Charleston church to pay tribute to Emanuel Nine victims with healing forum

This Thursday's forum will include kin of the Emanuel Nine, as well as survivors from other murder attempts in the U.S.

The Emanuel Nine Commemoration Committee, the group tasked with uplifting the memories of the nine people slain at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina six years ago, will hold a “healing forum” this week in their honor. 

The forum, scheduled for this Thursday, will include the families of the Emanuel Nine, as well as Sarah Collins Rudolph, who survived the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham in 1963, which killed four little girls. 

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where, in 2015, nine members were murdered by a 21-year-old white supremacist. (Photo by Jeff Gentner/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Rabbi Jeffrey Meyers, a survivor from the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in 2018, will also be in attendance. 

The discussion will be focused on healing through reconciliation. 

“Hate is an evil force that has hindered us as a country from doing a lot of things,” Walter Bernie Jackson, Jr. told NBC News. “My grandmother always believed we need to see past that and really dig deep into getting to know individuals.”

His grandmother, Susie Jackson, was one of the victims murdered by 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof at what is often called Mother Emanuel, the oldest AME church in the South. She was 87 years old. 

Jackson Jr. said forgiveness has been a challenge and that it’s part of his grief process. 

Since the shooting death of Jackson’s elder, he has become deeply engaged in various social justice issues. He was recently elected a board member of the Franklin Township Board of Education, where he intends to advocate for equity in education. 

“The goal is to eliminate systemic racism, white supremacy and remove barriers, so all students have equal access to rigorous academic programs,” he said. 

In 2015, Roof targeted and walked into the Bible study meeting at Mother Emanuel, and as Emanuel AME members and their pastor sat praying, he opened fire on them, killing nine. 

The slaying became a national moment of mourning. President Barack Obama attended the victims’ memorial service, where he sang “Amazing Grace” from the pulpit in what became a defining moment of his years in office. 

Roof has been sentenced to nine life sentences and a federal death sentence, which he appealed last year.

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