Tag Archives: Mother Emanuel AME Church

In Memory of the Emanuel Nine: Looking for the words

Image result for names of the emanuel 9I looked at their faces this morning and sighed.  “God, help us.”  One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Lives.

They say a cat has nine lives.  But, how many lives does hate have?  Why won’t it die?  How does it continue to live after this?  How can we let it live on in us after this?

Two years ago, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Rev. DePayne Middleton- Doctor and Rev. Daniel Simmons went to church and were murdered by twenty- one year old Dylann Roof.   As both a pastor and a parishioner, this hurts in places I can’t get to and it messes with my faith.

The only death that I think about while in church is that of Christ’s but there’s no crime tape.  No body bag.  No bullets.  No blood.

The Holy Scriptures talk about God as a place of safety and refuge.  And for hate to show up in a place where African Americans have gone to shield themselves from the assaults of society, find solace and support, express themselves apart from the restrictions of the social construct of race and to be seen and fully accepted is tragically unfair.  For this sacred space, a “church home” to be targeted by hate is incomprehensible.

I don’t know what to say or where to find the words to express this grief.  It goes down deep.  I shuffle my feet and begin to put my head between my knees.  I think that I am going to be sick.

“God help us.”

Taking down statues and taking back history: Symbols that segregate

Image result for jefferson davis statue removed

Recently, there has been a push to remove symbols of America’s racial past, specifically those related to American slavery.  In 2015, the Confederate flag came under scrutiny in North Carolina after the murder of nine worshippers at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church by 21 year old Dylann Roof.  Roof wanted to start a race war and the flag seemed to hail a time when African American bodies were legally the enemy, the inhumane, the property of another.  Their death, his aim and that flag reminded many Americans that things had not changed, that we were not as progressive as our politics would have us to believe.

The fight over the flag is proof that some Americans were still on the Confederate side of history, that secession had occurred some place deeper and within the hearts of Americans.  Taking it down was an effort to take back again the truth that Africans and later African Americans were not created as property but as people.  Still, the tug-o-war continues.

And while there are those who would downplay the attack on Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church as an anomaly or the work of some secret hate group that somehow evaded our surveillance for a moment, that would suggest that Roof somehow broke loose from an otherwise harmless group with a morally reprehensible message, that he just got riled up and took it too far, then we are only lying to ourselves.  Furthermore, our ability to take this position is a privileged one as we cannot walk in his victims’ shoes.  They are buried under six feet of earth and less we trample over their graves by dismissing or diminishing the hatred that was expressed in their murders, we might take a few minutes to examine the signposts that led Roof to them.

New Orleans is the latest to remove a symbol of the Confederacy, that is the eleven slave- holding secessionist states of the U.S.  Its members did not want to let go of African American bodies and the statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, reminds us of that.  This history is repeated by the presence of his image, told from his perspective.  Towering above us as a kind of giant, he is positioned to look down on us.

It is comparable to empowering the confessions of an oppressor.  For those who have been oppressed, they are not interested in his side of the story for it makes them no less enslaved and no more free.  Besides, they know what he thinks and the last thing they need is a reminder of his power and presence in their lives.

Putting the past behind us is not the goal but putting persons in their rightful place is.  Statues are reserved for champions, heroes, heroines, leaders, martyrs and idols.  Which one do you suspect Davis is?  Because we don’t memorialize villains, right?  Or are we expected to believe that he was a good, slave- holding person?

Still, there are those who want to leave the granite figure and the past as it is.  They conclude that we cannot change history and removing this symbol does nothing.  But, is this true?

Symbols serve as historical markers, representatives of meanings past.  Unlike a picture, these statues are worth more than words but are tied to experiences and ideologies that have cost the dignity, emotional and mental health and very lives of persons not socially colored white.  And when we erect monuments that reference actions we now understand to be offensive at least and inhumane at worst, we reinjure and suggest that the symbol and not our words carry more weight.

And what is hidden or being held in place by these cultural tokens and signposts?  Why do we choose these graven and woven images instead of relationships?  What of these symbols have a hold on us and get in the way of us practicing community?

Why would we pledge allegiance to a Confederate flag over and against our fellow brother or sister?  Why would we allow a statue to speak for us, material that we have molded and sculpted to get in between us?  How can we call ourselves the United States when we have symbols that segregate?

 

What the language of apology can do

While the Washington Post reports that there is a surge in hate graffiti in my area and video of the confession of Dylann Roof, accused murderer of nine members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in 2015, has been released to the public, I am praying that more stories like the ones emerging from the protest of the North Dakota pipeline are on the rise.  Below is proof that if we could all learn the language of apology, then we could talk reconciliation.

There is power in truth- telling, in stepping forward and raising our hands to say, “I did it.”  There is courage in the acknowledgement of fault and seeking accountability for wrong- doing.  It takes a strong person to say, “I have wronged you.”

Anyone can stand to take the credit but there are few who will step from the shadows and break the silence to take the blame.

More than a personal reflection, it is a survey of one’s character that reports all of our findings: “I have lied to you, tricked you, hurt and harassed you, oppressed you, stolen from you, cheated you, murdered you.”  No shuffling of feet, no blame- shifting but an eye- to- eye confession, we are not ashamed to show our faces and we look into the faces of those we have done harm.

Not a deathbed confession, our reputation will suffer.  We cannot close our eyes to see death, comforting in knowing that we will never have to face it again.  This is not for those who just need to get it off their chest.  Reconciliation is compelled by love.

Recently, military veterans went to Standing Rock to apologize and to ask for their forgiveness.  “We’ve hurt you in so many ways.  We’ve come to say we’re sorry.”

 

 

 

 

The Acceptable War

Ward-ParkerI am still dumbfounded and disgusted by the recent on- air shooting of Miss Alison Parker and Mr. Adam Ward.  I have no words that would fully describe or give voice to my grief and the inability to remove myself from such horror since the killer turned the cameras against us as it were.  Like so many others, I watched their senseless murder in disbelief and felt trapped.  The Washington Post called it the “ultimate selfie” but I don’t want to see that again.

Mr. Vester Flanagan, who later died of a self- inflicted gun shot wound and is believed to be the shooter, was a disgruntled former employee of WDJB of Roanoke, Virginia.  Flanagan thought that he was fired due to racial discrimination and not only left us to grieve a very public death but he left a twenty- three page manifesto.

Questions of why he murdered two of his former colleagues were quickly answered.  On social media, Flanagan alluded to the belief that he had been wrongfully fired from his job at the station.  He also said in the manifesto that he purchased the murder weapon two days after the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church.  Perhaps, in addition to the perceived wrongful termination of his employment at WDJB, the murder of two of his former co- workers was in response to Dylan Roof’s murder of nine believers at Mother Emanuel AME Church.  Roof had hoped to start a race war; Flanagan had joined the fight.

Race war.  If there is a pairing that makes me physically sick, it is this one.  These two words should never be seen or said together.  The attempt of cultural groups to annihilate each other for the prize of supremacy is a “fool’s errand.”

But, we accept the war of the races, falsely linking it to the Bible or allowing the assumption of duty to defend to continue unchallenged and unchecked.  Genocide is not God’s will and a race war is not the determinant for those chosen by God to reign supreme as it were.

There have been too many lives lost, too many inexcusable atrocities committed and it has gone on for too long.  I will not enlist my son in this war.  It’s not acceptable in my home to fight with or to murder people based on the social construct of race.  Is this the presumption under your roof?

The murders of Alison and Adam should not be lost to the news cycle.  No, their deaths should make us turn off the television, put down the remote control and turn to our family members to express our love for all people, regardless of culture or kinship.  Because there is only defeat when we fight each other.  Let the race war end with you.