Historic Columbia has found their new director of marketing and communications. Cory France steps in as leader of the marketing department and will be the spokesperson from the organization.
Q. For the people that don’t know who you are, tell us about yourself.
A. I am a sort of a gumbo. In me, you’ll find unapologetic Black, Queer, and Southern energy. Of course, you may want to be careful when you prepare your bowl because it comes packed with a little spice too. However, it won’t be complete until you sprinkle a whole lot of wit on top. Then, you’ve got me in a nutshell. All jokes aside, I am many things. Over the past 28 years, I’ve been everything from a classically trained percussionist, a nomadic grad student, a public health consultant, a bail agent (slash undercover reformist) — it’s hard to keep up with myself. One thing I know for sure: I have always been an around-the-clock advocate. Maybe it came from my mother being such a civic-minded, outspoken woman or my father being such a non-stop rebel with a cause. But, I’m going to roll with it.
Q. What significance does Historic Columbia provide the public?
A. Historic Columbia is well-known and proven thought leader in the historic and cultural preservation space. Not only are we providing enriching avenues for people in our community to engage with the remnants and gems of their rich past, but we are using each opportunity to gain further insight about the roadblocks that might impede one’s access to these heralded spaces and to build better pathways for those who will occupy our city in the future. Not only is Historic Columbia fighting each day to preserve each of our legacies, but they are providing unique experiences that force us to pay attention, dig deeper, and unravel the truth. I think we could all benefit from having that within reach — especially in the current times when the average person virtually lives in our devices.
Q. What about Columbia’s history interest you?
A. There’s quite a bit, honestly. When it comes to tourism in South Carolina, folks tend to favor Greenville and Charleston. And I get it, these environments are filled with colorful historic homes, beautiful mountains and beaches, and they move at a much faster pace. But, something about living in the nation’s first planned city empowers me. I sort of wear it as a badge of honor. I’d even go far to say that it was Columbia, SC that laid the groundwork for all other cities in the U.S. Pair that with the influence of Black leaders in Columbia from the Reconstruction era until the Civil Rights Movement, you’ve got yourself a rich, colorful legacy and tons of. Most folks don’t even realize the impact African Americans (including those born into slavery) had on communities during the Reconstruction era. Folks of color were knee-deep in the political, social, and economic life of the South. At the time, there were nearly 2,000 African Americans in public office at all levels — many of whom were in/from SC. To state it plainly, we’ve got all the keys and we are slept on.
Q. What’s next?
A. Personally speaking, I look forward to exhuming the stories and legacies of people on the margins (i.e. people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, etc.) who wouldn’t normally be seen and heard. I want to create experiences that not only consider their intersecting needs, but are also authentic and engaging. Historic Columbia has such a smart, creative, and passionate staff of historians. I think what makes our squad even more special is the awareness that while history is cool, it can be complicated and painful as well. Our leadership team is sensitive to that and has been intentional about ensuring that people from all walks of life can have a relationship with our organization and the work we do. You can see that through the evolution of Jubilee Festival, the Columbia City of Women initiative in partnership with WREN, and the updated installations at our historic homes. That’s just the short list, but I won’t give it all away too soon.