touma struggled.

“Despite the challenges of that job, overall it was extremely rewarding, and I realized that I was willing to go through hard work for a worthwhile career in medicine.” Touma said.

He liked spending time with patients and enjoyed aiding in their recovery. With a new interest in orthopedic medicine, Touma began to apply to medical school. But he knew his undergraduate grades might not be high enough. He was right, so he enrolled in the one-year certificate program.

Each student in the post-baccalaureate program has a different story and journey that led him or her to the project.  But most share the same end goal:  medical school acceptance.

Duke University graduate Sarah Yosief ended up in Columbia after carefully considering location and cost options. From a young age, Yosief knew she wanted to pursue medical school. However, she knew that if she wanted to achieve this goal, she would have to do it on her own. This meant taking out loans, working multiple jobs, and paying for her own education.

The 26-year-old spent the past few years conducting medical research, doing volunteer work, and shadowing a variety of doctors. She says these experiences improved her medical candidacy, but she still needed to up her undergraduate GPA. Yoseif applied to various post-baccalaureate programs, but chose the USC program because of its lower cost and location near family.

“So far this program has challenged me by being around intelligent students and medical professionals. I have learned to think on a higher level and gained insight into what medical school will be like,” she said.

The direct correlation between medical school acceptance and post-baccalaureate certificate programs is uncertain, but there is no doubt that the programs have the potential to help these students succeed. St. Louis based dermatologist Dr. Gina Bowers says that many first-year medical students are underprepared for the demanding coursework and could have benefitted from additional studies or experience.

“I think these post-baccalaureate students may have an advantage over medical school students who come straight from undergraduate studies,” Bowers said. “The extra course work will give them a head start and advantage over their peers when they do begin medical school. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity.”

Hennon is a public relations senior 


A Tale of Two Brothers

Alshon Jeffrey at football practice in Saint Matthews.
Photo by the Times and Democrat

By Tanner Young

There are countless small towns littered across the United States. Some of these towns contain talented athletes. Some of those make it out, and sometimes the environment they grow up in swallows them up. One athlete who made it out is Alshon Jeffery, and one who got swallowed up is Charles Ben. Alshon Jeffery is a former University of South Carolina stand out player.

I grew up in Saint Matthews, a town of 2,000. This is the same town that now has Jeffery’s name on signs that greets visitors. “Welcome to Saint Matthews. Home of professional football player Alshon Jeffery,” the sign reads. Jeffery’s story is one that affects athletes across the country.

Before the 27-year-old Jeffery was drafted in the second round of the 2012 National Football League draft, he was simply known as “Boo,” a name his mother affectionally calls him. Jeffery’s mother and my mother, Kandi Young, have taught at Saint Matthews K-8 School for over 20 years. That’s why Jeffery suggested her son take Young’s speech class.

“When I realized Alshon had a stuttering problem when he was little, I thought no one better to fix it than your mama,” she said. Alshon Jeffery is only a couple of years older than I, so I grew up with his rise to fame. Whether it was his basketball stat line in the local paper about him scoring many points or his insane football stats, I was there for all of it.

What I wasn’t there for were newspaper headlines like that from another Saint Matthews athlete. He is a pivotal reason that Jeffery succeeds as a professional. That man was Charles Ben, Jeffery’s older brother.  “Charles is going to be the first player out of Saint Matthews to make it to the NFL,”  my mother said.

Ben is about six years older than Jeffery, and is one of those “I almost made it athletes.” The two share the same father. Jeffery took his mother’s name.

Across America there are athletes who come from single-parent homes. Some of those athletes grow up wrestling with poverty in crime-filled neighborhoods. For the latter, the only way to get out of poverty is to play sports. Even though some gifted athletes realize they need to stay on the straight and narrow to make it out of their situation, some just can’t overcome their circumstances.

This is what happened to Ben. He was a two-sport athlete at Calhoun County High School just like his younger brother, and was considered a sure thing to make it to the NFL.

Zam Fredrick, who handles the school district’s transportation as well as having a son who was a star on the University of South Carolina’s basketball team,  coached Charles Ben and Alshon Jeffrey.

Fredrick said, “In my opinion, and I’ve been here 28 years as a coach, Charles Ben is the best athlete we ever had.”

Ben graduated from Calhoun County High School in 2002 and committed to the University of South Carolina. Barry Charley, the principal of Calhoun County High School, said, “We have some great athletes that come from broken homes, so education isn’t a priority, but I think Alshon learned from Charles’ mistakes.”

Ben, according to my sources, thought his sports prowess would get him out of Saint Matthews. He ended up going to S.C. State University. But he did not play sports there because of poor grades.  Now Ben, like other great athletes who follow their dreams but fail, is stuck in Saint Matthews.

Jefferey watched all this happen. It seems he wanted to learn from it and not make the same mistakes. By his senior year, Jeffrey had multiple offers to play college sports. Many people in Saint Matthews feared he would make the same mistakes his brother made. Even Lane Kiffin, then the coach at the University of Southern California, told Jeffery if he played at home at South Carolina he would, “pump gas the rest of his life.”

Doubt only increased when Jeffery decided to stay at home and become a Gamecock. According to newspaper accounts,  he did that because he wanted to stay close to home so that all his brothers, including Ben,  could see him play.

Multiple attempts to reach Jeffery and Ben for comment were unsuccessful. Requests for interviews were declined.

And the rest is history. Jeffery became one of the greatest receivers the Gamecocks have ever had, and then became a force in the National Football League. The Chicago Bears drafted him, and he became a pro bowl wide receiver in 2013 even with inconsistent quarterback play. He just signed a lucrative contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. The only thing Jeffery hasn’t accomplished is getting the ultimate prize:a Super Bowl ring. He has a chance to do that this year playing for the Philly Eagles.

Young is a public relations senior

Gamecock Soccer Star Sets Her Eyes Beyond the Season

Savannah McCaskill holds her lucky ball at Stone Stadium.
Photo by Caroline Grigg.

By Caroline Grigg

A bright smile rolls across Savannah McCaskill’s face as she picks up a soccer ball to juggle. She moves the ball from one foot to the other without missing a beat. Effortlessly, she discusses pranks she pulled on the team, her superstitious pre-game routine, and the latest dessert she ate from Kaminsky’s.

McCaskill is University of South Carolina women’s soccer starting forward. The senior holds 24 awards since her freshman year and is in the program’s record book over 30 times. Named one of the top 3 players in Division 1 soccer, McCaskill’s humility would never let her tell you that. With stats that can’t be beat by anyone in the Southeastern Conference, she’s still never fully satisfied.

Her first memories in life are of a soccer ball at her foot while running through her front yard in Sumter, South Carolina. She grew up cheering on Clemson University, but now she clothes herself in garnet and black as she steps into Stone Stadium. From a young age, her playing skill was two steps ahead of everyone else her age.

“She was always too fast and skilled for the teams we played on growing up,” says Abbey De’ Mare, McCaskill’s childhood friend and longtime teammate. “Coaches would have to dumb down her play so our team could work with her. She was so confident in herself and was always eager to outplay everyone on the field.”

McCaskill moved from Sumter to Irmo, South Carolina, during middle school but the teams in the surrounding area still weren’t challenging enough. She began making the 2-hour drive to Greenville three times a week.

“I made the region team in 8th grade and that’s when I realized I was actually pretty good at this sport,” McCaskill says. “Once I hit 9th grade I started receiving invitations to Olympic development camps and college camps, this is when I think I saw I had the potential to be a top Division 1 athlete.”

McCaskill knew she would have to work harder than before as she entered her freshman year at USC. The team was composed of top athletes. Her skill alone wouldn’t get her to the top.

As expected, McCaskill began to make a name for herself her first year. She clinched a starting spot at forward and exceeded all expectations. “College soccer is so different than club. My freshman year I had a good group of seniors who taught me about getting stuck into tackles,” McCaskill says. “I learned you had to put in the extra work to be able to play with this level and to adapt to it. I realized we could win a lot of titles.”

In spring her freshman year, McCaskill got invited to a U.S. Women’s National Team camp for her age group. She continued to train at a level that was high above most everyone else her age. Yet, McCaskill describes this moment as one of her greatest regrets in her college career.

“I took it for granted,” McCaskill says as she shakes her head. “I was training like normal and wasn’t doing anything extra to prepare me for the opportunity. It showed. I definitely didn’t perform as good as I could have. And I thought forever that I missed my shot.”

Returning home, McCaskill continued to another season of winning, creating her legacy in the program. When the time came her sophomore year for a call up to train with the national program, she never received the call.

“Dealing with that disappointment when you have the aspiration to be the best player in the world is hard,” Lindsey Lane, McCaskill’s best friend and teammate says. “But she was determined to overcome it.”

Even though she gained multiple awards and broke records that year, she decided to change her role and her lifestyle to meet the far-reaching expectations she set for her junior year. “I knew I was never the fittest on the field but my vision and skill made up for that,” McCaskill says. “I had to become a 90-minute player so I didn’t have to come out for a break during the game. This meant I needed to train harder than I had been in the past.”

She changed her eating regime and sleep schedule to that of a national athlete. Lights out was at 10 p.m.  And becoming an early bird was necessary. She began training above and beyond the intense workout routines required of the team. Sprints became a daily event for McCaskill and she focused on the quality of her training instead of the quantity.

“I now love to sweat and making sure I’m getting in a good workout every day,” McCaskill says. “If I go a day without a good sweat, I feel like I’ve wasted my day. Fitness is no longer an issue for me.”

McCaskill set her goal and reached it quickly. Her junior season she started and could play the whole game at her best pace without needing a break.

“McCaskill’s junior year was her All-American campaign. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone improve this much from her freshman year to senior year,” Alex Buchman, McCaskill’s assistant strength coach says. “Her mentality was more important than the fitness. She’s self-motivated and kept the mentality of wanting the success and win more than anyone else.”

After her junior year season ended, she was focusing on off season training schedules and keeping up with school. “I was sitting at my kitchen table the morning of December 16 eating cereal. I checked my email and there was an invitation to join the U23s U.S. National team training camp,” McCaskill says. “I kept thinking that it couldn’t be real. I finally was getting a second chance to prove myself to the national teams. I knew I had to go and have fun.”

McCaskill left that spring to travel the world playing for the U23 U.S. Women’s National team. She earned the role of captain and traveled from country to country her spring semester. One would think there was no way McCaskill could keep up with school while also representing the United States on the soccer field. But, she defied the norm and continued her classwork working her way to gain a degree in exercise science.

“When people see McCaskill play, they think it’s done by pure skill,” says McCaskill’s teammate Dominique Babbitt. “Then they see she’s excelling in her classes too. “And I don’t think they understand the pressure she holds set by the university, community, and especially herself. But every time she finds her way to success.”

After her stint with the U23s National team, she got called in by the coach of the U.S. Women’s National team. McCaskill got asked to come train with the national team for a couple days after the U23 camp. “Playing alongside players like Alex Morgan and Hope Solo was surreal,” McCaskill said. “I got to see the level I need to reach to be able to compete with these girls for a spot on this team. Especially for a spot in the World Cup and upcoming Olympics.”

Her senior year is unfolding quickly. Though she may not be racking up the goals like she did in years past, she is learning more about being a leader.

She is focusing first on competing in the NCAA Division 1 tournament this fall.  Then her focus will shift to graduating a semester early on December 18.  After graduation, McCaskill will patiently wait for the professional women’s soccer draft in the spring. She is expected to be one of the top three picks.

“I’m close to breaking the overall points record for the school. I’m seven points away from tying, and I need to get to 119 goals to tie,” McCaskill says.  “That would be awesome, but I feel like if I’ve left my jersey better than I found it then I can call my college career a success.”

Grigg is a public relations senior

How Personal Passions Become Business Projects

Mary Fountain demonstrates a yoga pose in her studio.
Photo by Jessica Long.

By Lesley Hitson

Driven by her passions for growth, wellness and dance, Mary Fountain, a native of the small town of Griffin, Georgia, founded Intent Yoga Studio. She is a beginning entrepreneur whose business grew quickly in a short time period.

With business wisdom and inspiration to share, she can offer advice to other budding entrepreneurs. Fountain and her husband, David, have the character, perspective and compassion to bring in new people and turn them into loyal customers at their Intent Yoga Studio.

Fountain described Intent Yoga Studio as her passion project. “At this point, I’m just trying to think, ‘How can I put back into the people that have put so much into me?’ To me, it’s my outlet for that. You know, for creativity and all of it. This is who I am,” she said.

In discussing her husband’s support as she built her business, the Fountains said that they have always worked together in their marriage. They have always chosen to follow their passions and dreams and support one another in their business endeavors.

David Fountain said that Intent Yoga Studio is “definitely her business and we try to make it that, as much as possible, but I mean, it’s ours. It’s something we do together, and I try to help out as much as possible.”

Just like any other business, Intent Yoga Studio comes with stresses and praises.

“You’re catching me at a really funny time about all this, because I just moved into the new location and we have a really bad leak. And it is tempting my patience, big time, but I think it’s definitely taught me how to get organized, how to prioritize,” Mary Fountain said. “And when you have people working with you, you have to consider other people, so I think that it’s just like character building all the way around.”

Discussing key pieces of advice she would offer someone attempting to start a business in Griffin, she said that No. 1 would be to know your demographic. Know how you will reach out to it because that is something she often encountered. She also advised the entrepreneur to be organized.

“Plan at least six months worth of events and ways that you’re going to get the community to come and meet you and talk with you and be around you,” she said.

For the Fountains, it’s all about people. They both mentioned how important relationships and collaborations are in business, as well as simply surrounding yourself with cornerstone people who can provide wisdom and guidance, whether that’s in spiritual matters, marriage or business.

Elizabeth Orr, the founder of EDO Kitchen and a yoga client, said that Intent Yoga was life-changing. She began deep stretch yoga classes in 2015, looking for hip pain relief. Now, she finds herself feeling incredible physically, as well as mentally and spiritually.

“What I did not expect to find was the mental and spiritual clarity that I found from the meditation at the end of Mary’s classes. It’s rare to be so quiet and still. Yoga gave me permission to turn off and to take care of myself,” Orr said.

Dusty Takle, a contributing writer for “The Grip” and long-time Griffin resident, offered an outside business perspective. She considers Intent Yoga Studio to be successful and beneficial to the town. The employees themselves make it unique, as they design each class differently, which has attracted customers. The mediations in each class are all uniquely prepared.

“Intent has made downtown Griffin, Georgia, a center for citizens to gather together and pause and breathe and regroup. It’s a beautiful addition to downtown’s already growing appreciation for the arts and theater. The arts and theater make you appreciate the beauty around you. Intent has helped people appreciate the beauty within you. What a magical combination for those two things to come together downtown,” Takle said.

Hitson is a public relations senior

River Rat Brewery Reaches New Heights

Owner Mike Tourville showcases view of Williams-Brice Stadium from new rooftop addition at River Rat Brewery
Photo by Anna Frazier.

By Anna Frazier

“I do cuss so… it happens,” said owner Mike Tourville as he gripped both hands on the sturdy wooden table, threw back a gulp of water from a glass with the River Rat logo staring back at him and sat down.

“Let’s knock this thing out”. His laidback personality combined with his go-getter attitude and passion for beer is exactly what makes River Rat Brewery the place that it is. The River Rat team plans to open a new rooftop bar at the brewery. “It’s what’s happening in Columbia,” Tourville said.

He said that it was the right time for the new addition to the brewery and to the niche it has in the Columbia marketplace.  River Rat tends to attract cozy, semi-private events. Tourville said that it’s the behind-the-scenes part of the project that he’s enjoyed the most. The new space is equipped with a covered bar, smokehouse and a full kitchen. His favorite part is the dumbwaiter that allows the cooks to send food up to the rooftop on a conveyor belt that then delivers the food straight to the bar.

“The barbecue is our favorite,” said long-time customer and Columbia local, Stephen Denemark. The new smokehouse creates more brisket and pork options for the brewery. “The smokehouse is gonna be a cool feature. I think it will really attract people. I can already smell the yumminess,” Tourville said.

With the boys working hard and hammers banging, I had the chance to walk up and see the unfinished rooftop. Walking into a giant grain bin circling the spiral staircase surrounded by nothing but galvanized steel felt like I was in a movie. With each twist and turn up the staircase comes a different view of what’s happening outside– from the crowds walking down the road to Williams Brice Stadium on game day to the people playing corn hole in the field below. But once you reach the top, the look and feel is consistent.

Wood and galvanized steel complete the space from the siding on the bar to the railings of the fence. Bert Shuler, project developer and owner of The Shuler Group Inc., said he appreciates the leeway that Tourville gave him to come up with some innovative design concepts. Galvanized steel is implemented to create stability and that signature River Rat style. It adds a rustic,  yet nostalgic vibe.

“We were trying to come up with something that would be a landmark, signature component to the project,” said Shuler. “Going up and down Shop Road you can see it as soon as you turn in from the stadium.”

Tourville and Shuler said that the giant 30-foot grain bin that encases the spiral staircase up to the rooftop is probably what they are most excited about. “It’s very iconic. It’s kind of like a symbol of what we are about as craft beer brewers, which is grain and barley. We use thousands and thousands and thousands of pounds of barley a year. What more iconic to brand ourselves than a big grain bin?” Tourville said.

Shuler said the bin was actually purchased from a local farmer.

Husband and wife, Stephen and Townes Denemark, have been visiting the brewery with friends and family since its opening in 2013.

“We love the kid-friendly aspect of the brewery and that we can always bring them along. But we are excited for the new addition because it will be a nice escape from all the hustle and bustle down below,” said Townes Denemark. The rooftop bar has a capacity of 49 and will be open to ages 21 and up— no children or pets allowed. It also includes a unisex bathroom.

“The brewery has expanded drastically since opening in 2013,” said Eva Moore, Free Times’ managing editor who also runs the food and drink section of the newspaper. She has written feature articles about the brewery.

“River Rat is already very good at sort of creating a sense of place and being a really good place for people to hangout. I think the new addition will only add to that,” said Moore. “Each year or every couple of months they add something to make it a cooler place.”

Of course, with every project comes unexpected bumps in the road. Tourville said working with Richland County is sometimes difficult and too much time and money gets spent on contracts and permits. “Every project goes over budget and every project takes three times longer than expected,” Tourville said.

He hopes the addition will be completed in time for the Carolina-Clemson game. But if it isn’t ready by then, it will open in early December. “I wanna see people up on the rooftop in garnet and black scaring off the Tigers and rooting on the Gamecocks,” said Tourville.

Frazier is a public relations senior

Soda City Market: Columbia’s New Hub

The CLT Boutique tent and trailer on display at Soda City Market 
Photo courtesy of CLT Boutique Instagram 

By Calvin Mitchener

The sound of music covers the chorus of voices as people weave through the street and the numerous vendors. A drummer beats empty barrels while nearby a woman is arranging baskets of fresh vegetables. The aroma from a florist tent clashes with the smoky scent of a barbecue food truck. It is a Saturday morning in Columbia, Main Street is buzzing with activity, thanks to the Soda City Market.

Since its creation in 2012 by founder Emile DeFelice, Soda City Market has thrived as a hub for Columbia residents and businesses. Potential vendors must submit a request form to do business at Soda City, which recently expanded into the third and fourth blocks of Main Street.

The atmosphere at the market is fun and relaxed. People walk their dogs and shop from an array of vendors and artisans. While many locals enjoy the market, the business it brings in enriches the city’s coffers and those of its hundreds of entrepreneurs.

Francis Lee has a tent at the Soda City Market in which she operates her business, Gorilla Boost. Lee recognizes the opportunity that the market provides to sell her unique gluten free, “super-foods.”

“I love the energy of Soda City, and the exposure is great for my business,” said Lee.

She pauses mid-interview to politely inform a customer about the contents of one of her energy bars. According to Lee, she got the idea for her business after making special recipes for her nephew who has severe allergies. She perfected the all-natural foods her nephew could eat and now offers her product at the market. Like many others she relies on the business from Soda City Market to drive her company.

“This is our only store, hopefully being in Soda City will help us expand one day,” Lee said.

Soda City Market generates memorable stories for customers and vendors alike. Stacy Nicholson runs 19 Acres Candles with her husband Julian. Nicholson described how she and her husband first decided to set up their business at Soda City after a date to the market a few years back.

“We fell in love with it and thought it would be a great opportunity,” Nicholson said.

The Nicholsons have been at Soda City since January and have already been able to expand their business from revenue earned at the market. After beginning at Soda City with just one tent, the couple has expanded to two. The tents crawl with customers eyeing the various candles and bath products.

The success of the Soda City Market has even attracted businesses from outside the state. Britt Misenheimer runs CLT Boutique out of Charlotte, North Carolina, but comes to Columbia each Saturday for the market.

“It’s something I can count on every week, I have never gone home disappointed,” said Misenheimer.

Misenheimer already has a successful business in Charlotte. Her clothes and fashion accessories are popular on social media such as Instagram and she has done pop-up shows for her boutique.

At Soda City, Misenheimer displays her wares in a small trailer. The young entrepreneur darts in and out of it as she greets customers. When it comes to her business, Misenheimer taps into the Soda City Market energy. She glows when talking about her experience at the market and the exposure it has given her boutique. She values what Soda City gives her company, talking about the extra profit it provides.

“I wish they would survey the businesses here and record their profit. The amount of money being put back into the local economy has to be tremendous,” she said.

Soda City Market is growing rapidly and it shows by attracting out-of-state businesses like CLT Boutique. Columbia city officials have begun to notice the market’s success also. Ryan Coleman, the director of Columbia’s Office of Economic Development, says the market benefits the city.

“I think Soda City has been great for the city of Columbia. It’s a great community draw every week,” said Coleman.

Coleman also notes that the market even enhances local businesses not involved in it.

“People are not just going to the market. A lot of them are going to other restaurants and businesses downtown which benefits the local economy,” said Coleman.

Coleman says Soda City’s success may be due to capitalizing on a new trend.

“If you look at national trends, farmers markets are hot right now. People want their produce fresh and locally grown,” said Coleman.

Soda City Market is trending up and provides fresh produce along with a myriad of other shopping options. Take a stroll down Main Street on a Saturday morning and it is easy to understand why. The market is vibrant and filled to the brim with different foods, goods, and culture. Its customers are loyal as well. The market runs year-round and shoppers show up in all types of weather.

“I drove through in the winter when it’s cold and overcast but people are still out there shopping,” said Coleman

On the surface it may just seem like Soda City Market is an oversized farmer’s market. However, the market is redefining the shopping and entertainment experience. At Soda City, one can buy fresh vegetables, meats, dairy and an artisan-crafted gift for a loved one all at the same place.

The convenience of Soda City is a large part of its appeal in addition to the entertainment aspect. The market has blossomed into an activity for all ages. All types of demographics can be seen at the market. Children laugh and play while frequenting the fresh lemonade stands. Meanwhile elderly people get their fill from the vast array of handcrafted art and pottery.

Mitchener is a print journalism senior

Maybe it’s the Pink Lipstick

Kristy Martin touring the streets of London during her semester abroad.
Courtesy of Kristy Martin.

By Zoe Gertz

On a cool fall night in Florence, Italy, Kristy Martin was following her nightly beauty regimen before crawling into bed. She listened to the sounds of her roommates’ heels shuffling down the cobblestone streets toward the local bar before turning off the light. She had been waiting for a call. The call.

After a summer of interning for Bergdorf Goodman in New York, New York, Martin was told that she would be contacted in late September about a job opportunity. She set her phone volume to its loudest setting; she just had a feeling. Similar to the feeling you have as a little kid in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve when you know Santa Claus is near. She lay awake waiting, trying to temper her optimism and excitement.

Just as she closed her eyes, her phone screen illuminated, buzzed and rang wildly. A call from an unknown number gave rise to anticipation and anxiety in her chest. Could this be it? Her heart fluttered. Her hands trembled as she answered. She had been offered a position with Neiman Marcus upon graduation in December. Alone at midnight in her cozy Italian apartment, Martin sprung out of bed and squealed with excitement. She landed her dream job. It was a long and arduous process, but she had done it.

“The most important thing in life is no matter how many times you get knocked down, you just have to stand back up again,” said the 22-year-old assistant beauty buyer for Neiman Marcus.

Born into a long line of highly motivated business professionals, Martin always had a fervent work ethic, a curiosity to explore and a drive that would eventually turn her into a beauty buyer for one of the world’s leading luxury retailers. This success wasn’t achieved without struggle, though. “I didn’t come from a fashion background with family members in the industry. I was just always drawn to clothes and dressing up,” she said.

Martin’s younger sister, Emily, quoted their family’s guiding principle, “finish strong no matter what you’re doing.” This saying is the driving force behind Martin’s fortitude.

After her sophomore year at the University of South Carolina, Martin applied to more than 100 internships to no avail. “I think that was so discouraging because you’re putting yourself out there so many times only to get turned away and ask yourself what you’re missing,” she said.

Something had to give.

“I finally heard back from a personal styling internship program in Chicago. It was my first foot in the door and I was ecstatic,” said Martin.

Martin spent the summer of 2015 assisting two senior stylists with personal shopping appointments and in-home styling. She prepped for client sessions by scheduling appointments, pulling looks and ordering supplies. Although her internship was busy and rewarding, she was eager to see different aspects of the fashion business. Martin was hooked and wanted more.

She returned to USC in the fall for her junior year and moved in with best friend and fellow fashion enthusiast, Lindsay Riggins. Martin and Riggins were a dynamic duo known across the on-campus fashion scene. From leadership roles on Fashion Board to serving as brand representatives and writing blogs, these women collaborated with many organizations.

“Our friendship is, at times, very business-oriented and other times its very sisterly,” said Riggins. As the school year progressed, they began applying to competitive summer internships together. “It was nice to have someone that was working towards the same thing,” said Riggins. The pair held each other accountable during this rigorous process while recognizing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Martin’s acute attention to detail and far reaching aspirations sometimes overwhelmed the friendship. Somewhere between networking and submitting applications, Martin and Riggins were offered top-ranking fashion internships for the summer of 2016.

As Riggins moved to Seattle, Washington to intern for Nordstrom, and Martin moved to New York, New York to intern for Bergdorf Goodman, they acclimated themselves to the ins and outs of the fashion retail industry.

Martin’s magnanimous and magnetic personality helped her thrive in the Bergdorf Goodman Corporation. She got firsthand experience with the buying process, vendor relations and a mentor who she will never forget.

Martin admits to being a nervous and shy public speaker. Speech professors criticized Martin for talking too quickly, reading from her notes and lacking confidence. She grew accustomed to the condemnation, but felt a lack of encouragement and support.

It was not until Martin’s final presentation at Bergdorf Goodman that she experienced an overwhelming sense of confidence and poise while public speaking. In a tense room filled with top executives, Martin presented her final project. After the presentation, her buying mentor applauded her efforts and said that she was a great public speaker.

“You just need that one person to tell you that you can do it,” said Martin. “I couldn’t ever grow from negativity. Now, when I have interviews or presentations, I always think back to my buying mentor and her support.”

Another mentor in Martin’s professional pursuit is retired USC retail professor, Dr. Sallie Boggs. Boggs was tremendously influential during Martin’s undergraduate studies as a professor and a dear friend. Upon completing all courses taught by professor Boggs, Martin stayed in touch by e-mailing, meeting for lunch and sending photos from New York and Italy. “Kristy has a deep sense of connection and she is authentic,” said Boggs.

Martin recently spoke to one of Boggs’ retailing classes about her summer with Bergdorf Goodman, a semester abroad in Italy, graduation and her position with Neiman-Marcus in Dallas, Texas. She created a PowerPoint presentation focusing on advice to students. She shared her contact information for any questions and advice. “I cannot adequately describe the impact she had on my students – it was profound,” said Boggs.

As someone who would never ask others to do anything she is not willing to do herself, Martin earns the respect and admiration of everyone she works with. As a diligent worker, creative thinker, compassionate friend and sharp businesswoman, Martin knows the secret to success.

From her grit and determination to her wit and encouraging nature, Martin never ceases to pay it forward and inspire others to succeed. Upon being asked what she thinks people compliment her on most, Martin said, “probably my hot pink lipstick that I wear almost everyday. It’s kind of my signature.”

Certainly the compliments could be endless, but how humble of her to think that it’s all about the pink lipstick.

Gertz is a public relations senior

Healing Through Art

Above are two pieces of artwork from Cochran’s series “Unwanted Presence.”
Courtesy of Sarah Cochran.

By Ann Baldwin

Dipping a fine paintbrush into a generous glob of oil paint, Sarah Valeria Cochran quietly scans a large, white stretched canvas.  Her eyes follow the faint pencil lines of a previously sketched nude portrait of herself standing upright and strong. She doesn’t seem to notice the presence of anyone or anything around her, even when her floppy goldendoodle, Maya, comes barreling through the door.  For Cochran, a 25-year-old Asheville, North Carolina- based artist, the last piece in her chronological telling of her experience on the morning she was sexually assaulted two years ago is a bittersweet relief.  She calls her series, “Unwanted Presence.”

While the majority of Cochran’s work loudly explores feminism and the female identity, her current series has served as a personal journey—a chance for her to confront an experience that she silenced and held in for years.

“After my experience with sexual assault, I didn’t talk about it. I was conflicted about what to do.  I blamed myself even though I was the victim and it wasn’t my fault,” she said as she stared at her finished pieces scattered around the room. Cochran’s husband, Sean, remembers being angry and heartbroken when he found out about what had happened, “What happened that day has carried on throughout her life, it changed a lot about how she feels in a home—how I feel in a home.”

During a story circle exercise for her graduate school program, Cochran publicly told her story for the first time.  It was the first time that she had allowed herself to openly express what took place the morning of her assault.  It served as the beginning of what she believes to be a long overdue process of healing. “We had 2 minutes to talk about an event that had changed our life.  I kept telling myself not to talk about it but when my turn came I just let it out.  It made me realize that I had a lot of issues with my experience that I had ignored and hadn’t dealt with, so I started this series as a way to heal through my artwork and as a way to be open and talk about what happened.”

All of the portraits in the series focus on light.  The first portrait portrays Cochran before the assault, her green eyes and dainty features highlighted by streams of golden light. It captures a sense of beauty and innocence that her former roommate and D.C. based mixed media artist, Mills Brown, describes as “a feeling of allure”—a beauty that hints at the darker side of the series.

As the series progresses, the portraits become more abstract with loose brushstrokes that symbolize her mental and emotional unraveling.  In looking at the nude portraits, Brown describes how, in a way, the viewer assumes the role of the unwanted onlooker, admiring the female nude for its beauty, a role that speaks to centuries worth of normalization and obsession with the female body still prevalent today.

While the series of portraits are haunting and at times hard to digest, Cochran says the most difficult part of the series was the fact that she had to paint from photographs.  “I have to paint from a photograph, so I’ve been reenacting the scene, reliving it and photographing myself in that moment. It’s probably been the hardest part and it’s weird because I’ll share the paintings with people but I refuse to share the photographs with anyone.”

In the process of reenacting the experience for her photographs, Cochran found herself body-shaming and retaking photographs when she felt too ugly.  “I had to step back and ask myself why I was trying to make it seem like this was some beautiful and glamorous thing,” she said. The concept ties into the research that she has been doing on feminist theory and thought for her graduate work.

After she began her series, the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal became public and the #MeToo campaign took hold, events that Cochran describes as far from a coincidence. The campaign made her realize that people everywhere, men and women, have experienced situations like she.

In talking about what happened to her and in expressing it through her artwork, she was able to connect with people who had gone through the same thing and worse—people who had been silenced like she had. Through connection and allowing herself to confront the experience, Cochran was able to make it to the last piece in her series.  “The piece I’m working on right now is the largest in the series, it’s a full body piece and it’s called “Reclamation.”  It’s a reclaiming of myself and my body.”  At the close of the series, Cochran feels ready for it to end.  “I feel like I’m almost kind of sick of exploring this, it’s certainly been emotionally and mentally exhausting.”

Most of Cochran’s artwork is made during her small amount of free time.  On weekdays, she works at an all male boarding school in North Carolina as a theatre and advanced placement art teacher—a role that she says can be challenging at a male-dominated school that celebrates generalized notions of masculinity.  “It’s really challenging, especially at an all boys school that celebrates athleticism and masculinity and associates the arts and theater with femininity and weakness. It’s a very lonely place to work at times. With that being said, I have to remind myself that there are students here with a desire to be creative that they can’t contain—that’s why I’m there.”

Cochran’s impact on her students is strong and lasting, as she uses her role as a young female and feminist to teach her students how to exist in a world that is far more diverse than what they will experience in their years at the boarding school. She focuses on encouraging students to find their own voice and accept who they are instead of conforming to the status quo—something she embodies in her artwork and everyday life.

Preston Coleman, a current freshman at Elon University and former student of Cochran’s, says that even though he is in college now, a hundred miles away from his former teacher, she still pushes him to be his best.

“Sarah brings her strong femininity to work and lets her students know that it’s O.K. to go against the grain and be different. She isn’t afraid to be the confident and inspiring woman that most students haven’t seen in the classroom before.”

After being bullied for being a theater kid during his first few years of high school, Coleman was left feeling alone and without support.  During his junior year, he met Cochran for the first time and everything changed. “She taught me that in order to be myself, I needed to accept my differences.  She remains one of the most influential people in my life and I cannot wait to see what she accomplishes as an artist.”

Baldwin is a public relations senior.