One Year After Charleston Shooting: A Victim’s Granddaughter Says ‘Hate Won’t Win’

“When I spoke to [Dylann] Roof in the bond hearing a few days after the massacre I said to him, ‘Although my grandfather died at the hands of hate, he lived in love and he preached love so his legacy will be love and hate won’t win,'” Alana Simmons told DiversityInc on Thursday.

Simmons, 26, founder of Hate Won’t WinMovement,Inc., is the granddaughter of Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. He was one of the nine black church members murdered by Dylann Roof during a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church inCharleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which deemed Roof’s actions a hate crime, announced in May that it will seek the death penalty. In addition, he faces the death penalty in state court, with a trial scheduled to begin in January.

Simmons said that after she confronted Roof, she and othersstarted using the hashtag #HateWontWin on social media.

“We used the platform to start a social media challenge that called people to show an act of love to someone who was different [race, religion, orientation, etc.] and post that to their social media accounts with the hashtag,” Simmons said. “We got an endorsement by President [Barack] Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and our following base grew so large that we grew into a nonprofit that gives to families and communities affected by hate crimes, but also advocates for unity through demonstrations of love.”

Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr.

Hate Won’t Win is commemorating one year since the deaths of the Emanuel 9 with a “March for Unity and Thanksgiving” at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The march will begin at Marion Square in Charleston and end at the Gaillard Center, where Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of The King Center, will be the guest speaker and gospel artist Pastor Shirley Caesar will perform.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. King at a gala earlier this year,” Simmons explained. “Her speech was so motivating that I knew she would be perfect to address the crowd at the March for Unity and Thanksgiving. We also have the pleasure of hosting world-renowned gospel artist Pastor Shirley Caesar. She wrote a special song for Mother Emanuel and it will be performed that day.”

The grandchildren of Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr.

Related Story: Charleston, S.C.: A Millennial’s Perspective on Racism in Her City

Simmons said she isn’t a resident of Charleston and therefore cannot speak to the state of daily race relations in the city.

“However,” she added, “I have seen a rise in racial healing forumsand activities in the community. The people of Charleston had a sobering wake up call that night and I know their efforts are in the right place.”

Roof’s association with the Confederate flag prompted many residents of Charleston and the rest of the state, including officials,to call for its removal from South Carolina’s Capitol grounds.

Last June Obama gave a eulogy for South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor who was also killed in the massacre. He explained why theConfederate battle flagneeded to be removed.

“For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation,”he said. “We see that now.”

The flag wasremoved from the Capitol grounds on July 10, and states such asAlabamahave done the same, while other states, likeMississippi, still debate the issue.

Over the past year, along with Hate Won’t Win receiving national media coverage and recognition from the president and first lady, Simmons said the organization’s greatest achievement is happening in Charleston classrooms.

“Our greatest achievement thus far was the work done by a local teacher and her Beta club students,” she said. “They took the Hate Won’t Win challenge to their school. And all year thestudents have been coming up with differentactivities for their school and community toimprove cross-cultural relations.It was so awesome to see them taking that initiative and making a difference,especially since I am aneducator by trade.”

Tragedy in Orlando

Omar Mateen murdered 49 people and injured53 others on Sunday morning at Pulse, a gaynightclub in Orlando, before being killed by police. His ex-wife called the 29-year-old, who was born in New York and the son of Afghan immigrants, violent and unstable. Former coworkers also said he washomophobic and a bigot.

“The shooting in Orlando was tragic and my heart, prayers and efforts are with the survivors, victims, LGBT community and people of Orlando, Florida,” Simmons said. “The same kind of hate that took my grandfather took their loved ones and we will be working diligently to extend hope and love to the community.”

King lost both her father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and her grandmother, Alberta Williams King (while she was in church service), to gun violence. She issued a statement on Tuesday in regard to the Orlando shooting and said in part:

“I have experienced the heartbreak of losing loved ones to hate and gun violence; and so, I mourn on a deep level with those who grieve for Orlando. I am praying for those who are injured, that they are healed both physically and emotionally. My thoughts and prayers are also with the families and loved ones of the deceased. I extend my love to all of those affected by hate, terrorism and violence in Orlando and around the world.”

Kingsent the following tweets on Sunday morning:

Simmons said she would like people to know the march on Saturday is extended to everyone in the community.

“Hate Won’t Win does not believe that hate crimes, discrimination and bullying are just the problems of black, LGBT, Muslim or poor communities, they are the problem of every community,” she said. “We want a very diverse crowd there to send a clear message to those who think like Rooflove is stronger than hate and the good men will not stand by and let evil divide us.”

The Emanuel 9:Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Rev. Daniel Simmons and Myra Thompson.; Facebook:@hatewontwinmovment

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