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Why You Can't Kill The Spirit Of Mother Emanuel

BY BEN JEALOUS and JOTAKA EADDY

You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea. Similarly, you can massacre members of a congregation and assassinate the state senator who served as their pastor, but you cannot kill the mission and spirit of the church to which they belong. And the spirit of Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina is one worth preserving, and celebrating, in the wake of this Wednesday's tragic act of domestic terrorism that occurred there.

Emanuel AME Church is the oldest African Methodist Church in the South, and it has long served as a bulwark for organized defiance to white supremacy and discrimination. Founded by freed black slaves, it was affectionately known as "Mother Emanuel," and the institution's history of challenge and resistance mirrors the movement toward racial progress that it fostered in the South.

In 1816, Mother Emanuel church was investigated for its role in a planned slave rebellion organized by Denmark Vesey, one of its founders. Vesey was executed. Then, for thirty years beginning in 1834, its parishioners had to worship secretly because of a ban on black churches. Mother Emanuel was burned down only to be rebuilt, and shut down by the state only to continue operating as a symbol of resilience and devotion. Throughout it all, the congregation endured, and the church hosted dignitaries from Booker T. Washington to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the decades that followed the Civil War.

Mother Emanuel's pastor, who was slain in the violence Wednesday, was a man that we have both had the honor of knowing. Reverend Clementa Pinckney truly represented the mission and movement of Mother Emanuel. Rev. Pinckney was a pastor at age 18, an elected official at age 23, and a South Carolina state senator at age 27. He was known for his kindness, his commitment to community, and his strong and passionate voice. He fought for police accountability and gun control in a state where both fights were uphill battles, but in the spirit of his church he did not let that defeat him.

There were eight other victims that day: Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cythia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, Susie Jackson, DePayne Doctor. Three men and six women total, together they represented mothers, grandmothers, pastors, community leaders, coaches and college graduates. In short, they represented a devoted and beloved community in the best black church tradition. Their moment of reflection—each praying alone and in unison at once—tragically cut short.

Wednesday's attack, which was motivated by racial hatred, will not be the first time that the congregation of Mother Emanuel church faced an outside force that simply could not abide the thought of its continued existence.

Yet, the church still stands, and on Thursday afternoon its congregation and the community joined hands for a powerful rendition of "We Shall Overcome." In Hebrew, Emanuel means "God is with us", and there is no doubt that God will remain with the congregation that has seen so much pain, yet so much triumph. Mother Emanuel AME will overcome and her spirit will be stronger still.

Ben Jealous is Partner at Kapor Capital and former president and CEO of the NAACP. Jotaka Eaddy, a native South Carolinian and member of the A.M.E. church, is a political strategist and advocate and former Senior Advisor at the NAACP.


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Emmanuel AME And The Buoyancy Of Hope

BY LEE A. DANIELS

Rev. Clementa Pinckney and his fellow congregants of Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. gathered as usual in the historic edifice June 17 for their Wednesday evening prayer service. They came, as always, to refresh their religious faith, to testify and bear witness to the importance of living a life of righteousness and to extend to all, including the stranger in their midst, their welcome and their trust.

How could they know that he represented a monstrous evil that would consume them?

So, once again, American society has been wounded by the dangerous forces of hatred and violence that have always shadowed the gleaming idealism of the American Creed. As usual when the mask of American innocence slips, the crowd that loves to glibly boast of “American exceptionalism” ran for cover. Fox News propagandists led the way in desperately fleeing from the clear evidence of Dylann Roof’s racism. Instead, they claimed he was striking against Christianity and “religious freedom.” Revealingly, the same pose was adopted by the Internet’s overtly White-supremacist websites and the trolls of the right-wing Twitter mob.

But Dylann Roof’s own words and Facebook posts leave no doubt of his motivation—and leave no room for the cowardice of not confronting them.

President Obama gave voice to “the heartache and the sadness and the anger” the massacre provoked in decent people when he said, “we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries … with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it … the politics in [Washington] foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. At some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”

In those words the president spoke, substitute for “gun violence” the words “slavery” and/or “racism” and you have why, for many Black Americans, the terrorist attack at Emanuel AME scourged a profound historically-rooted pain.

Yet, even in this moment of grief, we ought to recognize the several truths that offer “the buoyancy of hope,” said the president, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

One truth lies in our learning something of the very people – a cross-section of the American people—who were gunned down. Their being lost to the whirlwind of evil shouldn’t be allowed to obscure their fundamental goodness and commitment to Christianity’s most cherished precepts—as shown in their families’ heart-rending declarations of forgiveness toward Roof. “We are the family that love built,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, sister of DePayne Middleton-Doctor, during the June 19 court hearing on the charges against Roof. Middleton-Brown said her family has no room for hate in their hearts, before adding that “I also thank God I won’t be around when your judgment days comes with him.”

The tragedy has also underscored the real and symbolic meaning to Black Americans of the Black Church. It was and remains our piece of the rock: A refuge against the storm of racism and malicious indifference that has swirled about us outside its walls. A vault that has held the treasures of fellowship and the space to practice communal leadership as well as religious faith. And an armory where Black Americans forged and buffed to a luminous shine both their civic faith in the American Ideal and the weapon—nonviolent protest—they would use to demand the full measure of their American citizenship.

Another insight is that Emanuel AME is “historic” not just because of its early 19th-century founding but because it met again and again the challenge of being a full-service Black communal institution. In that regard, Mother Emanuel is, thankfully, far from unique. Innumerable Black communities across the country have a “Mother Church” of this or that Protestant denomination whose roots go back to at least the late 1800s.

Another bright gleam the tragedy cannot extinguish was the immediate rush of people of all backgrounds to stand in solidarity with the congregants of Mother Emanuel. That was most dramatically illustrated by the actions of Debbie Dills and Todd Frady, two White North Carolinians whose call to a local police officer in the morning of June 18 directly led to Dylann Roof’s capture. Dills, who spotted Roof in his car while she was driving to her job at Frady’s florist shop, said, “I saw the news coverage last night. … Since it happened I was praying for them and the church. I was in the right place at the right time that the Lord puts you.”

That shining compassion, sense of kinship and determination to redeem a terrible wrong both illustrate and justify “the buoyancy of hope” that has always fueled black Americans’ faith in America and in their march toward the future.

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His essay, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Great Provocateur,” appears in Africa’s Peacemakers: Nobel Peace Laureates of African Descent (2014), published by Zed Books. His new collection of columns, Race Forward: Facing America’s Racial Divide in 2014, is available at www.amazon.com.


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Charleston Killer: Another Lethal Mind With Means And Motives

BY HAKIM HAZIM

Doctor: And where do you live Simon? Simon (demon within offender patient May Hobbes): I live in the weak and wounded… doc.” Excerpt from the movie Session 9 .

I often reflect on the fictional entity Simon—in the movie above, Session 9, when dealing with or studying violent offenders and criminality. Simon was an evil entity that attached itself to weak and wounded individuals—eventually taking them over entirely and compelling them to kill. Let me state for the record that as a Black man and a Christian, I believe in evil and a devil as surely as I do in Christ and angels. Let me also be clear in this regard, people don’t need the help of dark forces to kill. It’s already in our nature. To spiritualize everything would be a mistake and bad theology. Dylan Roof found a cause. He thought about it; embraced it and shocked the world. This craving for attention was simply manifested in the quickest way to headlines—violence. I refuse to make this solely about race. It is true he hated Blacks. It’s also true he is a terrorist and evil predator who found a cause. Dylan is just one more case of a deviant, young lethal mind with the means and motives to carry out his mission. Their number is increasing, and this is much bigger than a race issue. Here’s why.

Homicidal folks are able to tell us why they chose their course action and often do. Our current explanations don’t match the diverse profiles of those who engage in these binges whether here in the states or abroad. The mentally ill Cho Seung-Hui of Virginia Tech left us his rambling reasons about the wealth and indifference of society, and former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner followed suit in a diatribe about injustice and racism. Madman Anders Breivik of Norway was calling Europe back to its racially pure heritage. Their desire did not need to be unmasked; they clearly told us why. (Although Sandy Hook perpetrator Adam Lanza gave no reason for his sadistic actions, but it is clear he wanted to leave a statement and be remembered.) We should also remember the Santa Barbara Killer, Elliot Rodger and his obsession with women and his hatred toward black males. For these offenders, violence was the public vehicle to call attention to their arrival and the twisted views the publicized, hoping to imprint their image on public consciousness into the foreseeable future.

Recognition deviant killers feed off public spectacles of bloodshed. They seek to engage in acts that simultaneously traumatize and mesmerize viewers—us, while seeking to inspire or recruit those of a similar bent mind. As it is with all scientific inquiry, we now look for repeatable observable phenomena that will yield answers to the spike in mass murderers. We should use these crises as opportunities to channel public outrage toward real solutions. The political, racial, and emotional dialogue that leads to finger pointing about the root causes of violence must be replaced with research driven approaches. Social science already reveals some answers and we need to heed the data. There are lethal minds among us that commit these types of crimes and the majority of the participants are young, alienated, troubled males. They are “wounded and weak” on many levels. We should start there. We need honest analysis.

Often in crises it brings out our best and brightest, but it also brings out all types sycophants and their hidden agendas. We have to guard against this, or every crisis that befalls us will be hijacked by irrational solutions. My hope is common sense and research will prevail.

Hakim Hazim is the founder of Relevant Now and co-founder of Freedom Squared . He is a nationally recognized expert in decision analysis, criminality and security.