Events commemorating Emanuel AME tragedy promote public service, discourse on race

The light of hope

Almost two years removed from the tragic shooting at Emanuel AME Church, pastor Rev. Eric Manning hopes that the community can move beyond remembrance and begin to overcome the underlying issues that led to such a horrific act of violence.

Carrying the theme “The Light of Hope,” a series of community events commemorating the lives of the nine parishioners killed inside Mother Emanuel is scheduled throughout the month of June. Beginning June 15, Dr. Lonnie Bunch III, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture, will lead a keynote lecture at Emanuel AME Church from 5-6:30 p.m.

The following day, a youth basketball tournament will be held at the Charleston School of Math and Science from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in honor of the youngest victim of the church shooting, Tywanza Sanders. Also scheduled Fri. June 16 is the Charleston Forum on Race taking place from 5:30-10 p.m. at the Charleston Music Hall.

On June 17, the anniversary of the shooting, the “Hate Won’t Win Unity Walk” will take place at 9 a.m., beginning on King and Calhoun streets and ending at the Gaillard Center. That event will be followed by an ecumenical worship service, also taking place at the Gaillard Center, at 1 p.m. The two-hour service is free and open to the public, but tickets are required to attend. Saturday’s events will also feature a free book giveaway to children at the John L. Dart Library in honor of shooting victim Cynthia Hurd.

The second week of commemorative events begins Mon. June 19 with the Myra Thompson school supply giveaway taking place from noon to 5 p.m. at Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church. Looking back on the death of his wife, Rev. Anthony Thompson said his attentions are focused on helping the Charleston community moving forward.

“We just wish and hope that we can continue to have forums concerning racism and hate, continue to reach over different denominations and different races to know your neighbor, to know each other before we come to a conclusion of who we are and who we are not,” said Rev. Thompson Thursday. “We just hope and pray this will continue — not just now, but forever.”

On June 20, Emanuel AME Church will host a youth forum, titled “Calling All Colors: An Event for Youth.” Taking place at the church, the event will allow middle school students to participate in workshops and forums on the topics of diversity, tolerance, respect, and inclusion. The event is free to attend, but registration is required.

Wed. June 21 marks the anniversary of the Cynthia Graham Hurd Branch Library in West Ashley. The event will be honored with a special celebration taking place at the library, beginning at 2 p.m. Later that evening at 6 p.m. Rev. Manning will be joined by Rev. Thompson to lead a Bible study at Mother Emanuel. All members of the community are invited.

Closing out the two weeks of events will be a finale concert featuring South Carolina poet laureate Marjory Wentworth, Charlton Singleton, Ann Caldwell, the Seacoast Church Choir and Band, Lowcountry Voices, and Mario Desaussure. Taking place at Emanuel AME Church from 5-7 p.m., the finale is free to attend, but tickets are required.

“It is the remembrance. It is the prayers. It is the celebration, in a way, of love, but it’s also a commitment to positive change in our community in their honor and in the reflection of that key tenant that love will conquer hate,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.

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