Alum’s work rooted in call to help low-income
Bernie Mazyck ’81 helped found the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development in 1994. He is currently the president and CEO of SCACED. Previously, he worked with a number of local grassroots nonprofit organizations who were working in low-income communities trying to help them develop affordable housing, create jobs, start businesses, and attract capital to create economic opportunities for the residents. These organizations recognized there needed to be a statewide organization that could assist them in succeeding in their work, and the result was the creation of SCACED.
Mazyck is a native of Summerville where he currently lives and worships at Murray United Methodist Church. He is an ordained deacon in the S.C. Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, serving as the Convener of the Advocacy Work Area at the state level as well as the Charleston District level and is currently helping roll out a Response to Racism effort.
Calling to Help Low-Income
My work with SCACED is rooted in a calling to help the poor. My guiding and calling Scriptures are Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:16. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…” Even before the formation of SCACED, I worked for Coastal Community Foundation, leading a program called The NEW Fund. This program was established to work with and help empower low-income and African American neighborhood leaders to improve the conditions of their community. Our tools were leadership development, small grants, and connecting them to decision makers and funders. The most important and hardest efforts were to convince residents in low-income communities that they were worthy of a better life, and that they could play a significant role in changing the systems that keep them oppressed. This is “The Good News to the Poor…” SCACED grew out of our work at CCF and spread throughout the state.
No Typical Days
My average workday is very unpredictable and diverse. Some days I could be on the phone with members of the S.C. General Assembly and/or staff of the S.C. Congressional delegation discussing state policies and funding needed to help organizations serving low-income/low-wealth-communities improve the conditions in the community. Some days I am meeting with banks, foundations, and corporations seeking support for programs that improve the conditions of our poorest communities. Some days, I am facilitating webinars for member nonprofits to help build their capacity to initiate and fund programs for their communities. Some days I am fulfilling my responsibilities as a board member of the Center for Heirs Property Preservation, Coastal Community Foundation, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Charlotte Board, The Community Steering Committee of Washington-based Prosperity Now. In short, there are no typical days.
Although our network is broad and diverse, we recognize at some level we possess similar values: integrity, diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice. With these values established, we can agree on programs, strategies, and initiatives. All of our partners are seeking to make South Carolina better for all of her citizens, including low-wealth and marginalized residents. We constantly work on trust, inclusion, mutual respect, relationship building, and efforts to walk in our partners’ shoes (empathy).
Importance of Nonprofits
The work of nonprofits is needed now more than ever, because most nonprofits (especially 501©3 organizations) are mission based. Most nonprofits are working to improve the conditions of people, places, or causes that will help move humanity to a more just, equitable, and inclusive society. Nonprofits are uniquely suited to helping to build God’s Kingdom here on earth. Evidence of the importance of nonprofits can be seen in the design of the federally funded Paycheck Protection Program and the CARES Act programs, which made nonprofits eligible to receive funding. I believe the designers of these programs and many others recognized the vital role nonprofits play in addressing the challenges of our communities and changing systems to become fairer and more equitable. The events of the past four years, and especially the past 4 months, have proven how unjust, uncaring, and frankly evil elements of our society can be. But a few good people, working with the right nonprofits who are fighting for justice, can make all the difference in the world.
What I’m Optimistic About
The things that make me optimistic are my faith, the youth, and the people in our communities. I am from a faith tradition, forged in the crucible of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, lynching, and all manner of oppression. This is a faith that has proven to me that no weapon formed against me shall prosper. We have persevered. The young people who have marched for freedom, justice, and equality give me hope. And our communities are hopeful, gifted, and resilient.
Originally published in the Spring 2021 CSU Magazine.