The Black Church: My Safe Space (Remembering Emanuel AME Church)
Four years ago on June 17, 2015, the country was rocked by a hate crime. This particular era saw the rise of the alt-right and a resurgence in the enrollment of the KKK, sparked by a peculiar orange idiot aspiring for the presidency. White supremacists felt emboldened because the person (whose name we do not call) aspiring to be the leader of the free world, was on the campaign trail spewing pure hate.
The evening National news outlets started their segments with Breaking coverage of a church shooting in Charleston, SC. As the story unfolded, the world watched in horror as news reporters described the details of a mass murder carried out with an assault style weapon.
This was not just another mass shooting. To millions of AMEs (African Methodist Episcopal), across the world, time literally stood still. As a connectional church, steeped in a rich African cultural tradition, we stood in shock, disgust and terror, as we realized that our destinies as African Methodists were entwined with the lives of those who had been slain inside Mother Emanuel AME Church.
That was OUR pastor. Those were OUR church members. Those were OUR brothers and sisters. That was OUR church.
It was OUR church, grown from a history of oppression, discrimination and liberation, that opened its doors to a stranger; a WHITE stranger, to allow him to participate in the fellowship with the body of believers. And that stranger; that white stranger, repaid the generosity of a group of Black Christians, with open fire and spilled blood.
How could he? How dare he?
This one hit home.
But we watched as our connectional church banned together during a time of pain and grief to support our sister church and the impacted families and community.
And in spite of the grief, a sense of pride spread throughout the church. And while many of us were outraged, we followed the lead of our Bishops, General Officers, and our clergy to FORGIVE a murderer, all because Christ forgave us.
We lived to see the next day. We lived through the trial. We lived through these last 5 years. But, not without scars.
For many of us, especially those of us who had never lived through such public demonstrations of hatred and racism, were in a constant state of trauma, fear and anger. This was our most sacred space. This was the historical pillar of hope in the Black community for generations. This was our safe space, seemingly reclaimed and restored from such disgusting acts of hatred and bigotry, and it was under attack; AGAIN.
But what didn’t destroy us, made us stronger. It made us. BLACKER!
And in this era of 45 and his minions, I am grateful and thankful for my BLACK church and the safe space it has, and continues to represent, in the lives of Black People. While I recognize and accept that we are ALL God’s children, I also realize and accept that Black spaces exist and have existed to ensure that we can find shelter from the harsh, cruel, mean, calloused world. And today, I am comforted to know that we have been, and will always be BLACK black! MY BLACK black church! My safe space!
In the African tradition, we call the names of our loved ones who have transitioned, in order that they will never be forgotten.
Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Depayne Middleton Doctor
Rev. Daniel Simmons
Today we remember!