Eulogy: For Myra Thompson

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She was sassy, very smart, just kind and loving

She was a part of an amazing sisterhood

A tireless woman

Her devotion to Mother Emanuel…was second only to her commitment to her family

You can tell by the crowd what kind of person she was

Bachelor’s degree in English education; two master’s degrees;

Delta Sigma Theta; schoolteacher; guidance counselor;

mother; grandmother; sister; friend.

Though one outlet noted you only as the wife

of Reverend Thompson, you had that very evening

received your certificate to preach, and preach you did,

the Parable of the Soil, which tells us of the seed

sown on the path, which the deceiver will brush away;

the seed sown on rocks, which will grow but last only until

persecution comes along; the seed sown on thorns,

which will grow but fail to fruit, overwhelmed

by the concerns of the world; and finally,

of the seed sown on fertile soil, which will grow, produce fruit,

and in time a crop—some thirty, some sixty,

some a hundred times what was sown.

Teacher, preacher, Mrs. Thompson,

Reverend Pinckney, Reverend Coleman-Singleton,

Reverend Simmons, and Reverend Middleton-Doctor

all came to share your lesson. You were calling forth

the word, that seed, broadcasting it

farther than you knew, and already

many hearts have hardened. Already, many deceivers

have brushed those seeds away; already,

the cares of the world have sought to overwhelm

that good seed, in our time of need, taking root.

Some have sought to persecute those tender shoots with fire,

seemingly unaware that such destruction is in fact,

an ancient farming technique. You warned us of this

with your next-to-last breath, but reminded us too

that wherever the seeds of justice fall

across this fertile land, a hundred more

one day will take root.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the seventh of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of people who knew Myra Thompson, culled from various sources, including a story by ABC News. And though Buzzfeed noted only that she was the wife of Reverend Anthony Thompson, a vicar at Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopalian Church, the Charleston Post and Courier fills out her life and legacy in much greater detail. The Biblical scripture paraphrased in this poem is from Mark 4:14-20.

Eulogy: Ethel Lee Lance

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She was funny and a pleasure to be around

A strong woman who kept the family together

Granny was the heart of the family

I could call on her for anything

If she saw something wrong, she’d tell you

She wasn’t going to sugar-coat it

But she was happy, full of joy

Custodian, noun–

: someone who keeps and protects something valuable for another person

: a person who cleans and takes care of a building.

For thirty years, you kept that church

next to godliness, and the Gaillard Auditorium too,

where you took your children and grandchildren

to see the ballet, the symphony, the boys choir on tour.

All such riches were yours.

Others may have overlooked your stature, swept past

the lady with the broom, but there was nothing that belonged to them

that did not belong to you. A sexton of the church,

you rang that bell, calling on Christians to remember,

even as those recent, radical testaments

challenged them to forgive. 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the sixth of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of Ethel Lee Lance’s grandson, Jon Quil Lance, her daughter, Esther Lance, and her former coworker, Cam Patterson. Ethel Lee Lance was seventy, a mother of five, grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother of four; she was known to spoil children by buying them gifts and taking them to the movies. She was the cousin of Susie Jackson, who was also killed in the Charleston massacre.

Eulogy: For Susie Jackson

 

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A loving person

She had no animosity toward nobody

She took care of this family for generations

She took in others

She was just that type of person

She taught us never to hate

Matriarch of the family; trustee of the church;

mother of two, one of whom credits you

with raising fifty more.  You brought up your kids

in the East Side projects. When your son moved out,

you took in two young people who needed a place to stay.

That, they say, was just your way. Cousins, nieces, nephews,

grands and greats–you dried tears, bandaged knees,

fed them on love and collard greens, and, one great-nephew said,

taught them right from wrong. One nephew died trying to save you.

You were fond of Proverbs 22:6: “Start children off on the way they should go,

and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.”

If only those who’d raised the child

who sent you on to glory

had started him off that way,

you might have made it to that family reunion

you’d been looking forward to.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the fifth of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of Susie Jackson’s family members. Many of the details about the keystone role she played in her family are taken from an article in Charleston’s Post and Courier. At 87, she was the oldest of the victims of the Charleston shooting; her nephew TyWanza Sanders, died trying to save her.

Eulogy: For TyWanza Sanders

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A quiet, well-known student, committed to his education

A young man filled with promise

A renaissance man of sorts

A warm and helpful spirit 

The peacemaker of the family

He always had a smile on his face

It was impossible not to like him

Allen University grad, Business Administration; poet, musician,

skateboarder; hair stylist. “Ambition over adversity,” you said.

“I want to go to grad school,” you said. Humble but driven,

you always told your mother you’d be famous. At twenty-six,

the youngest of those gathered to pray,

you faced the white man who’d pulled a gun

in the midst of your loved ones

and said calmly, “You don’t have to do this.”

He insisted that he did. You asked that he shoot you instead

of your eighty-seven-year-old grandmother.

He replied that it did not matter. He was

going to shoot you all. You dove to save her. You were

the first to fall. Your mother and niece survived

by playing dead, and there is no doubt

some part of them did indeed

die that day. There are so many things you could have been

famous for. No one imagined

it would be this.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the fourth of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of people who knew TyWanza Sanders, including college administrators, family members, and close friends. The moving story of his heroism on the night of the tragedy are related in a story by the New York Times. Detailed reminiscences on his life from his four close friends, his “band of brothers,” appear in a recent article from Vibe.

Eulogy: For Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

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Hello, Reverend Chineta. This is Sharonda.

I know it has been some time since we talked,

but I want you to know that I love you.

All things are well. All things are good. 

I do want you to to know 

that all things are good. 

High school track star,

pastor, mother, teacher, coach–

she was a lady, first, he said,

elegant and articulate, the best

speech pathologist he had ever worked with.

Coach, your son plays college ball.

Mrs. Singleton, your children speak beautifully

of you. Pastor, Reverend Chineta, whom you called

to leave that message, thinks you knew

that you were called. She’s in a better place,

they say, which may be true.

She made this place a better place.

This we know is true, though all may not yet

be well.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the third of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are from a voicemail that Sharonda Coleman-Singleton left for her college friend and fellow pastor Chineta Goodjoin two weeks before her death. Some of the words in the second half of the poem are from a tribute to Mrs. Singleton from her children and those who knew her at Goose Creek High School, where she had taught since 2007. Reminiscences on her life and legacy appear on the high school’s athletic association’s Facebook page.

Eulogy: For Cynthia Hurd

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A true public servant

A woman of faith

She was always a very smart young lady

She loved reading from a very young age

Although she had no children, she had a community full of children

She touched the lives of thousands of people

Her loss is incomprehensible

Charleston Public Schools; Clark Atlanta University;

University of South Carolina; a self-proclaimed “book-nerd,”

you returned to the community that raised you in order to

raise it in return. You encouraged children as new readers,

watched them grow as they worked on homework assignments,

filled out college and job applications and, ultimately,

returned to the library with children of their own.

The library, that most egalitarian institution,

like the church you loved, turned no one away;

your story ends at Mother Emanuel,

but the library, that bastion of liberty,

mother of many

will forever bear your name.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the second of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem (and some of those in the second half as well) are those of Cynthia Hurd’s brother and others who knew her. She was an employee of the Charleston County Public Library system for thirty-one years and the manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library, which Charleston City Council member Elliott Summey announced at a recent press conference will henceforth bear her name. More information about Cynthia Hurd and the legacy she leaves is available from the Charleston County Public Library system.

Eulogy: For Reverend Clementa Pinckney

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God, we welcome and invite you

into this place, your house.

We thank you for the spirit

that dwells here, the spirit 

of Denmark Vesey, the spirit of 

R.H. Cain, the spirit of

Dr. King–the spirit of so many

unsung heroes of our people. 

We also thank you, God, for all persons

who come seeking to expand their horizons

and learn more of what our country is made of,

who we are as a people and as a country. We pray for

the safe travels of all who are here and for 

the safe return of them as they

go back home. We hope that our time here spent today

will be seen as an act of love,

as well as an act of righteous indignation

in the face of injustices

and we pray that all persons here today

may feel your presence and be drawn

closer to you. In Jesus’s name we pray.

Amen.

Drawn to the ministry at thirteen; class president;

student body president; a pastor at eighteen;

state representative at twenty-three; magna cum laude;

two master’s degrees. Your name the same

as a local plantation. Your name the same as so many

in my husband’s Charleston high school class.

You preached in the house Pastor Vesey built,

shuttered for forty years after he was hung

for conspiring an uprising. You preached

in the house where Dr. King

called on Negroes to vote. You spoke

on the senate floor

in a voice so richly literate,

so judiciously rhythmic,

so humane we could not help but hear

Dr. King’s in it. As a people, as a country, I know,

we would give anything

to hear it again.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the first of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, from a speech given during the 2013 Civil Rights Ride. I discovered it in an article in the Atlantic, which addresses the perils of pastoring a church “baptized in blood and fire.” More information about the late Reverend Clementa Pinckney is available from Emanuel A.M.E. Church.