Charleston. My beautiful home. The place I’ve written love letters to a thousand times over, the beaches I seek for mental clarity, the city I adore.
When the news broke last week about the brutal murders at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, my heart shattered. “Not here,” I thought to myself. “Not our people. There has been enough blood spilled here—please let it not be true.” But the news kept coming–nine lives lost, for no other reason than blatant hatred and racism. A grandmother, a recent college grad, a senator, a beloved librarian, more. Their faces graced my news feed and my television screen, and I mourned their loss with the rest of the country.
And then, in an outpouring of love and unity, in the wake of tragedy, my city came together. We walked together into the sunset, holding hands and waving signs, hugging each other and singing hymns. Black and white. Young and old. Man and woman and child. We, Charleston, took the hatred that had been poured through the barrel of a .45, turned it into LOVE, and multiplied it by thousands.
Through tears and with sad hearts, we spoke their names from our lips. We flew our South Carolina flags, and we donned our blue and white in honor of those we lost. And we made a vow to push for true social change.
Strides are already being made to remove the Confederate flag from the capital grounds in Columbia. That led to other states re-examining their own laws in regards to that symbol that reflects hatred as much as heritage. When rumors came about that notorious protesters from Westboro Baptist Church were on the way to Charleston to picket outside of the funerals of the dead, our local governments stepped up and banned their rallies, sending them packing. Charlestonians showed up to the events in droves anyway, standing shoulder to shoulder, refusing to let hate leech into the love we as a city have worked to hard to display over the last several days.
We cannot change our history; we can only learn from it. We cannot affect change by remaining silent; so we raise our voices to the sky. We cannot learn to love our fellow man from the pages of a history book; we must look at one another as humans, and embrace one another regardless of religious affiliations, belief systems, and the color of our skin.
And we continue to teach future generations that love will always win.
Addendum: As I was working on this post–one I started days ago and have been tweaking and editing ever since–it seemed remarkable to me that EVEN MORE love came across my news feed. The Supreme Court ruled today that gay marriage is now to be legal across the nation. As I sat on my couch and watched the President deliver his eulogy at Senator Pinckney’s funeral, as I listened to him sing the first verse of ‘Amazing Grace,’ I felt that same love Charleston displayed being felt across the country. And so I came back to this post, so I could finally publish it. All in the name of love.