Today, Thursday, June 25, 2015, is a somber day in the Holy City of Charleston, SC. The first of nine funerals of the innocent victims murdered by the hands of a heartless 21-year-old monster I shall not name — begin today. We in the community know his name. The global world knows his name. He’s received too much ‘15 minutes of fame’ and I cringe whenever I think of him and his skittish, sinister demeanor. The dirty blonde, bowl cut haircut. Looking at his eyes in the images published on TV, he looks – as they say in the South – “so full of the devil.” I actually expected to see horns on his head.
When I was a little girl my Grammy spoke about the church. How she always felt as if she was in the hands of the Lord whenever she went to church. She felt safe, telling me if I got scared, I would always feel safe and be safe inside a church. I believed my Grammy. What happened on Wednesday, June 17, 2015, inside Mother Emanuel AME Church located on Calhoun Street, in the Holy City of Charleston, SC is truly shocking. Murders during Bible Study??? When I heard about the nine shootings I could not believe it. No one shoots and kills people inside a church in the Holy City of Charleston, I thought. This cannot be true. My mind rushed back to 9-11. My body shivered just thinking about these tragedies. The hatred. Racism. Why are some people filled with such hatred?
According to the Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150618/PC16/150619404
“The nine people fatally shot at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church:
Reverend Clementa Pinckney, 41, the primary pastor who also served as a state senator.
Cynthia Hurd, 54, St. Andrews regional branch manager for the Charleston County Public Library system.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a church pastor, speech therapist and coach of the girls’ track and field team at Goose Creek High School.
Tywanza Sanders, 26, who had a degree in business administration from Allen University, where Pinckney also attended.
Ethel Lance, 70, a retired Gailliard Center employee who has worked recently as a church janitor.
Susie Jackson, 87, Lance’s cousin who was a longtime church member.
DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, a retired director of the local Community Development Block Grant Program who joined the church in March as a pastor.
Myra Thompson, 59, a pastor at the church.
Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, a pastor, who died in a hospital operating room.”
Reportedly, Tywanza Sanders gave his life while struggling to protect his mother, Felicia Sanders, along with Susie Jackson, his aunt. He spoke his last words to the shooter. Sanders and Jackson survived the shootings along with a five-year-old girl. After this period of grief, I plan to write more stories about this tragedy, but for now, it is too close to home. No, I did not have the pleasure of knowing these people; nevertheless, I feel we lost some amazing people.
My husband and I moved to Charleston in late 1974. I worked in a retail store where bigotry was spoken almost daily. I hoped that when we moved away from the State of Georgia, I would find a different atmosphere here in the Holy City. I did not.
I imagine all of the United States of America experience racism. Growing up in a textile mill village, I lived with racism and when I heard others say the “N” word, I corrected them telling them that God don’t love ugly and that is an ugly word of hatred. I refused to allow the color of skin to influence me. I see the good in most people, and when I see others being cruel, I am the first to chime in that “God don’t love ugly.”
After the Emanuel Nine shootings, I’ve seen a different personality within the Holy City. People are actually speaking, exemplifying that Southern hospitality that we in Charleston are so proud to demonstrate — MOST of the time. Seeing their reactions to tourists and strangers makes me proud, although I do question why it takes a tragedy to bring out the best in people.
Now, the hot issue is that flag hanging at the South Carolina State House. Personally, I think it is past the time to move that flag, place it in a museum and MOVE FORWARD into the 21st Century. For years, I have said that South Carolina is still stuck in the 1800’s and the issues about this flag and racism prove my point. I have friends, perhaps now – acquaintances – telling me I am crazy and should be proud of my Southern heritage.
“Maybe I am proud to be a steel magnolia from the South, but Proud of racism? I think not.” And that is when I walk away, telling them this conversation is over. After all, I am an opinionated woman and if my husband and friends cannot change my opinions and my beliefs, why should others try? I am not proud of the hatred many people in our country practice. I am working to remove the four-letter word “hate” from my vocabulary. There is far too much hatred within this world for me to say Hate. In high school, we learned about racism and civil rights. I disagreed with every aspect of criticizing or hating those who were a different color and when I expressed that a lot of us probably had different colors of blood running inside our veins and within our heritage, classmates looked at me with disapproval. My belief is simple – God loves all of us, regardless of the colors of our skin.
Hatred and gun control – that is what we need to work on. Almost every day there is a shooting in the Holy City of Charleston, SC. Isn’t it time that we all embraced – moved forward – and stopped allowing a flag, a gun, or our upbringing to teach us all about hatred? Isn’t it time we stood up to be “Charleston Strong?”