Let us gather and be silent together like stones glittering in sunlight, so bright it hurts our eyes, emptied of tears, and searching the sky for answers.
Let us be strangers together as we gather in circles wherever we need to stand, hand-in-hand, and sing hymns to the heavens and pray to the fallen.
And speak their names: Clementa, Cynthia, Tywanza, Ethel, Sharonda, Daniel, Myra, Suzie, and DePayne.
They are not alone. As bells in the spires calls across the wounded Charleston sky, we close our eyes and listen to the same stillness ringing in our hearts, holding on to one another, like brothers, like sisters, because we know that wherever there is love, there is God.
Someone says a drug-related incident,
someone says he was quiet, he mostly kept to himself,
someone says mental illness,
someone says a hateful and deranged mind,
someone says he was a loner, he wasn’t bullied,
someone says his sister was getting married in four days,
a newsman says an attack on faith,
a relative says his mother never raised him to be like this,
a friend says he had that kind of Southern pride, strong conservative beliefs,
someone says he made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that you don’t really think of it like that,
someone says he wanted to start a civil war,
he said he was there to kill black people,
the governor says we’ll never understand.
He is not a lone wolf,
he is not alien,
he is not inexplicable,
he is not just one sick individual,
he is one of us,
he is from here,
he grew up here,
he went to school here,
he wore his jacket with its white supremacist patches here,
he told racist jokes here,
he got his gun here,
he learned his racism here,
his license plate sported a confederate flag here,
the confederate flag flies at the state capitol here,
he had that kind of Southern pride,
this is not isolated this is not a drug incident,
this is not unspeakable (we should speak,
this is not unthinkable (we should think),
this is not inexplicable (we must explain it),
he is not a symbol he is a symptom,
he is not a cipher he is a reminder,
his actions are beyond our imagining,
but his motivation is not beyond our understanding
no he didn’t get those ideas from nowhere.
mental illness is a way to not say racism
drug-related is a way to not say hate
loner is a way to not say one of us
we’ll never understand is a way to not say look at our history
Look away, look away, look away [to be sung]
let us no longer walk in your shoes.
you are a traveler of darkness, a walker of shadows,
cloaking yourself in a black cloth like the grim reaper
and arming your soul with the tools of a terrorist –
a misguided soldier who’s trying to start a war.
heaven was as close as your breath that night.
You came to Mother Emanuel to worship in the glow of God,
and speak the light that flows from love.
How beautiful of Him to hear your words
and lift you into the arms of Christ.
you walked toward heaven with focus,
even when your shoes were stained with the dirt of intolerance.
A black cloth lays silent at Clementa’s seat, resting under
a single rose. It was taken from our city’s soil,
where seeds of faith continue to grow.
I see heaven in your tears and feel the weight of sadness
in your voice. I’ve seen strangers hold hands
as the sun wraps us in unbearable heat,
I’ve watched children of contradiction come together
for the unity of the Holy City.
nine members of your family are now in heaven
and you have to confront the reality of racism,
the dusk of pain, the lightlessness of the dawn.
Because I would rather hang a black cloth on a flag pole
than give the Confederate flag another glimpse of the sun.