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The Black History of Memorial Day

Another bit of black history and contribution to America…”forgotten”.

Image result for black civil war soldiers

The black history of Memorial Day has been nearly wiped from public memory — here’s the real story

Union General John Logan is often credited with founding Memorial Day. The commander-in-chief of a Union veterans’ organization called the Grand Army of the Republic, Logan issued a decree establishing what was then named “Decoration Day” on May 5, 1868, declaring it “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Today, cities across the North and South claim credit for establishing the first Decoration Day—from Macon, Georgia to Richmond, Virginia to Carbondale, Illinois. Yet, a key story of the holiday has been nearly erased from public memory and most official accounts, including that offered by the the Department of Veterans Affairs.

During the spring of 1865, African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina—most of them former slaves—held a series of memorials and rituals to honor unnamed fallen Union soldiers and boldly celebrate the struggle against slavery. One of the largest such events took place on May first of that year but had been largely forgotten until David Blight, a history professor at Yale University, found records at a Harvard archive. In a New York Times article published in 2011, Blight described the scene. While it is difficult to pinpoint the precise birthplace of the holiday, it is fair to say that ceremonies like the following are largely erased from the American narrative of Memorial Day.

During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy’s bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.

After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite.

This story of Memorial Day, also reported by Victoria M. Massie of Vox, was not merely excluded from the history books but appears to have been actively suppressed. The park where the race course prison camp once stood was eventually named Hampton Park after the Confederate General Wade Hampton who became South Carolina’s governor following the civil war.

In 1966, former President Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, New York to be the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Then, in 1971, Congress established “Memorial Day” as an official federal holiday to honor all Americans who have fallen in U.S. Wars. In an article published in 2013 on Snopes.com, writer David Mikkelson used these official declarations, as well as the decree issued by Logan, to bolster his argument that African-Americans in Charleston probably should not be credited for establishing the holiday. He further noted that numerous other towns and cities claim to have created the first ceremonies. Yet, Mikkelson’s reasoning fails to account for the systematic and proven appropriation, erasure and distortion of African-American history by presidents, lawmakers, generals and scholars alike. The fact that the role of African-Americans is missing from the official record is precisely the problem. At the very least, the contribution of Black people in Charleston has been erased from the public narrative of Memorial Day and deserves to be recognized.

World War II veteran Howard Zinn argued in 1976 that the holiday has since become an uncritical celebration of war-making. “Memorial Day should be a day for putting flowers on graves and planting trees,” he wrote. “Also, for destroying the weapons of death that endanger us more than they protect us, that waste our resources and threaten our children and grandchildren.”

Yet Memorial Day has other troubling modern-day manifestations. Today, while confederate symbols across the United States are increasingly rejected as racist, civil war reenactors still gather in Charleston for a public ceremony, held shortly after Memorial Day, to honor the confederacy on the anniversary of General Stonewall Jackson’s death in 1863. The ceremony is slated to take place next weekend, even after last summer’s white supremacist massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in nine African-Americans were slaughtered.

Charleston officials have taken some small steps towards recognizing the city’s African-American history. Following a community campaign, the city of Charleston finally held its first formal commemoration of the African-American roots of Memorial Day in 2010, and the following year it established a plaque. Yet, the history of former slaves’ efforts to give the union dead a proper burial is missing from the park’s official history, made available online by the Parks Conservancy.

Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, told AlterNet, “Many of the issues we have around race are based on the fact that these stories have not been told. It sends the message that the contributions of African-Americans are not valued and respected.”

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Black History

 

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Another One Bites the Dust – Republican Mayor Leaves Party Due to the Chumph

What I suspect is the beginning of an avalanche…

GOP Mayor Leaves Republican Party, In Part Because Of Donald Trump

“For the first time in my life, I cannot support the Republican nominee for president.”

After determining that he cannot support Donald Trump as his party’s presidential nominee, a Republican lawmaker has abandoned the party altogether — a sign of growing discontent within GOP ranks.

Danny Jones, the four-term mayor of Charleston, West Virginia, announced Friday that he changed his party identification to “unaffiliated.”

“For the first time in my life, I cannot support the Republican nominee for president,” Jones told the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Jones, who has been a Republican for 45 years, said that in November he will vote for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson for president.

In leaving the GOP, Jones also cited his opposition to the more conservative members of West Virginia’s state legislature, who have backed so-called religious freedom laws that make it legal for businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals. The West Virginia legislation is part of a wave of similar laws nationwide.

“I’m basically a city guy, and I believe [in] live and let live and stay out of each other’s bedroom,” Jones said.

Jones is not the only GOP lawmaker fleeing his party because of Trump. Earlier this month, Iowa State Sen. David Johnson (R) became the first elected official to leave the GOP because of Trump after the real estate mogul launched racist attacks against a federal judge, sending Republican lawmakers into a tailspin.

“I will not stand silent if the party of Lincoln and the end of slavery buckles under the racial bias of a bigot,” Johnson said.

This week, disunity among Republicans escalated further as Trump’s response to the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, gave party leaders pause. Republicans raced to condemn Trump’s rhetoric, and some who had supported his candidacy tried to distance themselves. Other Republicans still on the fence about backing Trump have raised the possibility of challenging him at the convention in July.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2016 in The Clown Bus

 

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Justice Department to Seek Death Penalty for Dylan Roof

Bring back the Electric Chair! Toast him.

Justice Department To Seek Death Penalty For S.C. Church Shooting Suspect

The Justice Department says it will seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, accused of fatally shooting nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., in June 2015.

“The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

The federal hate-crime charges against Roof “center on both the victims’ race and their identity as church-goers who were attempting to follow their religious beliefs when Roof attacked,” as The Two-Way reported last summer. At the time, Lynch called hate crimes “the original domestic terrorism.” Roof also faces federal weapons charges.

“The Justice Department says he selected the [Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church] and his victims to win notoriety and to try to ignite a race war,” NPR’s Carrie Johnson reports. “Roof has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.”

Roof’s lawyer David Bruck declined to comment on Tuesday’s decision in an email to Carrie.

There is a separate case against Roof filed by authorities in South Carolina. Prosecutors in that case are also seeking the death penalty, as we reported in September.

Survivors of the attack and family members of the deceased victims “had differing views on whether Roof should face execution,” The Charleston Post and Courier says. An attorney for family members of three of the victims told the paper on Tuesday:

“The families will support this decision. Really, I think the families have mixed emotions about the death penalty. But if it’s ever going to be given, this case certainly calls for it.”

Roof is scheduled to be tried in January in the state case. It’s unclear at this point when the federal trial will take place.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2016 in Domestic terrorism

 

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Friend of Charleston Church Murderer Take a Plea Deal

No surprise here that the guy is copping a plea, in that the case is pretty strong to lock him up for a long while…

Joey Meek has endured a host of very traumatic events that have him contemplating his future as never before. In recent weeks he lost a friend to suicide and then he went through the horrific Dylann Roof church killing tragedy (Roof was a pal and house guest). On top of that the family suffered a robbery at their trailer and very recently an angry gunman terrorized everyone in the trailer. When Joey opens up about personal issues (which is rare) he manages to slink in a dark corner of the room and withdraw. We spend time in the trailer where Kim Konzny and her three sons sometimes shared with friend Dylann Roof, the man who killed nine people at a Charleston church. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Friend of accused Charleston church gunman will plead guilty

Joey Meek, a friend of the man accused of killing nine parishioners in Charleston, S.C., last year, intends to plead guilty to two charges related to the massacre, according to a court document filed Monday.

Meek was indicted in September on counts of making false statements to the FBI and “misprision of a felony,” which meant that he allegedly concealed his knowledge of the crimes. He had pleaded not guilty to these counts, which carry up to eight years in prison.

According to a plea agreement dated last week and filed in federal court on Monday, federal prosecutors and Meek’s attorney agreed that he will instead plead guilty to both counts. The agreement also states that Meek will be “fully truthful and forthright” with law enforcement groups and that, if he is asked for a testimony, he will be required to testify “before any grand juries and at any trials or other proceedings.” If Meek cooperates and is help is deemed “substantial,” authorities will seek to have his sentence reduced.

An attorney for Meek and prosecutors were not immediately available to comment.

Meek’s jury trial had been scheduled for June 27, according to court records. He is now scheduled to have a change of plea hearing on Friday afternoon….Read The Rest Here

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2016 in Domestic terrorism

 

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France – And American Right Wing Racist Hate Speech

The horrific and despicable attacks in Paris, France will dominate the news cycle for at least a week to come. However for most Americans living in America, and especially for minority Americans, the threat of being harmed by International terrorism is about the same as getting hit by a meteorite from the sky while walking down the street. The threat of being the victim of Domestic Terrorism, either violent – or nonviolent through word, symbolic attack, or state sponsored through the Law Enforcement is an everyday reality.

A “Hate Crime” is an act of Domestic Terrorism by different euphemism. The last week’s series of death threats against black kids at U-Mo, Howard, Mich, Bowie U, and now George Mason illustrates just how common race or ethnic based Domestic Terrorism is. Not even discussing the murders at a Church in Charleston. More people in the US have been killed by Domestic terrorists since 9-11 than jihadis.

Part of the reason for that is, despite the success by ISIS in recruiting a few disaffected Americans to their murderous case – Islamic Fanaticism has no real outlet in America. There is no newspaper spouting “Kill the Infidels” daily in articles across it’s front page, no cyber madrasas teaching the religion of hate, no web sites teaching how to blow up your neighbors for the Islamic fanatic cause… And no television or cable channel(s) dedicated to the views of violent Islamic Fanatics.

But there is for the racist white wing.

“Allowable Terrorism”, brought to you by the right wing media, each and every day.

And so the hate speech begins: Let Paris be the end of the right’s violent language toward activists

In a still developing situation, the city of Paris, France, is under attack by terrorists armed with guns and explosives. Many dozens of people have been killed. A still undetermined number of people have been wounded. The terrorists took dozens of hostages in a concert hall. French police and military forces have been deployed. There is mayhem and blood in the streets of Paris.

President Obama has correctly described this day’s horrific events as “an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.”

Terrorism is politically motivated violence against a vulnerable population that is designed to intimidate, sow fear, create panic and alter public policy.

Terrorism is serious business that kills people, breaks bodies and alters lives.

It is not a game.

In the United States, the right-wing media and movement conservatives have for decades consistently used eliminationist and other violent rhetoric to describe liberals, progressives and other people with whom they disagree. As was seen in the recent attacks on a Charleston-area black church, and other violence by right-wing anti-government militias, such rhetoric does not float in the ether of the public discourse, harmless and unacknowledged. No, it does in fact lead to action.

In recent months, the right-wing media has used language such as “terrorism” and “violent,” or that the latter is “targeting police for murder” to describe the Black Lives Matter movement. Such bombastic and ugly screeds–which are wholly unfounded, with no basis in empirical reality–have also been used by right-wing opinion leaders to describe the African-American students who are fighting against racism at Yale and the University of Missouri.

There are many examples of this type of incendiary rhetoric from conservatives and their sympathizers.

A few examples.

Bill O’Reilly has declared “war” on Black Lives Matter and in doing so described them as a type of contemporary Ku Klux Klan (KKK). At its height of popularity in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the KKK was America’s largest terrorist organization. It was responsible for the murders of thousands of African-Americans. In contrast to the KKK, Black Lives Matter is a group dedicated to protecting the human rights of all people against state-sponsored violence and police thuggery and murder.

Ben Carson, in his designated role as a black conservative whose primary purpose is to disparage black Americans and to excuse-make for white racism, recently told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that the black and brown students who are advocating for their full rights and respect at Yale University are ushering in “anarchy” and “this is just raw emotion and people just being manipulated, I think in many of these cases, by outside forces who wish to create disturbances.”

Likewise, Fox News has repeatedly described the student protesters at Yale and Missouri using the same language. O’Reilly has even gone so far as to suggest that Black Lives Matter and the students who are protesting racist treatment are part of a cabal that is engaging in “fascist” behavior and “running wild” against white people. Trumping his allusions to “fascism,” on his October 22, 2015 episode of his TV show, Bill O’Reilly even made the absurd claim that Black Lives Matter is akin to the “Nazis.”

These are implicit threats and overtures to violence as racial authoritarian fascists are a clear and present danger to democracy and freedom. Thus, they must be eliminated by any means necessary.

Other critics of the student activists at Yale University and Missouri such as The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf have even made the absurd claim that so-called “safe spaces” are being “weaponized” by student activists in order to deny free speech.

Terrorism has been practiced in the United States. It was used by a Herrenvolk white settler society built upon the genocide of First Nations peoples and the enslavement of African-Americans to control, intimidate, and murder non-whites. The decades of Jim and Jane Crow white supremacy were also a form of State-sponsored terrorism as well. Political violence continues in the present where in too many of America’s communities, police and other security forces kill with impunity, force the black and brown poor into a state of “custodial citizenship”, and act in a thuggish and illegal way towards the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

Black Lives Matter stands against such violence. The student protesters at Yale and Missouri who are fighting for fairness and justice stand against violence. Liberals and progressives as a matter of principle, a belief in the Common Good, and a humane society stand against violence.

Despite what the right-wing media, Bill O’Reilly, and the opinion leaders in the White Right routinely bloviate, those groups and individuals are not terrorists.

Real terrorists have killed people in the streets of Paris. The right-wing media needs to take note of that fact and moderate their rhetoric and abusive language accordingly.

Given the American right-wing’s casual habit of using violent language to describe their foes, and to gin up fear and anxiety among the movement conservative base, the Fox News’ right-wing echo chamber and its elites should be ashamed given the death and destruction that terrorism actually reaps in practice.

 

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Dumb…And Dumber. KKK Plans to March In Charleston

At some point, you have to question the basic IQ of some folks.

KKK chapter to hold rally on South Carolina Statehouse grounds

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan’s Pelham, North Carolina, chapter have reserved the Statehouse Grounds in South Carolina for a rally next month.

James Spears, the Great Titan of the chapter, said the group would be rallying to protest “the Confederate flag being took down for all the wrong reasons.”

It’s part of white people’s culture,” he added.

Brian Gaines, who runs the South Carolina Budget and Control Board, which oversees reservations, confirmed the scheduling in an email to POLITICO Monday. He added that the group submitted the request on June 23 and, because his office allows any group, regardless of ideology, to reserve the grounds on a first-come, first-serve basis, the KKK will be able to hold its rally.

The event is planned for July 18 from 3-5 p.m., just over one month after Dylann Roof allegedly entered a historic church in Charleston and shot to death nine African-Americans during a Bible study meeting. Reports indicate Roof was attempting to incite a race war and had read 34 various materials from white supremacist groups online before plotting his crime.

 

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Dr Cornel West and the Politic of Hate

Cornel West on CNN

 

CORNEL WEST: You can’t talk about wealth and inequality, you can’t talk about education, you can’t talk about massive unemployment and under employment and you can’t talk about drones being dropped on people in other parts of the world without talking about white supremacy and its ways in which it operates. It doesn’t have to be overt. The president is right about that.

But too many black people are niggerized. I would say the first black president has become the first niggerized black president.

CNN ANCHOR: What do you mean by that?

WEST: A niggerized black person is a black person who is afraid and scared and intimidated when it comes to putting a spotlight on white supremacy and fighting against white supremacy. So when many of us said we have to fight against racism, what were we told? ‘No, he can’t deal with racism because he has other issues, political calculations. He’s the president of all America, not just black America.’ We know he’s president of all America but white supremacy is American as cherry pie.

We’re talking about moral issues, spiritual issues, emotional issues. White supremacy has nothing to do with just skin pigmentation, it has to be what kind of person you want to be, what kind of nation we want to be. Democrats and Republicans play on both of those parties in terms of running away from the vicious legacy of white supremacy until it hits us hard. Thank God for Ferguson. Thank God for the young folk of all colors. Thank God for Staten Island and fighting there. Thank God in Baltimore, now the precious folk in Charleston.

President Obama delivers the eulogy for the dead in Charleston…

 

RESIDENT OBAMA: Giving all praise and honor to God.

(APPLAUSE)

The Bible calls us to hope, to persevere and have faith in things not seen. They were still living by faith when they died, the scripture tells us.

(APPLAUSE)

They did not receive the things promised. They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith, a man who believed in things not seen, a man who believed there were better days ahead off in the distance, a man of service, who persevered knowing full-well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed, to Jennifer, his beloved wife, Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters, to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have had the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well, but I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina back when we were both a little bit younger…

(LAUGHTER)

… back when I didn’t have visible gray hair.

(LAUGHTER)

The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor, all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived, that even from a young age, folks knew he was special, anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful, a family of preachers who spread God’s words, a family of protesters who so changed to expand voting rights and desegregate the South.

Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching. He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth nor youth’s insecurities. Instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith and purity.

As a senator, he represented a sprawling swathe of low country, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America, a place still racked by poverty and inadequate schools, a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment — a place that needed somebody like Clem.

(APPLAUSE)

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too-often unheeded. The votes he cast were sometimes lonely.

But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the Capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There, he would fortify his faith and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean nor small. He conducted himself quietly and kindly and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.

No wonder one of his Senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us, the best of the 46 of us.”

Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of AME Church.

(APPLAUSE)

As our brothers and sisters in the AME Church, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation but the life and community in which our congregation resides.”

(APPLAUSE)

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words, that the sweet hour of prayer actually lasts the whole week long, that to put our faith in action is more than just individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation, that to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized, after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say somebody was a good man.

(APPLAUSE)

You don’t have to be of high distinction to be a good man.

Preacher by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith.

And then to lose him at 41, slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God — Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson.

Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people.

(APPLAUSE)

People so full of life and so full of kindness, people who ran the race, who persevered, people of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church.

The church is and always has been the center of African American life…

(APPLAUSE)

… a place to call our own in a too-often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as hush harbors, where slaves could worship in safety, praise houses, where their free descendants could gather and shout “Hallelujah…”

(APPLAUSE)

… rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad, bunkers for the foot soldiers of the civil-rights movement.

They have been and continue to community centers, where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harms way and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s what happens in church. That’s what the black church means — our beating heart, the place where our dignity as a people in inviolate.

There’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel, a church…

(APPLAUSE)

… a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founders sought to end slavery only to rise up again, a phoenix from these ashes.

(APPLAUSE)

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherers, services happened here anyway in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.

A sacred place, this church, not just for blacks, not just for Christians but for every American who cares about the steady expansion…

(APPLAUSE)

… of human rights and human dignity in this country, a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.

That’s what the church meant.

(APPLAUSE)

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history, but he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…

(APPLAUSE)

… an act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion, an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.

(APPLAUSE)

God has different ideas.

(APPLAUSE)

He didn’t know he was being used by God.

(APPLAUSE)

Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer would not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group, the light of love that shown as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.

The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.

(APPLAUSE)

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley, how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond not merely with revulsion at his evil acts, but with (inaudible) generosity. And more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace.

(APPLAUSE)

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace.

(APPLAUSE)

The grace of the families who lost loved ones; the grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons; the grace described in one of my favorite hymnals, the one we all know — Amazing Grace.

(APPLAUSE)

How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

(APPLAUSE)

I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

(APPLAUSE)

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God.

(APPLAUSE)

As manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace — as a nation out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.

(APPLAUSE)

He’s given us the chance where we’ve been lost to find out best selves. We may not have earned this grace with our rancor and complacency and short-sightedness and fear of each other, but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace.

But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate Flag stirred into many of our citizens.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s true a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge, including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise…

(APPLAUSE)

… as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.

(APPLAUSE)

For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression…

(APPLAUSE)

… and racial subjugation.

(APPLAUSE)

We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capital would not be an act of political correctness. It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history, a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.

It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races, striving to form a more perfect union.

By taking down that flag, we express adds grace God’s grace.

(APPLAUSE)

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.

(APPLAUSE)

For too long, we’ve been blind to be way past injustices continue to shape the present.

(APPLAUSE)

Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty…

(APPLAUSE)

… or attend dilapidated schools or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.

(APPLAUSE)

Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal-justice system and lead us to make sure that that system’s not infected with bias.

(APPLAUSE)

… that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement…

(APPLAUSE)

… and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.

(APPLAUSE)

Maybe we now realize the way a racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal…

(APPLAUSE)

… so that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote…

(APPLAUSE)

… by recognizing our common humanity, by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin…

(APPLAUSE)

… or the station into which they were born and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American. By doing that, we express God’s grace.

(APPLAUSE)

For too long…

(APPLAUSE)

For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.

(APPLAUSE)

Sporadically, our eyes are open when eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day…

(APPLAUSE)

… the countless more whose lives are forever changed, the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happening to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners want to do something about this. We see that now.

(APPLAUSE)

And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions, ways of life that make up this beloved country, by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.

(APPLAUSE)

We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it.

(APPLAUSE)

But God gives it to us anyway.

(APPLAUSE)

And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says, “We have to have a conversation about race.” We talk a lot about race.

(APPLAUSE)

There’s no shortcut. We don’t need more talk.

(APPLAUSE)

None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy.

It will not. People of good will will continue to debate the merits of various policies as our democracy requires — the big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates.

Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.

(APPLAUSE)

Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.

(APPLAUSE)

To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”

(APPLAUSE)

What is true in the south is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too.

(APPLAUSE)

That — that history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.

That’s what I felt this week — an open heart. That more than any particular policy or analysis is what’s called upon right now, I think. It’s what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness beyond and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible.

(APPLAUSE)

If we can tap that grace, everything can change. Amazing grace, amazing grace.

Amazing grace…

(SINGING)

(APPLAUSE)

… how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now, I see.

(APPLAUSE)

Clementa Pinckney found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Cynthia Hurd found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Susie Jackson found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Ethel Lance found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… DePayne Middleton Doctor found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Tywanza Sanders found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Myra Thompson found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… through the example of their lives. They’ve now passed it onto us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift as long as our lives endure.

May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His Grace on the United States of America.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

Think it’s time Cornel West heed those words.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2015 in Giant Negros

 

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