tv We Are Charleston CSPAN November 25, 2016 8:00pm-8:56pm EST
>> hello, welcome to our afternoon session. i am andrea blackman with a national public library and today's format we have three distinguished panelists ande co-authors for afternoon session. we are -- "we are charleston" joined by dr. kendall so thank you so much for taking time to be with us today. as a friendly reminder the festival depends heavily on donations so if you have not heard this yet, please think kindly about donating to, donate to the festival. after this session each of the authors will be signing in the colonnade on the plaza. books are for sale by parnassus books sell. portions of the work proceeds go directly to the festival. now about the book before we get started "we are charleston" not only recounts the events of a terrible day that happened in
june 2015 it also offers us a15t history lesson that reveals a deeper look at suffering, triumph and ongoing rage, people who helped form mother emanuel ame church. in many ways today's discussion is not only charleston story but it's the story of america. it is based torrealba deep south. as the story of fighting for freedom and fighting for civil rights but it also is the story of fighting for grace and understanding. we hope today you will engage our authors as we talk and hear from them about how they were able to transcend bigotry, fraud, hatred, racism, poverty and missouri within the pages of our books. the shootings that took place in charleston opened up a deep wound of racism that still permeates the south, southern institutions and pretty much the fabric of our society.y.
"we are charleston" tells the story of people, people who have been continually beaten down by two of also triumphed over the worst of adversity. exploring the stories of one of the oldest african-american episcopal churches, looking at forgiveness, looking at healing. it is my pleasure to introduce you to our panelists. first we have herb frazier. mr. frazier is here. he is the editor. he has been an editor of five different daily newspapers in the south including his hometown paper post and courier.ost and he's a former michigan journalism fellow at the university of michigan and is currently marketing a publicic relations manager at magnoliaio plantation and gardens near charleston south carolina. dr. bernard powers junior is a professor of history at the college of charleston where he teaches united states in african-american history. he has been a consultant on many historic sites and is served on
boards several history oriented nonprofit organizations. dr. powers has been seen in pbs film such as thehe ni african-americans many rivers to cross and slavery and the making of america. lastly marjorie wentworth is a poet laureate. her poems have been nominated for multiple awards for she's the author of the prize-winning children's stories shackled. what worth is the co-founder and former president of low country initiative for the literary arts. she serves on the editorial board at the university of south carolina palmetto poetry series and joins faculty members from austin university dr. kendall who will hail help shape our conversation today. please join me in welcoming our panelists. [applause]>> thi >> thank you so much andrea. we are very fortunate to have these three with us today. the idea ringing people from different sides of the literary
arts in order to tell the story is marvelous. one of the things i think you should know is some of the background of the ligouri efforts of these writers. herb frazier for example has written a book called behind gods back and having taught african-american music for a long time i was really curious about that book. one of the things he talked about was that he collected 10 years worth of oral histories of his people and he talks about the fact that when he entered college his culture was somehow denigrated and he felt as if he had to hide a precious gem of his heritage. what was curious is just this week one of my africa can american male student said exactly the same thing.ng he said when i went to my first predominantly white schools i
was placed in a box of stereotypes which meant i had to consistently defy theco stereotypes. i first recognized my blacklist there. was embarrassed about where he came from and the way i spoke in the way i looked. one of the important aspects of this book is that we are stealing with -- dealing with so many issues that herb brought up in his wonderful book. i'm also very pleased that marjorie is here because one of the things the preparations have helped me to do is to read her poetry especially when poem froi the endless repetition from an ordinary miracle shows that she has spirit to dell beneath the horror of this tragedy and get to the poetry of the human experience and if i may i just want to read two stanzas of poems that she was supposed to read at the south carolina in a
duration for their governor. i think nikki haley is that rights but two minutes was thought to be too much time towa devote to poetry so we are going to devote at least 30 seconds to poetry now. from her poem one river, one boat where the confederate flag still flies aside the state has haunted by her pass conflicted about the future tag. at the heart of it we are at war with ourselves huddled together on this vote handed down to us stuck at the last band of a wide river splintering near the sea. clearly from this poem you see that she is ready to address thn situation though in a humorous sidenote it reminded me of a statement of betsy smith. she was talking to an irish made in a hotel and she said well girl, you came over on one boat and i came over on another boat
and now we are in the same boat. >> i may borrow that. >> last but not least bernard powers who is non-biased because he got one degree at northeastern university and one degree at northwestern university. his book black charles tony and the social history went from 1822 to 1885. it was elected a choice award for one of the best academic books. so we have the people whose skills are necessary to tell th story and what i would like to know first and foremost is how did the three of you come together?you co >> that's great because that's what we were going to start with so thank you. you read our mind. started with a poem and we like to begin with this poem because it kind of puts us back to that day in june. the day after the shootings at h
manual church i was called by the arts editor of a newspaper and they were putting together a pullout section for that sunday and a manual church opened its t fortune services the following sunday. it was still a crime scene downstairs that they were open for services and i wanted some articulation of what this meant to charles tony is. i wanted to feel like a prayer and charleston is also called the holy city because there are so many churches bear. that's the title and i found a speech that reverend pinkney who was the minister at a manual who was killed and his speech he said only love can conquer hate. those were his words speaking ts me from youtube. i use that as an epigraph because it seemed to embody whad we needed to hear. we will begin without poem and tell you a little bit about how we came together in holy city
let us gather and be silent together like stones littering in the sunlight so bright it hurts our eyes in searching the sky. let us be strangers together as we gather in circles wherever we meet to stand hand-in-hand and saying hymns to the heavens and pray for the fallen and speak the names. clementa, ethel, sharonda, daniel, mira, suzie and -- they are not alone. the bells in the spires call across the wounded charleston sky. we close our minds to listen to the same stillness bringing in our hearts holding onto one another like her others, like sisters because we know wherever there is love there is god.
so the poem was used to be that text for their story which had beautiful visuals of the crowds and the thousands of peoples coming to pay tribute and a lot of people saw this on the news and a woman who does book promotions said you should really do more. your heart is so -- you should turn this into a book to sell and i said oh no. it took every ounce of my brain and imagination and then she was insistent and i thought well you know people from charleston should tell this story. we were right in the middle ofoi it so i picked up the phone and called herb frazier. >> good afternoon. i i was happy to hear from marjory. we hadn't talked in a while and i decided that you know after i
got over the excitement of her offer to engage with her and the opportunity to do this book my mind started spinning and i was immediately reflecting on the past in my life experiences which at that point had prepared me i think for this challenge because i grew up in the church. as a journalist to have covered the community i moved people in the community and i said i can tap those resources and i love your references to the community and the culture because it is what i thought of. you know we have people in that community in the 50s and 60s who were iconic images of charleston. women who sewed baskets and women who fought the streets with heavy loads on their heads. the fruits and all of these
things i could blend into this narrative, those are some of the thoughts that were going through my mind. i have family and friends who are still a members of a manual. i moved away from charleston in the mid-1960s and so since then after moving away ande then coming back i learned a lot more about charleston and the church and the role that the church played in the community that i thought that this would be a very good opportunity to bring those narratives, those stories and the role that the church played not only the community but the civil rights movement.th charleston is not noted as one of the leading cities in the civil rights movement but there are many things that happened there in the 1960s. as a kid growing up there my grandmother used to tell me wheo you go to college she would say you are going to allen university. allen university is named for the ame denomination's first vision. richard allen..
as a kid growing up there i did not know of the rich history and the ame to nomination today learned that sometime later that as a journalist i had an opportunity to interview dr. powers on stories and i knew in this ongoing research in the ame denomination and the role i. played in the abolitionist movement through civil rights and into the modern day. a new if we were going to do this and do this properly we needed that foundation. i called dr. powers. >> i was as i always am very glad to hear from her. i was surprised at the project that he began to describe to me. i was also intrigued and enticed at the offer to participate. as a mansion for a number of years i have been working on a project really focused on the
history of the african methodist episcopal church in south carolina mainly from its beginning until the period of the great migration in the 1920s. so i thought that this would be a wonderful opportunity for me to take some of the research that i had already developed into a certain certain extent turned in a different direction and bring that material into this project. so i immediately said yes, i'm willing to participate and what do we need to do next? and so in terms of the project, we all had different but complementary roles. i am an historian so i immediately knew that we neededi to provide some background on the ame church and what the denomination wasn't how i it came into existence becauseti people would be confused particularly by the name,
african american if possible. is it africaners said episcopal and how can it be more than one and so on and so forth? and we needed to talk about thef founding bishop for the church richard allen and man who began life as a slave and was able to become free through purchase, through self purchase, hard work and self purchase. he becomes free at the end of the american revolution. was really one of the leading black ministers in the white's methodist church in philadelphia but allen had two concerns at the end of the 18th century t and one was that racism was widely and deeply established in the white's methodist church and the other thing that allen believed was that african people are unable to control their own religious destiny. those two factors would lead him
to organize an exodus from the white methodist church in philadelphia in the late 18th century and then to create an independent religious denomination. the first black religious denomination in the country or it if it was to be organized on a national basis beginning in 1816 and he would become the founding bishop of thedi denomination. it's a really incorporated the very fiber of the church's social justice and antiracism. and for our purposes we know that there was an early branch of the denomination establish and charleston in 1818. that may seem to be just a small facts but it's far more than that. when you really think about what
i have just said charleston was really the heart of slavery in america in the early 19th century. so, for black people to have gathered themselves together and then to have created an independent denomination of methodist that was antiracist was quite troubling. eventually this church which was the antecedent church to mother a manual was destroyed. the year was 1822 and it was destroyed because it was determined that some of the members and leaders of this church which was then known as the african church, were involved in what was known as the conspiracy where a group of people had organized themselves to try to overflow -- overthrow slavery and escape from south carolina in 1822.
what that really meant was that. from 1922 until the end of the civil war there is no ame church in south carolina at all. all. so what we do in the course of the book is to really look at a series of challenges that emanuel ame church has faced during the course of its history from his very first one which was an existential threat to its very existence and then we lay out a series of other challenges that the congregation has been faced with a not successfully over time including the most recent challenge. but we don't just lay out a linear historical treatment in the book and we don't do that because we thought it would be much more adjusting to organizes a series of episodes where the past and the present interactive
with one another as we presented the characters, the experiences and the institutions we discussed and so on and so fortd and indeed when we thought about it we thought about the city of charleston and if you have been to the city of charleston youle know that you walk up and down the streets and a pass from one period of time to another period of time from the 18th century to the 19th century. even as you walk up and down one block of after another in the historic district. we tried to put the book together in that way. if i could just.ri a brief section to try to illustrate that point to you, the free blacks who organize the conspiracy in 1822 was their leader in the african church ine charleston and he veryry frequently convened prayer meetings and the guise under which he organized the plants for his proposed insurrection.
in the book in the chapter entitled the faith conspiracy i talk about the meetings at that he held in the way in which they were organized in what they didh at these meetings and so on. then anna jump ahead to june 17, 2015 the main floor of mother emanuel ame church and charleston. let me. this brief section to you. on that tragic evening of june 17, 2015 another prayer meeting was held at charleston emanuel ame church but its composition, tenor and circumstances were different. they were illegal and usually clandestine gatherings that could have been disbursed by authorities will think were pror punishment for the blatant threats that they opposed to
white supremacy.reat tha the meetings were also exclusively male which made their potential threat even greater. his teachings provide on the old testament and the god of judgment justice and physical deliverance providing the means for black people to gain freedom and control over their own bodies. how different different was seen in a manual's modern and spacious fellowship hall. only a small number for gathered at their grandest wish was for the multitude to comment to hear the good news of the gospel proclaimed to study and to discuss it so that their souls might be saved. most of the attendees were women which was not at all unusual particularly for the modern church.he pray your meetings for public gatherings that broke no laws in the participants had every
expectation of safety in god's house but we know that they were not safe that night. and so the book is organized around a variety of scenes that allow us to bring the past and the present together in an interactive way and we think that creates a dynamic produces greater interest and texture for the various characters. >> dr. powers mentioned thatatta they pass is always present and charleston. before growing up there i didn't understand. there was a street the bordereya neighborhood of public housing projects. there was a street named lawrence. a plus and two years later and tell a new who lawrence was, henry lawrence a slave trader.
i didn't know that façade which is still standing today, charleston was the façade of a rice mill and i learned later that rice was a very important commodity in colonial southy imt carolina.ony it made the colony wealthy and charleston rivaled philadelphia and new york in prominence.and but i did know and we all knew and we all hated henry lawrence. pardon me john c. calhoun. calhoun street is the church -- the street on which the church sits. the church is on calhoun street and not to far from the street is a statute of john c. calhoun. in the book i interviewed austin and mr. osten told me that as a boy growing up there he used to throw rocks up there, he and his friends used to throw rocks to try to get the statue.
they never hit the statue but it improved their baseball arm. years later i met harvey jones. harvey was a few years older than me and harvey was probably one of the first person to told me of his relationship with church and his role as a young protester in the civil rightss movement at a manual. manual was one of the churches that organize the youth movement in the early 60s to protest against the segregated lunch counters on king street which is still today the central business district on the potential of charleston. harvey jones shared with me anan essay he had written and i kept that and i didn't do anything with it at that time.at i said maybe someday in the future i will be able to use this in some way. when marjorie called me i immediately called harvey can be
set up an interview. he told me about the protest, period of time test and his involvement by the marches in 1963. king had come to charleston pair already briefly. the summer of 1963 the naacp initiated a selective buying effort as part of the charleston civil rights movement. many of the foot soldiers for high school students like 17-year-old harvey jones who lived several blocks north of emanuel three jones decided that he was going to participate in the student protest because he had just about enough of jim crow laws. quote i realized i didn't want to not be able to go into a restaurant and eats like regular people. i did not want to be forced to go upstairs in the theater to watch a movie. i would rather be dead than be treated as less than a human. jones joined the picket line and during one march as an
opportunity to protest the long dr. king, alongside dr. king. during that march activists stopped at each of the businesses that refuse to integrate. a white man came out of the bar and threw a beer on jones. king saw what happened and told the teenager, son, don't do anything. if you feel that you have to do something go back to the church. jones said on vine dr. king, i'm fine. i'm thinking how would i have wrapped it up that was me. that small illustration of the enormous not only nonviolence but forgiveness because it is forgiveness that has elevated this story to its global perspective. the book we deal with forgiveness quite extensivelyant and marjorie takes a very complicated subject and brings meaning to it. >> which is want to address that. i know that it's very
complicated and we were fortunate that we were able to speak with the people who offered forgiveness and i just want to talk about it as briefly as possible and read a little passage. i think that forgiveness search of the people who were at bible study that night. these were people who had workep all day, stayed for a two-hour quarterly business meeting,r qur probably did not have dinner, not like there was food there and then stayed on to go to a bible study that began at 8:00 rather than 6:00 and by the way was very hot that week, 100 degrees or something. all of these people were people who practiced their faith in the areas of their life. they were teachers, ministers. many of them got their license to minister that night at the business meeting. of course the minister, their preacher reverend pinkney who
was there was also a state senator and he looked at his work in the state senate as an extension of this ministry. they were a beloved librarian, a poet, a coach. these were people that were not motivated by greed and when you listen to what the family member said to offered forgiveness they say that's what my mother would have wanted, that's what my sister would have wanted so it is an extension of that faith and that's something that we all could learn from. it's very complicated and not all this family member said offered forgiveness and forgiveness is not absolution. one of the things we wondered about right away was were they told to say that? no it was spontaneous and none of them had stepped away from it. i'm just going to read a little bit from the book and quote, at the end i'm going to quote president obama who came down
to me knew where to begin in a new word and because he told me that was it >> >> he says i forgive you and my family for gives you but we would like you to take this opportunity to repented and give your life to the one who matters most, christ so he can change your ways the matter what happens to you. so whenever we may believe the power of the familynt statement is larger thanan them. the strength seems to come from somewhere else and to really understand and he says the moment he sat back down with the children that
he had a kind of piece thatt i was a different person i was not the person was taken in there i said no more god you have got her you gave me my piece this morning i knew where to go from there. this still did not know exactly what to do but not to dwell on that tragedy anyy more of the night would never dwell for one second. it is amazing to speak to them about it but it took the power he had over them away but it is not absolution but to'' president he gave the most beautiful eulogy for reverend or senator pitney and he emphasized the word
grace and remember he sang amazing grace spontaneously but he's saying the beloved hymn those words written by a man and we know the story written by a slaveholder who repented whose ideology probably initially did not differ much if he was a slave trader. and reinforces the family offers forgiveness free and benevolent favor of god if we confine the grace anything is possible if we can tap that grace everything can change then
he saying amazing grace. then he talked about the charleston nine finding grace one and now they have passed that on to us may be find ourselves worthy of the extraordinary gift as long as our lives and to hour. may grace the them home in may god continue to shed his grace on united states of america. pdf to talk about now in charleston that is importantg in today we could use some grace with our national dialogue for sure. we have never quoted from not president's eulogy i would beg to talk about
where we are today with what's going on in but the church and the families were nominated for the nobel peace prize. they did not get it the president of columbia got it but that is a significant event and we write about how that happened. why is forgiveness missing from our lives? the federal hate crime trial is starting the day before the election? or the day after. there are 33 counts against him the families are character witnesses starting in november. >> certainly one of the things felt the church is
involved in that has affected family members for his social activism one of the most important organization sat has grown out of this tragedy of mother emmanuel is an organization that is designed to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of those who should not possess them by promoting reform of guy and access laws to insure background checks are universal and to prevent a tragic situation that allows the murder in charleston to gain access to blood was not entitled to obtain a weapon
but the the default composition is of the background check was not finished within three days than the applicant is entitled to purchase of weapon. >> they call that the charleston loophole. that is unfortunate but nevertheless that is the situation.up of we have a group of people who have grown and of thean commit -- community who are working together to promote better relations between the police department because we have added so many tragic and unfortunate shootings in the last couple of years mrs. known as project elimination with the aftermath of days shooting
that occurred in north charleston april just a few months before what happened at other manual. has -- mother e manual and then to promote social justice that is the portfolio not just the church alone but that is part of of brief of the church spirited started scholarship funds the percentage of the proceeds from our book go to the scholarship fund and a literacy foundation as a beloved library and to get books into the hands of those who would not otherwise have them but the families are trying to do things to do better
education to change uh gun law or social activism that reverend pitney was trying to help constituents to set up a foundation to continue that work there is good things happening as people have stepped into a role they could not have anticipated that working hard to make sure nothing like this happens again. >> after this tragedy the confederate flag and offer the property of the statehouse grounds maybe some people think it is over but the story is not overe there is the unfinished three paris so many ongoing discussions to deal with critical issues. one of the things we have been advocating is there needs to be an effort to bring these groups together in a cohesive way and what
has come not of this even before that tragedy charleston was unique we had a special organization called the charleston area justice ministry's. the group of ministers from all denominations who came together to pull the congregations together with the dropout rates and those that want to be a higher percentage with those ongoing talks of the elected officials know the night that this tragedy struck some of those run a civil rights pilgrimage to birmingham and that night
the cellphone started to light up and they quickly turned around and then started to have prayer group meetings to bring the community together with the dialogue the appealing. that got a shot from the of whitehouse for which it can speak to the issues. >> i read one of your articles of the community's evolution and to paraphrase of the antebellum order unprecedented state and federal legislation is determined to widen the
horizons this result was a significant transitional period of race relations. but it seems you are talking about reconstruction and we're still in the transitional period. and then to move past that transition to an actual place because we transition so long. to elect one black person but then we skip over what was there and the process necessary to get from transition to common ground.whas
what else can we do? >> first get to a place with a reconciliation and counter like south africa has set the precedent. given uh decade system of apartheid nevertheless, people could come together in an honest way to talk about the pastnd thw and was specifically needed to be done. also the opportunity to provide for real forgiveness .get i will never forget that situation or that scene when
when nelson mandela and those that were racially exclusive and was the international symbol. but nevertheless mandela could model this type of reconciliation to bring black-and-white together but that is only possible once in a forthright and honest way to deal with the past. with the statehouse dome than was brought down literally in the face of people through 2015 that we really have not dealt with the past but we need to
prevent retrenchment to ensure that the increasing the restrictive voting act is turned back because this is a very serious thing back to the jim crow era. >> after you respond to give the audience a chance to ask as well. >> >> i have a question while we are waiting. this is just practical i did you divide the work? >> obviously he knew the history but we were
interweaving chapters back-and-forth so the continuity of style and then we we're doing interviews of what we would produce that was a tricky. yet not knowing what is there but we were very critical of one another investor worries about that left error egos that the door with great editors but the chapters are distinctly unique so we were right in the beginning of the book we want you to feel what it felt like those first few
days before the flag came down so that is more journalistic and then to be embedded in history so that natural shifting to wonder how much the poetry pet played to set the stage at a church on a wednesday night that its church night in the south. with a special wonderful beginning for those who know or for those who don't the idea of the white stucco church a poetic quality with the everyday quality of what they're doing that somehow
makes the drama of the tragedy even more stark. >> we thought the strengthly was from the place to grow up in the church i knew a couple of the people who were killed, we all did. our hearts were broken and we lived through it. we were with the community we went to the ceilings to be a parent but it is a small city the churches up the street from there and we want people to have a visual map.
i am glad that you feel that way because we want people to have that to sense of place. >> so we understood that there was a 592 use those emotions to use the visuals of the city or to sensationalize the story. we needed to capture the emotions. >> to see that as a piece of literature and that is one of the things that i believe in it had to be a part of the motion so i will be using your book. >> >> asking about the children
how is charleston? >> it is the ongoing suffering. >> not the victims but those who suffer the loss but they were in the office right off for the murders took place then to save her son and her agent murdered right in front of her but then they both survived. and then to come back from school but this seems like
and then with those drawings and paintings in the aftermath of the angels flying over the church there was art therapy available to families i don't know it is hard to say even the such school teachers were killed so they talked about starting sunday school back up. >> there were some psychological services end to as late as six months ago
and to be encouraging those numbers whether they needed them or not because at this time there could be issues to emerge in the future. >> we are out of time for questions i apologize. when you can ask all the questions that you a bike -- that you would like thanks to our guest. [applause] they will be signing books in a few minutes on the southern festival of books thanks for coming. [inaudible conversations]