The city I have called home for the past 12 years is overwhelmed with profound sadness and grief.
I feel it too, and it reminds me of the same sadness I felt all those years ago back in 2001 when I lived 30 minutes from New York City. It is a very familiar feeling and one that is unsettling.
I may not be from here, but I have been part of the Charleston community for awhile now and I can tell you, this is personal.
Now I know that obviously I (but for the grace of God), am not suffering the unspeakable pain that the families or members of the Mother Emanuel AME Church are feeling, but there is pain. This person came into my city and perpetrated a crime so evil that I almost cannot wrap my brain around it. It is the feeling I had on September 11th. You feel violated to some extent. I think that is what many people in my community are feeling as well. Most of the comments I have heard (and made myself) focus on the fact that this person came into God’s house, a place where people allow themselves to be completely open so they can worship freely. I truly believe that is what makes what happened even more personal for us.
I will put it out there… there are a lot of things that Charleston gets wrong. Every city does, that’s a given. BUT, there are also so many things that Charleston gets right. You are seeing that right now.
It’s called the Holy City for a reason.
To know Charleston is to understand that it isn’t like many other cities, at least the ones I have been to. If you look at the landscape of Charleston proper, it is filled with steeples, not fancy skyscrapers like in the big cities. Go to any town surrounding Charleston and you will see the same thing. Steeples. One small town has over 50 churches and new ones are being planted. There is a reason for this.
Charleston loves God, and the people who live in this community take their faith seriously.
I remember when I first moved down here. I was in a bit of a shock. I went from a town where God’s name was rarely spoken, where faith was not lived so loudly, and where if I ever said “I feel God is leading me to…”, I would have been looked at like I was nuts. I’m not saying anything bad about that town, it was just indicative of the culture there. But in Charleston, something was different. I didn’t know at the time how different it was, and how important that would be in my life and the life of my growing family.
Fast forward to last week. A week when everything changed, but in ways, stayed the same. Our community was rocked by the news that someone dared to enter a house of worship, ingratiate himself to a group of loving and welcoming church members, and then proceed to slaughter them at point blank range. Yes, that’s blunt. It’s meant to be. It was pure evil in the midst of the light of God, and we take that very seriously. You don’t mess with the people who live here. You don’t mess with our faith, and you certainly don’t mess with our God and His house!
The media has many words for what happened last week. Racist. Hate crime. Psychopathic. Drug-induced. The one word they are leaving out is PERSONAL.
And that is why you are now seeing something different. You are learning what #CharlestonStrong really means.
#CharlestonStrong means you stand together. #CharlestonStrong means you don’t back down when evil strikes you to the core. #CharlestonStrong means you don’t turn against your neighbors, but stand hand in hand. #CharlestonStrong means that God is the ultimate victor and evil will never win.
It is the embodiment of all that is good in this world. With all the media coverage of what is wrong, the good is too often overlooked. I think as a community, as a nation, we yearn for that. We want to believe there is hope. We want to believe that good will win versus the evil in this world, but sometimes it is hard when evil is staring you in the face. For awhile now, it has seemed that evil was winning, but it never will. There is a change coming.
[Tweet “Evil never met the people of Charleston…until now. We won’t be shaken. We are #CharlestonStrong”]
And being #CharlestonStrong, it’s spreading like wildfire. I think that’s why the media is all over this. Something is happening, they know it, and they don’t know what to do with it. When a reporter is moved to tears by a large group walking together to a church and singing a gospel hymn, something is happening. People are joining in from all over the nation to say they are in agreement with the people of Charleston. We don’t have to act the way the media wants everyone to believe we should act. We don’t have to turn against each other and tear apart our cities, and we certainly don’t need to hide our faith in God.
As a nation, we need to be #CharlestonStrong. We need to let what happened to the 9 innocent people, change us. We need to show the world that we won’t be shaken. We need to stand united, just like my community and show evil the door.
As God prepares my family for a new journey to yet another new and unfamiliar place, I will always remain united with my brothers and sisters in this community. There is a sense of bittersweet sadness in leaving a place that has changed my family for the better. One thing I know is that no matter what my address may be, my family is and will always remain, #CharlestonStrong.
Are you willing to be #CharlestonStrong?
Join us. Let us never forget what happened our brothers and sisters on June 17th, 2015. Let God use their lives to renew our nation and show our children who we really are. We all can be #CharlestonStrong.