As the eyes of America watched the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol July 10, I feel thankful for the Black church and the principled role that it played in bringing a community together at a time that could have led to even greater strife and turmoil.
Signing the bill to take down the flag, Gov. Nikki Haley eloquently said their actions “forever showed the state of South Carolina what love and forgiveness looks like.” I would add that they have not only shown South Carolinians, but the world.
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And the Black church led the way. When more hate could have risen, the people of " Mother" Emanuel AME Church chose to show love, forgiveness and grace amidst unthinkable grief. Even the bereaved family members of the massacred “Charleston Nine” chose words of forgiveness when given the opportunity to face the perpetrator of such pain.
The result has been changed hearts, enlightened minds and a true story for the history books that will no doubt teach our children to take the high road in the face of bigotry and even violence. It recalls for me the lessons I learned in that small church on the corner that served as the center of my family’s life in the North Philadelphia neighborhood where I grew up.
Historically, the institution of the Black church has always been a beacon of light in our community. Churches helped to free slaves as they served as stops for the Underground Railroad. It was the main meeting place for civil rights strategies during Jim Crow and the civil rights movement. And today, it remains a rock, a fortress and a place of hope and healing for us all.
The principles of faith that we learned as children are often challenging to walk out in everyday life. But when we muster enough courage and strength to forgive, to love, to have faith that God has a better way – and to be an example of that way – it gives us an inner peace and a blessed assurance.
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The members of "Mother" Emanuel have helped to lead the nation through grief to a place of change and higher ground. The hope now is that we can maintain and continue on that path – as a nation, but also in our personal lives.
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Photo: National Park Service, Public Venue
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