Tragedy Strikes CharlestonYasmine Regester / June 26, 2015
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The world is still reeling from the violence that took place on June 17 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
Authorities say that 21 year-old Dylann Roof entered the church while a group of parishioners were having Bible Study around 9 p.m. He stayed and worshiped with the group before opening fire and executing nine church members. Founded in 1816, Emanuel AME Church in Charleston is one of the nation’s oldest Black churches.
The incident is being called a hate crime because Roof is White and all the victims were Black. It also comes during a time of unrest regarding the treatment of African Americans in America, which manifested itself previously in protests over police shootings, including one in North Charleston, S.C.
The nine victims have been identified as: S.C. Senator/Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Cythia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74 – Died at MUSC; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45. Myra Thompson, 59.
A week after the shooting, the Greensboro community is responding to the call for the improvement of race relations in the city by advocating for open dialogue and community building.
On Monday night, 350 people gathered at United Congregational Church of Christ (UCC) to talk about racism and understanding White privilege. The meeting was an effort of the City-Community Working Group that meets every week to discuss issues of race, racial equity and relationships with law enforcement. The working group includes a range of community, faith and city leaders. One suggestion from those meetings has been to hold parallel meetings on race relations in various communities across the city.
“The White people in this group decided to step up and talk about ways that we can be a part of the conversation. It’s time to take responsibility for racial inequity, for racism. Time to break the silence,” said Rev. Julie Peeples, pastor of UCC.
The majority White audience at Monday’s meeting heard statistics on racial disparities, information on the Scales brothers case and held conversations on how to break down the racism that still exists.
Peeples stated when it comes to racism, people want to focus on the victims, when the problem is the larger society and the systems that have been set up to perpetuate racism.
“What we need to look at is the culture that fosters this bias way of thinking,” noted Peeples.
AME churches across North Carolina are showing their solidarity with the families of those killed in South Carolina. Rev. Alphonso McGlen, pastor of Bethel AME Zion Church in Greensboro, noted that some members of his congregation have family members and direct ties to the South Carolina congregation.
“We are feeling the pain with the victims’ families and that congregation because we’re connected to them through our faith, denomination, and as people of color. But we’re not going to let this deter us. The doors of the church are still open to all people,” said McGlen. “It’s clear that evil and hatred knows no boundaries, even in sacred places, so we’re going to have to be wiser in our vigilance.”
McGlen is heading to Charleston on Friday, June 26 to attend the funeral of Rev. Pinckney.
Greensboro’s faith community is rallying together to help unite the community around eliminating racism. Rabbi Andy Koren of Temple Emanuel said the conversation should be focused on improving race relations in the city.
“Particularly, I think work needs to be done to counter bigotry, bias and racism within our world. Those are efforts that will be continued to be done by Temple Emanuel and the greater Greensboro community,” said Koren.
Temple Emanuel read the names of the victims and honored them during a special portion of Friday night’s services.
“One of the focal points in this time in history has to be voting rights and continuing to put the emphasis on countering institutional racism. The challenge is to make the 21st century different than what the 20th, 18th and 19th centuries were, in terms of how African Americans are treated,” said Koren.