By Barney Blakeney
As the Charleston community prepares to observe the second anniversary of the June 17, 2015 murder of nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church the official two-week-long observance is being met with some trepidation.
Confessed murderer Dylann Roof in December was convicted of the murders and was sentenced to death. Roof espoused his desire to start a race war by committing the murders. The Charleston community responded with an unprecedented outpouring of forgiveness and compassion in response. But that response, in the eyes of many, has not translated into significant change in race relations.
As Roof went to trial in December, Victoria Boynton Moore, sister-in-law of Myra Thompson who was among Roof’s victims, said the mentality that produced Dylan Roof still exists. We must address that, she said.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg has emerged as a compassionate proponent for equality and human interest initiatives, but his administration has rejected requests from the Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM) to further address what CAJM considers the disproportionate traffic stops of black motorists. According to CAJM, 50 percent of Charleston police traffic stop are of black motorists and the police department leads the state in the number of traffic stops.
On June 16, 2017 The Charleston Forum, an event being held in conjunction with Emanuel’s commemoration of the anniversary, 5p.m.-10 p.m. at the Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. will host a discussion on issues facing Charlestonians, South Carolinians, and citizens all across the United States. The Forum will feature some 30 speakers who hopefully will shine a spotlight on the different perspectives on race dividing our country today and also proposed steps forward.
According to one Charleston County official, that effort is necessary. “I don’t see any change (in race relations),” he said. “We get hung up on observances, but when the county proposed two new libraries in predominantly Black communities in the county, the backlash from the white community held up the process more than two years.” One of the libraries will be named in honor of Cynthia Hurd, a victim of the massacre.
“A lot of people honor her dedication to education and a reading program is being named for her, but when it came to whites having to come into the Black community to go to the library, we had a fight. It’s good that there will be discussions about race relations, but after the discussion, we have to take it back into our homes,” he said.