"The Light of Hope" commemorative events held for Mother Emanuel victims

Trophies for the Tywanza Sanders Youth Basketball Tournament (Source: Live 5)
Trophies for the Tywanza Sanders Youth Basketball Tournament (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Friday locals in downtown Charleston took part in several commemorative events ahead of the two-year anniversary of the Mother Emanuel AME shooting.

"The Light of Hope" events, hosted in part by Mother Emanuel AME Church, started Thursday and will run through June 30.

"Charleston was very strong, first of all, in that they didn't tear this city down," said Catherine Braxton, part-owner of the Borough Houses in downtown Charleston.

The memories of what happened the night of June 17, 2015, are still fresh, but the stories of the nine men and women who died that night will always be remembered.

Rebecca Campbell, the matriarch of the house, said she felt a need to be part of the commemoration events because of a connection to some of the victims in the shooting.

"Myra Thompson lived across the street on that corner of Washington and Calhoun," Campbell said. "I remember her as a little girl, running up and down the staircase."

Campbell said Susie Jackson also lived in the historic Borough community at one point. Now only two houses remain.

Friday Campbell and others gave tours of the house to keep the history there alive and remark on the stories of the victims.

"Yet there is joy as well when we see the togetherness that we have in the Charleston area and that everyone is working together for the one common cause," she said.

Meanwhile, another event geared towards the younger generation happened miles down the street; a basketball tournament in honor of Tywanza Sanders.

"I hope that the kids learn something from the whole tragedy and really think about what went down," said Delores Gray, a member of the commemorative committee.

Family and friends said Tywanza was focused on helping children.

On the day he died, he posted a quote by Jackie Robinson to his Instagram account which reads, "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

Joshua Wright is a tenth grader and was one of the coaches at the tournament. He, like Tywanza, is focused on helping the younger generation.

"What I've seen is more unity, kids coming together, less kids being shot," he said. "I've seen a lot. [We needs to keep] bringing kids together doing basketball, football and keeping kids off the street. That's what I've seen."

Braxton agrees that bringing people together is necessary, but also adds that conversation is needed.

"I think what we need to do at this point is bridge the gap and divide between ethnic groups," she said.

On Saturday, which is the official two-year anniversary of the shooting, there will be a variety of different events held around the city.

From 9 a.m. 11:30 a.m. the "Hate Won't Win Unity Walk" will start at King and Calhoun Streets. The walk will bring people of all races, religions, and backgrounds to "contest hate and spread love across the world."

An Ecumenical Worship Service will be held at the Gaillard Center from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. This worship service is open to the public, but a ticket (at no cost) is required for admission.

At the John L. Dart Library the Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation will be providing free books for children in honor of the life of the Mother Emanuel victim. This will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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