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'Five Years After Charleston, I Think Things Have Gotten Worse'

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Howard Arnoff
Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Five years ago, nine people were murdered when a white supremacist opened fire during a Bible study group at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. One of the victims was Cynthia Graham Hurd, the sister of Charlotte City Council member Malcolm Graham. 

Graham is spending the anniversary of his sister’s death thinking about how she lived her life, not how she died. Hurdwas a longtime librarian at the Charleston County Public Library.

"(She) loved her community, loved her family, loved her God and was just a great person" Graham said.

Malcolm Graham holds a portrait of his sister, Cynthia Hurd.
Credit Courtesy of Malcolm Graham

Wednesday is also a day of reflection, Graham says, on racial relations as protests against systemic racism and police brutality continue around the country.

"It’s George Floyd that has sparked the protests, but people are protesting racism and hatred and discrimination," Graham said. "Five years after Charleston, I think things have gotten worse, not better."

He says the political climate is more divided and says President Trump is part of the problem. Graham thought the racially motivated shooting in Charleston would have been the catalyst for change in the country.

"I was hopeful five years ago," Graham said. "I was hopeful that this would be the thing, this would be the moment, this would be the incident that would really cause people to pause and think, but it wasn’t."

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many remembrances have moved online, including a video tribute that incorporates a message from former Vice President Joe Biden. In Charlotte, Graham organized the Black Men United March and Rally in Marshall Park in uptown scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday. Graham plans to be out no matter what the weather is like: Racism, he says, doesn’t take a day off because it’s raining.

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Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.