I woke up yesterday morning and checked my social media. Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME church where, in their space of peace, love, & respite, nine members of the Mother Emanuel church were gunned down by a white supremacist. I saw no links to news articles. I saw little recognition for an event that, at one point, had rattled the country. I felt compelled to remember the Emanuel 9. The nine that lost their lives were:
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54
Susie Jackson, 87
Ethel Lance, 70
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45
Myra Thompson, 59
Memorize their names. Know that their cause of death was hatred. A hatred too many still harbor in their hearts. Only slaughtered because they were black & their skin color dictated the end of their lives by the actions of a pathetic, twisted person who had barely reached manhood. His hatred was ingrained by an environment he grew up in.
If we cannot change hearts, we must change the environment in which they grow.
Our streets are lined with protestors, decrying the deaths of individuals like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Their battle cry is Black Lives Matter and there is an air of impending change that is undeniable. While their manner of deaths for the nine worshippers, Floyd, and Taylor are different, the root cause remains the same. A country, even a world, where black lives are treated with less respect, care, and compassion than white lives.
Statistics overwhelmingly back up the claims the African-American community has been saying for years. They are more likely to be victims of hate crimes or of police brutality. Between 2013 and 2019, more than 1,000 unarmed individuals died in police hands. Approximately a third were black, which genuinely rattles my mind as the US population is only 13.4% black. You don’t need a degree in statistics to raise an eyebrow at those numbers and it doesn’t end there. Black Americans are victims of 28% of all hate crimes. Since 1995, that number is 66% of all racially motivated hate crimes.
While we topple Confederate monuments today, in 2015, then Governor Nikki Haley removed the Confederate flag from the State House. Dubbed “heritage” by its admirers, the flag was placed there in 1962. In 2015, Haley knew how continuing to allow such an antiquated flag to fly could fan the flames of racism and prejudice. Whether it’s a cop telling a dying Floyd he didn’t care if he couldn’t breathe or a racist mass murderer unleashing 70 rounds on unarmed churchgoers, there is literally no reason these human beings aren’t alive today. I shouldn’t be writing this article, but I have to because their names should never be forgotten. As a mother, when Floyd cried out for his mother, my heart fell to pieces. Breonna Taylor was an EMT saving lives during a pandemic and she was slaughtered by the police. And there are thousands more stories just like these. However, I don’t matter. They are the ones who matter.
We must not forget those gunned down in the name of racial superiority. Black lives mattered then & they matter now. We must not raise our children to be racist or prejudiced. Before you shout “All Lives Matter,” I can truly state I’ve only heard that statement when the life looked like yours. It isn’t that all lives don’t matter. However, right now, #blacklivesmatter.
Please don’t take a moment of silence for their deaths. Take a moment of action to prevent it from ever happening again. What will you do to raise awareness?
Featured image via Adam Kring on Unsplash