The very thing many of us fight against -- a deeply masked and far reaching culture of violence in our society -- has devastated our family. This past Wednesday night during bible study and prayer service, a gunman filled with a racist heart entered the historical Mother Emanuel AME Church of Charleston, South Carolina and opened fire on the 12 persons gathered there. Only three people survived the attack.
Our loved one, Rev. Depayne Middleton, was among those killed. Ever since her death was confirmed, our family has been met with unspeakable pain and grief. Our hearts are troubled, but our faith remains steadfast, trusting and believing in God's power to mend our broken hearts.
At this time of grave personal loss, we ask you for two things. First, please keep our family and our church community at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in your prayers. Next, please move away from the sidelines and unite together -- regardless of your faith or religious practice -- to seek an end to hatred and violence.
What happened to our family is part of a larger attack on Black and Brown bodies. To impact change, we must recognize the connection between racism, hate crimes and racialized policing. While the focus for this specific attack was on African-Americans, we all have a responsibility to seek not only justice for the victims, but an end to racial injustice.
We should put our faith to action, making a conscious decision to be more than empty drums that have long lost their melodies. In South Carolina the Confederate flag -- an unequivocal symbol of hate -- remains on statehouse grounds. We must demand the flag be removed immediately -- we cannot let icons of racism fly free within our society.
We call on all people, public officials, faith leaders and Americans from all walks of life to help address the festering sores of racism as it spurs an unforgiving culture of violence. This is a big task but may become more manageable if we work together and if all people see the attack in Charleston as an attack on their own families and loved ones.
A memorial fund for the Middleton family is being established. Learn more here.