COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Chris Singleton lives his life to inspire love.
The 23-year-old Lowcountry native’s purpose developed through the pain. Singleton lost his mom in the Emanuel AME Church shootings in Charleston. Five years later, on that exact date, Singleton will release his first children’s book. The mission behind the words is to spread love, not hate.
“Sometimes, you need to have that struggle moment to keep pushing you forward,” Singleton said. “You remember that pain that keeps driving you when you don’t feel like doing something.”
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was one of nine gunned down while attending a bible study on June 17, 2015.
"My knees are a little weak right now, but I am trying to stay as strong as I can so I can press on," Singleton said the day after the shooting.
Singleton, who was only 18 years old at the time, found the strength to unite instead of divide.
"If we just love the way my mom would, the hate won't be," Singleton shared on June 18, 2015. "Love is stronger than hate."
Singleton would not allow hate to consume him. Instead, the devastation transformed the aspiring pro baseball player in a way never before envisioned.
"I quickly realized I need to be doing more than playing the sport that I love," Singleton said.
The former minor league baseball player and Charleston Southern star eventually gravitated away from playing on the diamond to inspirational speaking in the following years.
"I shifted my focus to talking to students about race relations, unity," said Singleton. "Most of all, teaching kids how to get through the tough times in their life."
Singleton currently lives in Charleston and is married with a 2-year-old son. He works in the front office with the Charleston Riverdogs and has toured the country, speaking to more than 60,000 students as an inspirational speaker. Singleton felt his personal story did not connect as well with kids in elementary schools. After conversations with his sister, he decided to write a children’s book to illustrate how to love your neighbor.
"The story is about loving people of different races, religions, and cultures and how we can teach that to our young people," Singleton added. "The thing that took the longest was how do I incorporate my mom into this book."
Last year, Singleton began writing the book titled "Different.” His mother's character is a teacher who helps a student from Nigeria adjust and shine in her new surroundings.
Crafting this story allowed Singleton to bond with his mom all over again.
"My illustrator is phenomenal at drawing," Singleton said with a smile. "I would find all these different pictures of my mom and send it to him. It gave me time to reconnect with my mom and see her smile in different photos I have not seen in a while."
"I hope people realize it's been five years since my mom was taken away from me. Five years, I'm still trying to push that message of the love of unity. As I've been able to move forward, I don't think I'll ever move on losing the mom the way I did."
Singleton hopes the book serves as a beacon of strength for people of all ages. He added maybe it can bring a smile upon someone's face instead of just tears on the day.
The book officially goes on sale on June 17, 2020. You can pre-order the book now by visiting ChrisSingleton.com. The first 200 pre-orders will receive a signed copy from Singleton.