Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Time for Remembrance

Mother Emanuel AME Church
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church sits just two blocks from where we are staying in Charleston. It was founded in 1816, while Charleston was still a center of the slave trade, and is the oldest AME church in the south, often referred to as "Mother Emanuel". In 1822, one of the church's founders was suspected of planning a slave rebellion. He and 34 others were publicly hanged, and the church itself was burned to the ground. The rebuilt church and the churches of all other black congregations were closed by the city in 1834, and members met in secret until after the end of the Civil War. 

Four years ago yesterday, on the anniversary of the 1822 hanging, Mother Emanuel was the site of another unspeakable crime when a white supremacist named Dylan Roof opened fire during a prayer service, murdering nine innocent people and wounding four others. His actions were motivated by nothing but hatred, and he was convicted of 33 federal charges including murder and hate crimes. In January of 2017 he was sentenced to death.

Tomorrow evening, we will attend a candlelight vigil in the Gaillard Center Memorial Gardens across the street from the church, in remembrance of the lives and legacies of the Emanuel 9 and the four survivors of the shooting. It is sponsored by the Church, the City of Charleston, and other collaborative partners. 

Unfortunately, we live in an era when there are far too many senseless acts of violence. Some are simply insane and aimed at random strangers while others, like this one, are directed at particular groups or individuals. Being close to the site of such tragedy drives it home to us, and we join in the sorrow and grieving of this community.  Amidst such pain, it is right and appropriate to honor those whose lives were lost, and we feel privileged to be able to participate.

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