As Anti-Oppression Coordinator with Mennonite Central Committee, U.S., I stand with many others across this nation whose hearts are filled with grief in full condemnation of the act of racist terrorism that occurred in the sacred walls of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina yesterday evening.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those beloved nine members and leaders of the church, murdered as they met for Bible study. Among the slain is the church’s senior pastor, The Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, who is also a State Senator. A tireless advocate for justice, he is the youngest African American ever to hold office in the state legislature. He was first elected at the age of 23 in 1996. In a 1999 profile he stated: “In life, we are all faced with the opportunity to serve. It is at times a hard choice to make but those hard choices yield great rewards. Those rewards are mostly for others and not for ourselves. That’s what service is all about.” The Rev. Pinckney’s courageous life is now our living example. May we honor him and the eight others (whose names have yet to be released at the time of this writing) by increasing our efforts to seek the justice that brings the peace we all seek.
This act is not “an isolated incident” in a state where there are 19 active hate groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, with over 50 more in the surrounding states of Georgia and North Carolina. The legacies of slavery and segregation continue to cast its oppressive shadow over this region as the state government continues to fly a Confederate flag on its capitol grounds.
Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the Southern United States, founded by enslaved and free African Americans in South Carolina in the early 1800s. It has always stood as a life-giving symbol of freedom and equality. Today, it has become a sobering reminder that, in a nation where the sanctity of the Black church is not respected, there is no safe space for a Black person in this country. But we will not be overcome by fear. We shall not be moved. We know as the name Emanuel signifies, God is with us.
On this, the eve of Juneteenth, the African American celebration of freedom from slavery, may we continue to walk in the path of those who came before us, whose minds were stayed on freedom.
Ewuare Osayande is Anti-Oppression Coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee U.S. This was originally posted at True peace is justice.