One thing that the media tends to miss is the true stories and history of a community that help understand the why better than outsiders can understand. The shooting of a Charleston church is a truly a hate crime but you have to know the history of Charleston and Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church to understand exactly why. A blogger friend, Erica Alcox the CEO/Founder of Geechie Gurl (http://www.geechiegurl.org), shared that June 16 also marked anniversary of Denmark Vesey’s planned slave rebellion in 1822, which was planned at the same Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that is the site of domestic-terrorism attack on June 17.
I knew the story of Denmark Vesey but didn’t realize how closely it is intertwined in the story of Emanuel AME. Denmak Vesey was a former slave and one of the founders of Emanuel AME church, in 1818 (a full 45 years before the end of slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation). The church was organized with the support with white clergy in the area and had more than 1,800 members. It was closed twice for violating slave laws related to gatherings. Vesey and his followers were planning to kill the slaveholders in the Charleston area and sail to Haiti for refuge but one of the slaves told his master the plot before it was enacted. Vesey was tried, quickly found guilty and executed by hanging. In the aftermath of the trials (more than 100 people were tried as leaders), Emanuel AME was burnt to the ground. After the Civil War, Emanuel was reorganized and the current structure was built after an earthquake that destroyed the structure in 1886.
I am not from Charleston but I would imagine that people from the area both Black and White recognized “Mother” Emanuel as the powerful symbol and structure of the community that it was and is. It has a great deal of historical significance and has been the site of civil rights era protests and speeches. The choice to choose this specific church was not random, was not solely related to mental illness or hating Black people and can’t be seen or defined as anything less than a hate crime as well as psychological assault against the community of Charleston.
I need to fully disclose that this has impacted me because I am the fourth-generation in my family to attend the AME church. I was baptized in the AME church, I was married in the AME church, my grandmother was buried in the AME church, my siblings attended two of the AME sponsored colleges, my mother attended another AME sponsored college, I am connected to the AME church and I am have attended more than one bible study in an AME church. I can say first-hand that I was connected with two victims’ families. So if you read this, please know that you know someone who was connected and you’re connected to this tragedy as well.