The last two days I have struggled with the horrifying massacre at Emanuel American Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. The more I learn about that historic church and the beautiful people who were killed, the deeper I grieve.
I am struck by how Rev. Clementa Pinckney described his public service, which began when he was 23 and elected to the South Carolina House of Representative and by 27 he was a state senator: “I see my public life as a extension of my ministry,” he told the Post and Courier. “I believe in a progressive, holistic ministry where you are mentally, politically and socio-economically involved. Faith is not just getting you to heaven.”
Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, mother of 4 and frequent preacher at Emanuel, was 47 when she was among those shot and killed. I am especially taken by the letter the Middleton family put out acknowledging her death.
The very thing many of us fight against—a deeply masked and far reaching culture of violence in our society—has devastated our family. This past Wednesday night during bible study and prayer service, a gunman filled with a racist heart entered the historical Mother Emanuel AME Church of Charleston, South Carolina and opened fire on the 12 persons gathered there. Only three people survived the attack.
Our loved one, Rev. Depayne Middleton, was among those killed. Ever since her death was confirmed, our family has been met with unspeakable pain and grief. Our hearts are troubled, but our faith remains steadfast, trusting and believing in God’s power to mend our broken hearts.
At this time of grave personal loss, we ask you for two things. First, please keep our family and our church community at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in your prayers. Next, please move away from the sidelines and unite together- regardless of your faith or religious practice- to seek an end to hatred and violence.
What happened to our family is part of a larger attack on Black and Brown bodies. To impact change, we must recognize the connection between racism, hate crimes and racialized policing. While the focus for this specific attack was on African Americans, we all have a responsibility to seek not only justice for the victims, but an end to racial injustice.
We should put our faith to action, making a conscious decision to be more than empty drums that have long lost their melodies. In South Carolina the Confederate flag – an unequivocal symbol of hate – remains on statehouse grounds. We must demand the flag be removed immediately – we cannot let icons of racism fly free within our society.
We call on all people, public officials, faith leaders and Americans from all walks of life to help address the festering sores of racism as it spurs an unforgiving culture of violence. This is a big task but may become more manageable if we work together and if all people see the attack in Charleston as an attack on their own families and loved ones.
If you are in the Chicago area, I invite you to join me this Sunday at 2pm for an interfaith call to unity to acknowledge our grief and shared resistance to hate.
At the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 4301 West Washington Blvd.
Here's what has been shared about the gathering:
Interfaith and Interracial CALL TO UNITY In memory of the MARTYRS OF THE CHARLESTON CHURCH MASSACRE
When: SUNDAY, JUNE 21, 2015 AT 2pm
When: SUNDAY, JUNE 21, 2015 AT 2pm
Where: NEW MOUNT PILGRIM MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH, 4301 WEST Washington Blvd, Chicago Blvd
What: "PEOPLE UNITED TO PRESERVE THE SACREDNESS OF HOUSES OF WORSHIP"
HOST: The Leaders Network, Chicago Council of Religious Leaders, American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago
This is a good opportunity to come together with other people of compassion and people of faith.