Mark Zuckerberg attended the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the South Carolina - USA and spent the morning at Mother Emanuel -- the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the South.
This community is a symbol of resilience. In 2015, a white supremacist walked into bible study and murdered nine of its black members, including its pastor. The community experienced a level of grief beyond what I can imagine, and they are still working through it. Yet in the face of such hate and tragedy, the victims' families forgave the murderer and treated him with compassion. While many cities might erupt with racial tension after murders like these, the Mother Emanuel community, with a tradition of fighting injustice, led the city in setting a tone of calm for the whole nation. As one white resident of Charleston told me: "the ones we should be apologizing to are forgiving us."
|African Methodist Episcopal Church|
In our goal to build stronger communities, we have a lot to learn from Charleston and Mother Emanuel. At dinner with the reverend, rabbi, police chief, mayors, and heads of local non-profits last night, they told me one reason the community got through this is they've been building strong bonds for years. The mayor said that you can't wait until a crisis to build community; you need strong community in place when a crisis hits.
The police chief described how his department has been running a summer camp to help kids and police officers get to know each other for a decade. They build trust so that when there's an emergency or when kids need help, they don't see each other as the enemy.
There are inspiring stories like this all over Charleston. One woman I met was so committed to integrating the community that she worked overtime as a waitress to raise funds for a social justice program she founded to help people coming out of prison find jobs and become full members of the community again.
The community still has issues. In my day here, I also heard stories about how a family with white children and an adopted black child always seems to have its black child pulled over for having a tail light out, even though all the kids share the same car. And many people told me Charleston culture values civility so highly that some issues just go unspoken. But overall, this is clearly a city that is committed to building a strong community and that has succeeded.
I am deeply grateful to Reverend Eric S.C. Manning and the Mother Emanuel family for welcoming me into your community. As the reverend said in his sermon this morning: "I will lift up my eyes to the hills, even though my heart may be heavy." I hope more communities lift up their eyes to see what you have built. It will help them when their hearts are heavy, and it will help us all build stronger communities around the world.