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Healing Since The Emanuel Murders A Matter of Platitude Or Attitude
6/15/2016 3:19:26 PM

A group of local clergy and community leaders pray outside of the historic Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where a gunman opened fire on a prayer meeting killing nine people on the night of June 17, 2015. Photo: Joel Woodhall

J.A. Moore
By Barney Blakeney

Since the tragic June 17, 2015 murders of nine worshippers at Emanuel AME Church, the word healing often is used to reference the community in its aftermath, especially regarding race relations. But has there truly been healing or just good sounding platitudes?

Last week as the community and nation criticized Emanuel AME Church leadership and the AME Church hierarchy over the distribution of donations made to the church and families after the massacre and the leadership’s blatant neglect of the massacre’s survivors, several families demonstrated some examples of healing that’s taking place.

One example is Passion to Forgive, a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower youth by providing educational programming and resources to underserved youth and their families established by the survivors of Myra Singleton Thompson.

Thompson’s brother, James A. Moore, said for his family the healing process will be lifelong. That’s part of the reason Thompson’s son, Kevin Singleton, started Passion to Forgive. June 2 the non-profit awarded a $1,000 scholarship to each of five local graduating high school seniors. The organization is planting seeds that will be nurtured by the blood of those who were murdered, he said.

Cynicism about racial healing comes naturally based on the history of race relations in our community, Moore said. But he doesn’t expect that ‘healing’ will come from any external reality. While our community is in a better space since the June 17 tragedy at Emanuel, not much has changed about Charleston County schools or black business participation in the local economy, Moore said.

The massacre at Emanuel has created a unique situation that never can be considered normal, but it does offer an opportunity to derive something positive from that negative. The Passion to Forgive organization is one form of the healing taking place, Moore said.

Myra Thompson’s husband, Anthony Thompson, thinks forms of healing are happening on individual levels. Pastor of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston, Thompson says he talks to a lot of people, many offering stories about their prior concepts of race relations and how the murder of his wife and others massacred at Emanuel is transforming those concepts. The tragedy provides healing for them, Thompson said. His own healing came at the bond hearing for the accused murderer, Dylann Roof.

“I told him I had forgiven him and that he should confess his sins and give his life to Christ. At that moment, for me, the healing process began. Some strange things are happening. When I talk to people, I see it in their faces and hear it in their voices, people are searching for ways and looking for things to do that will help us come together,” Thompson said.

Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott said for her, Charleston healing is more tangible and evidenced in things like police/community interactions. Coming together is more than platitudes. It’s also about attitudes.

She noted a week after the murders at Emanuel, Charleston County School board members continued the controversial interviewing process in its racially charged search for a schools superintendent at the district headquarters located only a block from the site of the killings. A month later, the July 22 death of Joyce Curnell while being held at the Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston stunned a community asking why her death went unnoticed for more than eight months.

The almost immediate removal of the Confederate Flag from the S.C. Statehouse grounds after the Emanuel murders offers no quantitative measure of change or healing, Scott said. There still are too many examples of inequity. “Although I can’t sing ‘We Shall Overcome’, a lot more people are doing the right things,” she added.

Myra Thompson’s sister-in-law Victoria Rae Boynton Moore, may have most appropriately expressed how Charleston is healing when she said, “Things make a difference even if they only make small ripples. It does no good to get angry about others’ insincerity. Unity is a long term thing and it doesn’t happen in one year.”

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