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ITHACA, N.Y. —More than 30 faculty, students and staff have combined their voices to reflect on the recent shootings at a Charleston, South Carolina church. A statement drawing on their thoughts is posted on the Africana Studies and Research Center website.
The Africana Studies Center is also partnering with Cornell United Religious Work to host “A Gathering In Honor of Mother Emanuel’s Nine Faithful” tonight (June 25) at 6 p.m. at the St. James AMEZ Church, 116 Cleveland Ave., Ithaca. The event is free and open to the public.
The website piece, organized and compiled by Gerard Aching, professor and director of the Africana Studies Center and Russell Rickford, assistant professor of history, grew after Aching sent a note to several people asking for their reactions and sentiments.
“The messages range from grief and sorrow to anger and frustration,” Aching said. “There’s frustration that there seems to be a willing forgetfulness about the quotidian presence of racism and a knee-jerk reaction to look at the assailant as an aberration.
“But there’s also a clear message coming across that this may be a tipping point, that this is a call for action.”
Aching said many writers are now focused on practical things that can be done – new courses, curriculum changes, events on campus, teach-ins and ways to collaborate with the Ithaca community.
Aching said the Charleston event is especially painful because of the history of violence against black churches, the importance of the Emanuel AME Church and Denmark Vesey in the anti-slavery movement and the circumstances of this particular incident.
“Just to be in a church at a prayer meeting, with the most innocent of the innocent,” he said. “And not to have someone bursting in, but someone who had sat with them for an hour, being able to kill on that basis.”
The Thursday evening event is important, said Kenneth Clarke, director of Cornell United Religious Work (CURW), because it gives people a chance to process and react to the event together.
“This has happened in the context of what we have seen galvanized over the last year related to police violence in African-American communities and it’s part of our still-unresolved American dilemma related to racism,” Clarke said. “And there’s a larger context of violence that’s precipitated by guns, another unresolved dilemma in this country.”
“Given the historic role of St. James as a stop on the Underground Railroad and the place where the first social event of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first black fraternity, was held, it seemed important to have it there,” said Clarke, who added that CURW also plans to issue a statement about the Charleston incidents.
Clarke is also hopeful that the incidents spur some action on the part of people or government leaders.
“I think events like this are ripples in a pond, drops in a bucket, that could eventually spill over and make change,” he said. “You just don’t know when that moment will come.”
The Africana Studies and Research Center will also simulcast the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 26. President Obama will deliver the reverend’s eulogy. The is also free and open to the public and will be held in Africana’s Multipurpose Room.
This story was originally published in the Cornell Chronicle and written by Kathy Hovis.