COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Hundreds gathered at the Meeting Place Church in Columbia for a forum and special screening of a documentary marking the fourth anniversary of the Mother Emanuel A.M.E Church shooting massacre in Charleston in 2015.
“Emmanuel” is showing in theatres across the country Monday and Wednesday. That included the special one-night showing, Monday night at Spotlight Cinemas at the Meeting Place Church near the Columbia Mall.
Security measures were tight ahead of the forum, with K9 officers sweeping the line of attendees and a clear bag policy in place.
Those who attended the forum and screening found it important to not only to remember the Emmanuel 9, but reflect on the progress made in the aftermath of the tragedy, and commit to healing and change in the future.
Some church groups from other local AME congregations were among the attendees. Other attendees said some of the victims were personal friends, and the pain lingers.
“It’s so important to pay tribute, first, to those families and congregations and even the AME denomination who was so severely impacted by this tragedy, and then also to take our cue from the witness that was lifted by family members, and I believe if we can follow that example and never forget – not only the tragedy but the grace of how it was responded to,” The Meeting Place Church’s Bishop Eric Freeman said.
Our very own Judi Gatson moderated the forum, a discussion which featured Bishop Freeman, a relative of one of the victims, and the former Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the shooter.
The general sentiment from the 45-minute discussion was that healing takes place on the individual level, one heart at a time- when people are willing to reach across racial and religious lines to find understanding and common ground.
From the stage, panelists called for concerned citizens to stay engaged in the community through church attendance, voting, and modeling good behavior for their children.
After the forum at the church, the crowd walked across the parking lot to the theater to watch the film.
Emanuel was produced by Steph Curry, Viola Davis, and Mariska Hargitay and shares the stories of witnesses, survivors and family members affected by the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church massacre.
Those who attend the screening will leave with a handout to help facilitate discussions beyond Monday’s event.