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TWISC: 'Grace Will Lead Us Home'

June 17, 2019 - Posted in This Week in South Carolina by Sean Scott

Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawe talks with host Gavin Jackson about her new book "Grace Will Lead Us Home."

Highlights:

  • This year is the fourth anniversary of the Charleston church shooting at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church
  • Former Gov. Nikki Haley convinced the State House to pass the bill to lower the Confederate flag from the state capitol building, in part because of her own story of discrimination as an Indian-American
  • On the night of the shooting, survivors were moved across a section of Calhoun Street, named for the former Vice President and ardent defender of slavery, to a hotel that was built after a failed slave uprising led by Denmark Vesey

Summary:

On June 17, 2015, nine black parishioners were killed during a Bible Study session at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. The tragedy is chronicled in author Jennifer Berry Hawes’ new book, "Grace Will Lead Us Home," from the shooting to the families’ journeys towards forgiveness and everything in between.

Forgiveness is one of the main themes of the book, and Hawes explores the complex nature of forgiving a radicalized white supremacist. Not all victims or families have forgiven the shooter in the four years since the massacre.

She also says the state has not made much progress in improving race relations, citing a University of South Carolina poll where black residents said race relations were worse in the year after the tragedy, but white residents were more likely to say race relations had improved. “I see where we are talking more about it perhaps, but I’m not seeing where we are addressing the underlying issues that keep that from occurring. What’s to prevent another one of these shootings from happening again?” Berry asks.

Since the shooting, Hawes says the church has stabilized itself. “I think they’re more comfortable in the role that they’ve been forced into. It’s a stop on the civil rights tour and it’s an attraction for other Christians, and both of those give them an opportunity to talk about the faith and the church’s role in civil rights. So they are finding their footing, but it is difficult this time of year. It’s always going to be,” Hawes said.

Other sections of the book include President Obama’s eulogy for State Senator and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the trial of Dylann Roof, and the church’s struggles to recover after the tragedy.

Looking forward:

Look for the state legislature to continue discussing racial disparities in education, as well as potentially closing the “Charleston loophole,” which would expand background checks, when the legislative session reconvenes in January. "Grace Will Lead Us Home" is now available for purchase.

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