The news came swiftly and filled the screens of every local and national news channel. Something bad had happened in my home state, something very bad in a city that I love.
One month earlier, one month, our family had been in Charleston celebrating the college graduation of our youngest child. We rented a house on the beach for a week-long party. The kids moved from house to house over the course of seven days. We fixed dinner one night for 40 people and then jumped down the street the next night for another dinner at another house. We knew these kids, we knew their parents. The bond was tight which made the week both fun and bittersweet.
We said our goodbyes, packed-up the car and headed home on May 17th. It had been a fantastic week, perfect weather and wonderful company. I thought about these kids, our kids, and the bright possibilities ahead of each of them as I drove home. I thought about how much I would miss seeing them, and seeing their parents. For four years I watched these kids grow, change, mature from 18-year-old wide-eye freshman to “worldly” 21 and 22-year-old seniors. I felt good about the future, I felt good about the next generation of citizen and then a 21-year-old changed our world, changed the future, changed his future.
For hours, days, weeks and months I followed this tragic story, glued to the television, absorbing every bit of information I could. This was my home, my backyard. I loved Charleston. I loved the people. I loved the experiences, the history and the food. I had stood on the steps of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, walked by it on Calhoun Street a thousand times. I was vested in this city, both emotionally and financially and still had people who I loved living there as I do today.
I think about these kids, my kids, that 30 days earlier I had spent a joyous week with. They were roughly the same age of the young man who pulled the trigger that killed nine people, nine innocent souls that evening on June 17, 2015 at the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston.
His trail is set to begin on November 7, 2016. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that he is guilty, I think he freely admits he is guilty. It has been reported that his goal was to ignite a race war, he failed. He did succeed in having a symbol, a symbol that many, including myself, no longer viewed as an insignia of honor but as a badge of hate, removed from our statehouse grounds, the confederate flag.
One year ago today and I am still asking myself why, then Orlando, I am still asking why. At what point do we create a conversation, a solution and an action to answer the why’s? Charleston was a hate crime, Orlando was a hate crime. What is the seed that drives this hate? Why?
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton ~ Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Cynthia Hurd ~ Tywanza Sanders ~ Myra Thompson
Ethel Lee Lance ~ Susie Jackson
Rev. Daniel L. Simmons ~ Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor