When Your Hometown Becomes a Headline

“Auntie. Did you see what happened in Charleston?”

It was June 17, 2015. My nephew rarely texted me about news. When I received this text about our hometown, I knew something big must have happened. As I turned on the television, I prepared myself for a hurricane warning or maybe an unexpected earthquake. I sank to my sofa, in horror, as I read the bottom of the screen. A lone, white gunman had murdered 9 people at Emanuel AME Church. He sat through Bible Study with them, shook their hands, listened to the closing prayer and then sprayed the room with bullets. Pictures of the slain came across the screen with their names:

Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Cynthia Graham Hurd
Susie J. Jackson
Ethel Lee Lance
Rev. DePayne Vontrease Middleton
Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney
Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders
Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, Sr.
Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson

Familiar names. Faces I recognized.

My hometown had, once again, become a headline. It had only been two months since Walter Scott had been gunned down by a police officer in a North Charleston field, not far from the house where I grew up. Now, racism and domestic terrorism had hit Mother Emanuel. National news networks descended on my city. It felt strange to hear the Gullah rhythm of the city’s natives; my family, my friends, speaking to journalists. I watched the news with a defense radar. I did not want the Black residents of Charleston to be misrepresented by outsiders seeking click bait. I also did not want Charleston to become another Ferguson. And it didn’t.

A few days after we lost the Emanuel Nine, my hometown became a beacon of light. Thousands packed the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge across the Cooper River. Hands of all races joined in unity against racism and hate. There were no riots. There was no looting. There was…peace. But there is more to be done.

It has been five years. As an election draws near, racism still permeates this country. In previous posts, I have challenged readers to do something. I submit another opportunity to rise to this challenge. A memorial will be built on the site of Emanuel AME Church to honor the nine lives lost with a huge mission.

…teaching new attitudes and behaviors to reverse racism.


You can help accomplish this mission. Please consider giving to the 17 on the 17th Initiative. By donating $17 on the 17th (the date of the Mother Emanuel massacre,) you become a part of the solution. It is a small contribution to building the memorial for the Emanuel Nine and their legacy. My hometown proved that love can triumph over hate, but it takes all of us. For more information, go to www.emanuelnine.org.

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