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Defender Executive Editor Kai EL'Zabar

Defender Executive Editor Kai EL’Zabar

In 1963 four little girls died in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing Sept. 15, fifty-two years ago. Addie Mae Collins, 14; Carol Robertson, 14; Cynthia Wesley, 14; and Denise McNair, 11 are remembered together to as a symbol of the violence Blacks have endured at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan and those who opposed racial equality during the 1960s.  They serve as reference a point in the civil rights struggle for human rights. As individuals each lived amazing lives that ended too short.  And if we believe in fate these girls—martyrs, whose lives were sacrificed for the betterment of our circumstances, could not have imagined their role in history and yet the impact is imprinted in our DNA memory. When they died, they were merely preparing for Sunday school at their local church.

Had Addie Mae Collins she may have become an artist because she was skilled at drawing people.

Cynthia Wesley was the first adopted daughter of her parents whose friendly and open personality made it easy for her to make friends for whom she loved to play music and entertain.Top of FormBottom of Form

The ballerina Carole Robertson was also an‘A’ student known by her family and friends as one who walked with a purpose. Her life was full and included Jack & Jill, Girl Scouts, marching band, Church choir and the school science club.

And those who knew Denise McNair say she was naturally inquisitive and destined to be a community organizer because that’s what she did even then. She organized fundraisers to fight muscular dystrophy and would get the other neighborhood children together to put on skits, dance routines and read poetry.


The point is that the people who lose their lives to such senseless hate crimes are real people with names and real lives, family and friends who love them and whose lives will never be the same after their loved one’s murder.


A week ago today 9 innocent people were murdered at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina while worshipping only to conjure the pain of a violent history of attacks on Black Churches where Blacks are most vulnerable. The very idea speaks to a complete and total disrespect and disregard of God and the church. These people who do this obviously are sociopaths of some sort without conscience. Yet they have been allowed to go about their lives virtually unnoticed until after their behavior destroys lives. The nine who died at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal is amongst a long list of attacks targeting Black Churches in the United States. A number of them involved the burning of the Churches by the Ku Klux Klan. Perhaps it’s because it’s where we are most vulnerable. Church is like home to us.



  1. On November 5, 2008 Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Mass., was set on fire shortly after the election of President Obama
  2. On January 8, 1996 in Knoxville, Tenn. Inner City Baptist Church’s sanctuary was destroyed and racial slurs were painted on the walls.


  1. February 1, 1996 in Louisiana four Churches within a six-mile radius — Cypress Grove Baptist, St. Paul’s Free Baptist and Thomas Chapel Benevolent Society in East Baton Rouge as well as Sweet Home Baptist in Baker — were set on fire on the anniversary of thesit-in in Greensboro, N.C.


  1. On June 21, 1995 in Manning, S.C., the Macedonia Baptist Church was set on fire by four former members of the Ku Klux Klan.


  1. On June 16, 1964 in Longdale, Miss., Mount Zion A.M.E. Church parishioners were beat by the Ku Klux Klan as they were leaving a church meeting. The wood-framed church, a historic safe haven for slaves, was burned down.

And of course there was the September 15, 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that ended in the death of the four Black little girls whose names we often fail to recall, which brings us back to the victims of the Charleston, SC, Church Massacre. Black lives do matter. Knowing the names of those who were killed is important in taking responsibility for acknowledging their significance and contribution to their communities.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton who was a reverend and also coached the girls track team at Goose Greek High School was a mother of three.


The Rev. Dr. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, was a pastor at the Emanuel AME Church He was taken to a local hospital and died in the operating room.


Tywanza Sanders was a 26-year-old recent graduate of Allen University in Columbia, S.C who reportedly jumped in front of a relative when the shooting began in order to shield his loved one from harm


The Rev. Clementa Pinckney serving as the pastor of the Emanuel AME Church was also a state senator was the consummate community leader.


Myra Thompson, 59, was one of three pastors killed at the Emanuel AME Church.

Depayne Middletown Doctor was a 49-year-old retiree and mother of four daughters. She was retired as the director of the Community Development Block Grant Program in Charleston County.

Cynthia Hurd was the regional library manager at St. Andrews Regional Library for 31 years, a Charleston County Public Library. The library system closed all 16 of its branches Thursday and put out a statement expressing its condolences for Hurd and her family.

Susie Jackson had just visited family members two weeks ago. She was an 87-year-old longtime member of the Emanuel AME Church. Jackson’s cousin Ethel Lance was also killed during the shooting.

Ethel Lance, 70, retired as a Gilliard Center employee but picked up hours working as a church janitor.

We have to question why we are still dealing with hate crimes and or crimes as a result of racism so many years after our emancipation, civil rights  advancement and generations of Blacks who are acculturated into  mainstream America.


I believe that we have been mislead/mis-educated to believe that others will follow the law and be law abiding citizens and therein embrace us with open arms.


For those who have lived long enough to have experienced racism up front and personal, or those who watched the freedom fighters attacked on television, or read the historical accountings, saw the images of racial abuse and brutality, those who remember Rodney King and more recently have witnessed numerous accountings of the police attacks against unarmed Black men, it must resonate loud and clear that racism and or hate crimes do not end with laws but rather a change of heart and mind.  Until white America chooses to accept people based on the content of their character they will always be able to find a reason to discriminate against others; Blacks, Jews, Muslims, LBGT, women etc.


Blacks in America have known and experienced a history of violence, which they continue to live. It doesn’t matter that Barack Obama was elected the first Black President as long as the type of racially motivated hate crimes continue is proof that racism exist.  America has a lot of work to do.  If discrimination in the areas of education, employment, technology, housing and so on exist and people refuse to or fail to change their preconceived ideas about Blacks, the horrors from racially motivated practices will continue to impact America.


Blacks owe themselves first to make it their responsibility to do whatever it takes to see to it that they take back their lives and work to change the relationship with America and the world. Second, our responsibility to ourselves is to learn our history, rewrite it, own it and teach it to our children—each generation.  We reserve the right to tell our story our way. Finally we must commit that we will not standby and let anybody destroy our families, communities and or race.

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