Ella Baker Center Statement on Shooting at Charleston Church

On Wednesday night, a shooter killed nine people who had gathered at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina to pray. The following is a statement from the staff of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights about this tragedy:

We send our deepest and most sincere condolences and sympathies to the families and communities affected by this brutal act of hatred and violence. We continue to be inspired by the strength of community members who are offering support, healing, and care, and stand in solidarity with those on the ground in Charleston.

Many have drawn comparisons between last night’s tragedy and the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, which killed four young African-American girls. But these are far from the only two incidents of horrific violence experienced by the black community. The act of hatred committed against the church-goers in Charleston is part of a long historical trajectory of state and vigilante violence against black people and people of color in this country.

Remembering these incidents of violence is crucial to the process of healing, as well as the process of change. We cannot overcome hatred and racial injustices without an institutional examination of this country’s long history of racism and oppression, which has involved forced labor, segregation, disparate opportunity, and organized state violence against black people and people of color.

For that reason, the Ella Baker Center advocates for a process of truth and reinvestment, wherein we acknowledge how the actions of racist institutions, both past and present, have led us to a society in which people of color are brutalized, criminalized, and incarcerated. By connecting the truth of this country’s history to the establishment of a way forward, we will create solutions that reinvest in communities like the one in Charleston, which have been most damaged by acts of hatred and racial injustice.

It is easy in this moment to focus on the shooter, his intentions, his history, and what his punishment should be. But instead let us honor and remember the victims:

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, a 45-year-old mother of three, reverend, and high school track coach

Reverend Clementa Pinckney, a state senator in South Carolina

Cynthia Hurd, a librarian at St. Andrews Regional Library

Tywanza Sanders, a recent graduate of Allen University

Myra Thompson, the wife of Reverend Anthony Thompson

Ethel Lee Lance, who had worked at the church for more than 30 years

Daniel L. Simmons, a ministerial staff member who worked at the church

Reverend Depayne Middleton-Doctor, who was a mother to four daughters and a singer in the church choir

Susie Jackson, a member of the Eastern Light Chapter No. 360 Order of the Eastern Star