News


African Methodist Episcopal Zion members mourn in aftermath of Charleston killings

Community discussion on July 6 to brainstorm ideas for change

The killing of nine African American churchgoers by a white gunman in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday has sent shock waves across the nation, and many people, including those at Palo Alto's University African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, are calling for a discussion on race and acceptance, Rev. Kaloma Smith said.

On Thursday evening church members gathered at the Middlefield Road church to pray, mourn and try to make sense out of the senseless act of violence.

Many in the 76-member congregation, which consists of mostly older African Americans who came from the South, remember the church burnings, bombings and murders that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement. That such hatred and violence has not ended — but has escalated in recent years — has opened new, deep wounds and invoked a new sense of fear, Smith said.

"It's a psychic shock," he said.

People begin to question a lot of things when a place that is considered a safe haven is attacked, he said.

The Thursday evening prayer vigil included members of the San Francisco Peninsula chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, the country's largest African American sorority of college-educated women. One of the women killed in Charleston was a member of the sorority, Smith said.

"It was a cathartic moment," he said of the vigil.

The deadly shootings in Charleston represent an increase in violence against African Americans that has been greater in the past four years than in the last 20 years, Smith said.

While the church is considering ways to improve its own security with cameras and other technology, Smith said University AME remains steadfast in its commitment to acceptance.

"We can't get into the rhetoric of fear-mongering and retaliation," Smith said. "No matter what happens tomorrow, we are open to all."

According to a June 18 article in The Atlantic, African American congregations have had a long history of being persecuted. In the decades before the Civil War, black churches were outlawed in many states.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, the site of Wednesday's massacre, was forced to operate underground in 1834 after all black churches in the city were outlawed, according to the church's history.

Smith said Palo Alto's University AME Zion congregation feels some apprehension because it isn't located in a traditionally black neighborhood. And in the light of such violent intolerance, people are wondering what implications that has for their church, Smith said.

"Striking at the church, the heart of African American community life, is about more than just an attack at a church: At its core, it is an attack against people," he said.

Smith said older members of the congregation are tired of seeing African Americans die as innocent shooting victims.

"The younger members are (also) frustrated," he said.

Referencing police shootings of unarmed African Americans, he said, "The shootings in the church are a natural extension of that behavior."

When people see there are no consequences for shootings, they think they can get away with doing more of it, Smith said.

But what happened in Charleston will not deter the church, Smith said. The church and its congregation will not match the rhetoric of hate, he added.

Smith hopes people of all faiths, races and ethnicity will come out to discuss the issues facing the U.S. related to race and issues that also exist in Palo Alto and come together to find solutions.

A community discussion will take place on July 6 at 6 p.m., at 3549 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Information is available from Pastor Smith at 914-374-4255 or pastor@universityAMEZ.com.

To view a video of the prayer vigil, visit the Weekly's YouTube channel.

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Tears
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2015 at 12:27 am

Love and prayers to everyone who is hurting.

From
Web Link

Representatives of the victims were in the courtroom, and got to look into Roof's eyes as they forgave him, one by one.

"I forgive you," Nadine Collier, daughter of victim Ethel Lance, said to Roof. "I will never talk to her ever again, never be able to hold her again. I forgive you and have mercy on your soul. You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people, but I forgive you."


2 people like this
Posted by Prayers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2015 at 1:03 am

Such an incredible tragedy. I could not be as generous as these family members who have forgiven this young man. I see evil in him that should be extinguished before it infects others.

I am praying for the survivors and the victims' families to heal and find relief from their pain. God bless you all.


3 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2015 at 10:22 am

Interesting report in Time Magazine about the history of terrorism against African-American Christian churches: Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by G.V.
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2015 at 12:39 pm

This is heartbreaking. What the heck is going on? I feel like we all need to start wearing t-shirts that say "stop killing black folks"!! It's making me sad, mad and so confused. I thought we were making progress, moving past racism...but now we have police officers killing black people, young citizens killing black people...really, what is going on?!!
When Solange Knowles asked, "Where can we be safe?" - that just crushed me. Can you imagine having to wonder that?! Racist ideas are the minutest, least evolved form of thinking. Let's CHOOSE LOVE, people!


2 people like this
Posted by C Wilson George
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2015 at 1:10 pm

This is a heinous crime, which is clearly the product of a warped mind. It’s hard to want to do any more than let the family members, and church members, grieve and bury their loved ones.

[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 20, 2015 at 1:20 pm

I am a long time resident of PA, moved here in 1961. My wife and I joined Wesley UMC on Cambridge Ave. We had a very active Men's Club and I remember men from UAMEZ coming over to cook and help serve meals at our dinner meetings. I remember one man especially. His name was Cole. I don't remember his last name. He was so friendly and cheerful. Our prayers are with you and your members.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2015 at 1:48 pm

It sounds like a wonderful community that had this horrendous crime inflicted on them.

I think there is some racism, but I also think that there are wonderful people in this country. Just because one young idiot (can't call him a man because he showed no maturity in his actions) went rampant because of his ideals, doesn't take away from the fact that for the great majority of us, people are people regardless of their skin color.

Giving young people access to guns for their birthdays, allowing guns to be bought and sold easily, and not reporting someone who makes terrorist threats or comments to their friends, are lessons that must be learned from this. When criminals get hold of guns it is usually for crimes and they are not acquired legally. When people like this idiot legally get hold of a gun and cause havoc, then it shows a big breakdown of the system. Take away the ease of ownership and the opportunity for young idiots to go on a shooting spree in churches, movie theaters, college campuses and elementary schools will be taken away also.


Like this comment
Posted by @C Wilson George
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2015 at 3:17 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 20, 2015 at 3:52 pm

I am not religious, and I don't believe in turning the other cheek, as many Christians do. I also do not believe that this guy was mentally unbalanced...he had an ideology of race war, and acted on it. I think he should be hanged...that would be justice.

There is no way to deny that race was a major part of this thing. It is obvious. That doesn't mean that race is a major part of police confrontations with blacks...the main issue there is black criminality. In other words, these two things should not become conflated.

This killer broke several gun laws, but he still had a gun (the outlaws always get them). More gun laws will not stop the determined ones. BTW, I notice that Uber just banned concealed carry passengers and drivers...this makes me feel less safe, not more, because conceal carry permits require background checks...I would prefer that my driver was packin'.


7 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2015 at 6:18 pm

"Giving young people access to guns for their birthdays, allowing guns to be bought and sold easily"

Guns aren't the problem. Normal, well adjusted people don't go around shooting others. It is better and more effective to address the root of the problem - racial hatred and mental instability - than to treat the symptoms. Putting a band-aid solution on a festering infection won't do any good. Otherwise, fulminating, unwell individuals are likely to simply trade one weapon for another.

People aren't born racist. They become that way because they are taught to hate. If they can be taught to hate, they can also be taught to love.

"and not reporting someone who makes terrorist threats or comments to their friends, are lessons that must be learned from this."

That is an ounce of prevention, and far better than any pound of cure. Mr. Roof was obviously a deeply troubled soul, and incredibly far from being happy and well-adjusted. Had any of those friends acted on what they had heard, this tragedy almost certainly would not have happened. There is a strong ethos in America against ratting someone out. People need to learn the difference between intervention and betrayal, however. The two aren't the same thing, and failing to intervene when someone is going off the rails can be a betrayal.


6 people like this
Posted by Prayers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2015 at 6:50 pm

It's easy to jump to guns as the problem here, but the real issue is racism and this country's inability to manage diversity. Not only cultural and racial diversity, but also socioeconomic.

I hate to jump into the gun debate, but I would like to remind people that the reason our forefathers created the 2nd amendment was twofold:

1) To "insure domestic Tranquility" and "provide for the common defense" of the country.

2) "The overriding purpose of the Framers in guaranteeing the right of the people to keep and bear arms was as a check on the standing army, which the Constitution gave the Congress the power to "raise and support."

"As Noah Webster put it in a pamphlet urging ratification of the Constitution, "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe."

Web Link

Our right to bear arms is meant to help protect the people from a corrupt government or regime as well as to provide a country capable of forming militias to help protect our country.

Obviously, much has changed since the Bill of Rights was written, but those two basic purposes can not, and should not be forgotten while we look to stop people from hurting each other within our own country. The real ill is, why are we hurting each other, and how do we stop the desire to hurt each other?


5 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 20, 2015 at 6:52 pm

> Mr. Roof was obviously a deeply troubled soul, and incredibly far from being happy and well-adjusted

Really? I see him as a white supremacist, and proud, like Jefferson Davis (and Abraham Lincoln, btw). He reminds me of Tim McVeigh, in modern times.

I think a better analogy would be with Islamist supremacists who want to kill the un-pure. It is important to accurately describe the motive, instead of falling back on that old trope: Mental instability.


6 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2015 at 7:10 pm

"I see him as a white supremacist"

And that isn't a deeply troubled soul? How could someone have that kind of hate inside them and not be considered troubled? By "deeply troubled", I meant "messed up", not "insane" in the literal sense.

"I think a better analogy would be with Islamist supremacists who want to kill the un-pure."

If you mean ISIS, I think it would be a pretty good analogy. An even better analogy would be with Charles Manson, who also tried to start a race war by murdering people. In my opinion, all three are instances of undiluted evil.

I think the folks at Emanuel AME Church are the most amazing people. May God bless them and give them solace in this time of tragedy. They are a reminder that no matter how much cruelty exists in this world, there is also great good.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2015 at 7:38 pm

Of course guns are a problem. If that idiot had entered the church with a knife, he would possibly have injured one or two people, unlikely to have killed anyone, but have been pounced on by the others.

An idiot with a gun is very likely to kill or seriously maim a large number of victims. An idiot with a knife or similar weapon is much less likely to cause the same number of people to get hurt.

There is no safe way to test if a gun is going into the hands of an idiot since there is no way of knowing who will get their hands on it. Keeping guns out of the hands of idiots has to be a goal.

Now preventing idiots, terrorists, zealots, etc. has to be something we all have to keep alert for also. But taking away guns will prevent massacres of the types we are having far too often. It may not have stopped the Boston Marathon, but it would have stopped plenty more.


8 people like this
Posted by Prayers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2015 at 9:22 pm

Resident:

Yep, and it will also stop every law-abiding citizen from protecting themselves. It's been a very long time since we have had a war at home. I guess some people forget quickly.

I hate to repeat such a well-known fact, but: outlawing guns means only outlaws will have them.

Of course it is stupid to only keep guns in the hands of oulaws and bad people. You think the current death rate is high? Wait until only the bad guys have guns.


4 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 21, 2015 at 5:19 pm

@Resident wrote:

"Of course guns are a problem. If that idiot had entered the church with a knife, he would possibly have injured one or two people, unlikely to have killed anyone, but have been pounced on by the others."

And if he had chosen to use a bomb, he could well have killed as many or more. Even so, don't the one or two lives count? The idea is to prevent any loss of life.

"An idiot with a gun is very likely to kill or seriously maim a large number of victims."

You're saying anyone with a gun is going to go around killing people? That simply isn't true. Only the most infinitesimal fraction of guns are used in a crime of any sort.

"An idiot with a knife or similar weapon is much less likely to cause the same number of people to get hurt."

You seem to conveniently forget Oklahoma City and the Boston Marathon with that statement. How do you know their alternative weapon would be a knife? Again, the goal is to have NO people hurt or killed. That goal can only be approached and attained by addressing the root causes of the violence. To do otherwise is a waste of time and effort because it won't bring about the desired results.

"There is no safe way to test if a gun is going into the hands of an idiot since there is no way of knowing who will get their hands on it. Keeping guns out of the hands of idiots has to be a goal."

"Now preventing idiots, terrorists, zealots, etc. has to be something we all have to keep alert for also."

I agree completely. In fact, Dylann Roof's drinking buddies were told about plans to conduct a mass shooting. They even took his gun away from him for a week at one point, but gave it back after a girlfriend objected. Dylann's mother also took the gun from him at one point, but he later got it back. So people knew there were potentially deadly problems, yet ultimately did nothing to prevent the tragedy. People who commit acts of mass murder typically show plenty of warning signs. Acting on these warning signs is the ounce of prevention, not gun bans.

Web Link

"But taking away guns will prevent massacres of the types we are having far too often."

No, it won't. And if weapons of any sort were the problem, why were these killings virtually unheard of decades ago? Firearms were far easier to obtain then. If they were the source of the problem, then such killings should have been more frequent then than now, yet the opposite is true.

"It may not have stopped the Boston Marathon"

At which point your argument falls apart, for the reasons I noted above. Do you think a couple of nutbars in Boston are the only ones who can construct and deliver a crude but effective bomb?

The media now makes celebrities of people such as Dylann Roof. That needs to stop because it encourages deeply troubled people to commit the such acts. Hey, kill a bunch of people and worldwide infamy is guaranteed. Simply reporting the facts is sufficient. Going on and on, as the news media seems to invariably do, is both unnecessary and ultimately very harmful. The public needs to be made widely aware of what to look for and how to respond. That is the only way these atrocities will be prevented.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2015 at 2:46 pm

There are none so blind as those who will not see.


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Or those who refuse to face facts, and see only what they want to see.


Like this comment
Posted by @Kazu
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2015 at 5:34 pm

"Or those who refuse to face facts, and see only what they want to see."

Which describes you and your ilk to perfection.


6 people like this
Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2015 at 6:19 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

We at First Congregational Church of Palo Alto prayed yesterday for the families of the nine slaughtered at Mother Emanuel AME Church, with lamenting for the ways that we continue to perpetuate racism. I look forward to the community conversation about race and racism on July 6.

We closed our prayer time with a prayer by the Rev. Nancy Taylor for our sisters and brothers in South Carolina.
Dear Mother Emanuel:
You, who authored courageous slave rebellions, who suffered and survived wretched bigotry, burnings and earthquake,
You, who worshipped underground when black churches were outlawed ...
Dear Mother Emanuel, in this day of grievous heartache we wrap you in bands of prayer.
We pour out upon your broken hearts the healing balm of Gilead. You, whose shepherd has been taken from you,
whose building has become a tomb,
whose children are terrified: We stand with you.
We weep with you. We rage for you.
We keep vigil with you for your beloved dead.
May the God of Moses and Miriam, of Jesus and the Marys,
anoint you with healing, furnish you with hope and,
one day, some day, mend your torn hearts and wipe the tears from your swollen eyes.
God help us.
Amen.


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