Tag Archives: Charleston

Emanuel

EmanuelPosterOn the fourth anniversary of the horrific, terrorist attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston by an avowed white supremacist, I had the opportunity to view a new documentary Emanuel.

The event shattered lives and rocked Charleston and the nation. Emanuel powerfully weaves the history of race relations in Charleston, the significance and impact of Mother Emanuel Church, and the hope that somehow emerges in the aftermath.

Featuring intimate interviews with survivors and family members, Emanuel tells a poignant story of justice and faith, love and hate, and examines the healing power of forgiveness.

Emanuel is playing in theaters across the country for two nights – June 17 (tonight) and June 19 (Wednesday). See if it is playing near you and check it out.

Clementa Pinckney
Tywanza Sanders
Daniel Simmons
Sharonda Singleton 
Myra Thompson
Cynthia Hurd
Suzie Jackson
Ethel Lance
DePayne Middleton-Doctor

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Movie, New York

I do not want his death

This is  guest post by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer Oget, associate professor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Thank you Margaret for your words and witness and for allowing them to be shared here.

I know this is not popular, but I don’t want them to execute Dylann Roof.

First, it perpetuates the culture of violence and legitimates the utterly illegitimate system of state-sponsored execution. He becomes the monster who proves the rule.

Second, it treats him as though he is some extraordinary exception that can be rooted out, like a noxious weed, rather than a young adult radicalized by white racist Christianist terrorists intent at creating a race war. Cf. Girard: the Scapegoat

Third, it means he never has to grow up, face what he did, and explain it to himself and to us, aloud. He can die a martyr and never once look in the eyes of the children whose parents he killed, the parents whose children he killed, the parishioners whose pastor he killed, or the legislators whose colleague he killed.

No, I do not want his death. I want those who radicalized him — on trial — for murder. I want their ring dismantled. I want the connections between that ring and the larger structures of systemic racism to become so plain that every and any one can read it.

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Filed under Antiracism, Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty

The work ain’t done in me

I was there. I was in the auditorium at Montreat Conference Center for an amazing, challenging, inspiring event: Dr. King’s Unfinished Agenda.

I was there when we remembered the nine members of the Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church killed by a stranger they had welcomed in the name of Christ. One by one an image of each precious child of God appeared on the screen and we were invited to call their names.

Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd. Say her name.
Susie Jackson. Say her name.
Ethel Lee Lance. Say her name.
The Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor. Say his name.
The Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Say his name.
Tywanza Sanders. Say her name.
The Rev. Daniel Simmons. Say his name.
The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Say her name.
Myra Thompson. Say her name.

I was there in the tender silence after the names had been read. A tender silence that lasted only a moment  I saw someone, a white man, stand. I heard him say something loudly. I did not know who, I was too far away. I did not hear precisely what he said, I attribute that to poor acoustics and my ears being older than I am often willing to admit. I saw and heard but did not know who this was and what this intrusion was.

Now, thanks to the Rev. T. Denise Anderson, I know. She heard. She saw. And in a powerful reflection, she names the speaker and what was said. And I am appalled at what happened. And I am appalled I made no effort to learn what happened and respond.

A long-time social justice activist, Ed Loring, stood and called the name of the person who opened fire upon those who welcomed him into Mother Emmanuel on June 17, 2015. As the Rev. Anderson notes, I have no idea what point he may have been trying to make. That does not matter.

This was a moment to grieve and remember the people who died. Nothing less. And nothing more. It was completely inappropriate and offensive to name anyone else; it was certainly not the moment, not the place to name someone who targeted the people because of the color of their skin. There can be no defense for the outburst.

Perhaps in another setting, where the context was set differently, it might have been appropriate to include this name. Perhaps. People who commit mass murder are sometimes motivated by a desire for publicity; remembering their names feeds that desire. And while individuals are responsible for their actions, the shooting at Mother Emmanuel was fueled by an ideology of white supremacy that has been insufficiently challenged by those, like me, who benefit the most. Hold the person accountable to be sure. But hold the system accountable. And hold those of us who have allowed the system to remain accountable. With that contextual understanding and interpretation, it might be appropriate to include this name. It might.

But in this worship space, where we remembered and named those who died, this act, rooted in privilege, was an affront. In this sacred moment, where we remembered and named those who died, these words, rooted in privilege, were wrong.

I was there. I heard someone, I heard something. And I failed to do anything more. And that reminds me, as the Rev. Anderson writes, “The work surely ain’t done. Surely, it ain’t.”

It surely ain’t. In our society, in our church, the work ain’t done.

In me, the work ain’t done.

God grant me grace to join the work more fully and effectively.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

In response to the killings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

From my friends who have commented on the act of terror that involved the killing of nine people, nine of God’s children, nine of my brothers and sisters, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, I share, with permission, some words that touched me:

This is outrageous – this white terrorist murderer said “you’re raping our women and taking over our country and you gotta go” before killing 9 African Americans, and Fox is trying to spin this as the nutty right wing “Christian persecution” complex that somehow this is part of the war on people with traditional values. This was racial hatred – our own particular American sickness. The white shooter has not been portrayed as a “thug”, or even a terrorist, even though he has a mug shot and was arrested twice in the last 3 months. “We do know we’ll never understand what motivates someone to do this” (Governor Nikki Haley) Yes, we do understand what motivates him – he told them – racial hatred. And a white terrorist, according to the media, must have some sort of mental illness, or bad childhood, some reason to explain his actions, other than that he was raised in the US, where racial hatred is taught and not addressed and is so rampant that our media give this white kid all kinds of white privilege.
– Patrick Evans

What happened in Charleston was not random or senseless. It was an act of domestic terrorism fueled by ever present white supremacy. Church, let’s not live in denial.
– Christine Hong

Senseless (adj.): A word that forever needs to be extracted from our political and national vocabulary, especially after instances of mass violence. We can make sense of the horrific murders of nine black South Carolinians gathering for Bible study– and it starts with confronting a culture which idolizes guns and violence and refuses to acknowledge white supremacy.
– Kyle Cristofolo

Recent events are almost incomprehensible. From the precious lives lost, to how it happened, to the fact that these acts of hate happen way too often, to the policies that allow them to happen, to the hatred and bigotry that undergird the violence. Wish this wasn’t true. RIP, our fellow humans, brothers and sisters, and neighbors. It seems almost trite to say that we send thoughts and prayers to the impacted community…right? But maybe we do that, in combination with holding onto conviction and hope for a better tomorrow, that we have the courage and will for justice to co-construct better and more peaceful communities and country.
– Ester Sihite

And finally, my own words:

I grieve for my brothers and sisters, unknown to me in person yet my family nonetheless, who were killed in Emanuel AME Church. I rage against the racial hatred and anger that apparently resulted in the killing of God’s precious children. I ache at this bloody reminder of the power of the system of racism to shape our behavior. I hear a call, again, still, to work with my sisters and brothers more creatively and effectively to dismantle racism and to build community and to address gun violence. And I pray for the grace and courage and faith and hope to respond.

With thanks for my friends.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Friends, Gun Violence

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reaches out to its sisters and brothers of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston

From the leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reaches out to its sisters and brothers of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston, South Carolina, where nine people were killed when a gunman opened fire Wednesday night during Bible study. We grieve with the families of the victims and members of their church community. We hope the perpetrator is soon captured and brought to justice.

The chief of police in Charleston has named this a hate crime. We know of no other name for a crime that forces a five-year-old child to play dead in her church in order to live. Arresting the shooter is the job of law enforcement. Arresting hate is the work we are all called to do as disciples of Jesus Christ. May God never give up on us as we face our own racism and its tragic impact on congregations, their communities, and our very souls.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, God who has brought us thus far on our way, only you know why someone would enter into your house of worship and open fire on your children. Only you know why hate would run so deep that it would cause one of your creations to kill others you have formed. In our confusion over this senseless act, we appeal to you for understanding and courage to continue to fight for justice. We pray right now for the families of those who lost lives at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. on June 17, and ask that you would wrap your loving arms around them and the entire community. Likewise, we pray for an end to the continued racial unrest and violence that permeates the United States and the world, and ask you to guide us to work earnestly for change. Now unto you who is able to keep us from falling, we pray all these things.

Amen

Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Linda Valentine
Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Heath K. Rada
Moderator, 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Larissa Kwong Abazia
Vice Moderator, 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

 

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Gun Violence, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)