Michael Nolan has spent his life telling stories. After years working as an editor in book publishing, he retired to Charleston with his wife in July 2015 and instantly fell in love with the city. Michael tried to become a licensed tour guide, combing his love of Charleston and love of telling engaging stories. He studied for six weeks, reviewing the manual and riding his bike all over town making sure he could match particular facts with specific buildings. Michael was confident he knew everything he needed to know to give a good tour of Charleston. And he still is: He knows everything he needs to know to give a good tour, but he still did not pass the tour-guide exam, an exam he found heavy on meaningless trivia and offensively light on important topics like slavery and the African-American experience in Charleston. Michael still loves this city and plans to tell its story to visitors, but he will do so because he has a right to say what he wants—not because the city has given him its permission.
Kim, Mike and Michael are all standing up to deliver a simple message to the city of Charleston: Any city that requires a 200-question test and an oral exam before citizens can legally tell stories to tour groups has already flunked every test under the First Amendment.