I am sick.
When Trayvon Martin was murdered, I wrote this. When Mike Brown was shot down in Ferguson and his body left unattended in the street for four long inexcusable hours, I was outraged. And more so when the police officer was not even indicted, much less convicted.
And then Tamir Rice, age 12. 12 years old! I felt too numb to even say his name.
And now nine people at prayer and Bible study, massacred. Nine Black people. Black leaders and teachers and pastors. The senior pastor who was also a state senator. The choice of a Wednesday night prayer meeting in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston was no accident. The 21 year old white supremacist traveled to that city, to that church, to kill people. If you have not read the history of this church, please do so.
I am sick.
Sick of heart and mind and soul. Sickened for a nation poisoned by racism. Sickened for Black parents who fear for their children’s lives. Sickened for a gun-crazed society blind to common sense.
Charleston’s long history in the struggle of Black people in this country – the Old Slave Mart remains a central tourist attraction – continues. The confederate flag flies over the South Carolina State House even now.
What are we to do? First, we cry. We grieve. We open our eyes and look. We allow ourselves to feel the horror of what is happening. We do not go numb. We cannot.
We inform ourselves. And then we choose our battles. For one person, it may be showing up at the courthouse in protest; for another it may be starting to learn about his own White privilege; for yet another, it may be working to change discriminatory voter registration laws. We pay attention. We ask for guidance. We stretch beyond our comfort zones. We stretch some more.
We decide this is not the country we desire. We hold the vision of the community we want to see. We take a first step. And then another one.
We hold hands. This is not their problem and it is not yours or mine alone. It is ours.
We pray. We remember Dr. King: Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
And tonight, we remember those who’ve died:
-Clementa Pinckney, 41, the primary pastor who also served as a state senator.
–Cynthia Hurd, 54, St. Andrews regional branch manager for the Charleston County Public Library system.
–Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a church pastor, speech therapist and coach of the girls’ track and field team at Goose Creek High School.
–Tywanza Sanders, 26, who had a degree in business administration from Allen University, where Pinckney also attended.
–Ethel Lance, 70, a retired Gilliard Center employee who has worked recently as a church janitor.
–Susie Jackson, 87, Lance’s cousin who was a longtime church member.
–DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, a pastor who retired in 2005 as Charleston County director of the Community Development Block Grant Program.
–Myra Thompson, 59, a pastor at the church.
–Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, a pastor, who died in a hospital operating room.
God of justice and mercy, God of light and truth, hold these saints. Breathe into us the spirit of these your people until we feel their hearts beating in our own chest. Enliven us with the energy they each brought to their work, the energy taken from them, and let it move us into action and compassion. Make us vessels of more love than we feel capable of giving. Fill our hollowed-out hearts with grace so big it flows out into every crevice of our community. Give us vision. Give us voices. Give us grace. Because there is no other way we can do this. Amen.