Charleston Massacre chance to turn anger into reconciliation

By Saba Long

This one got me. It hit me in a place where the others never reached. It angered me.

The Charleston Massacre.

In many a painful yet phenomenal moment in America’s history, the African-American experience has been to practice unequivocal equanimity. Indeed, the key anthem of the Civil Rights era “We Shall Overcome” embraces the spirit of patience and poise with its call for change someday.

My childhood was a deeply religious, middle-class life, which took place in predominately White or mixed-race settings. Home and church were intertwined; and given my parents role in the church, I was accustomed to Sunday dinners with families from numerous cultures.

I could always count the number of minority families in the neighborhood with one hand. Up until high school, the other hand could easily count the number of minorities in class, including faculty.

Barack Obama

President Obama eulogizes Rev. Clementa Pickney, calling on the nation to express God’s grace (Photo: The Grio)

The church, for me, was a sanctuary of equality – browns, blacks, whites, people of all colors worshipped as one. It was a Sunday in Savannah life. Adulthood has become an attempt to understand the juxtaposition of current headlines with the sheltered experiences of youth. The myriad of racially tinged, if not downright charged, incidents of late are transforming the country.

And, it seems the election of an African-American president has yielded an unofficial Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Obama administration continues to acknowledge the oppression of the past and the ongoing struggles of the present.

Grievances are being publicly aired.

A deadly Wednesday in Charleston is prompting the removal of a symbol of hate, exclusion and false superiority.

Walter Brown’s death has led to a national discussion on body cameras for law enforcement officials.

Grand juries are being convened. Indictments issued. Progress made.

South Africa’s Desmond Tutu, a preeminent religious leader in the midst of apartheid, writes of the importance of authentic reconciliation to bring healing. The antonym of reconcile is anger.

But, reconciliation is no way only one street; it requires mutual agreement, harmony and a spirit willing to listen. Writ large, the someday for civil and human rights is happening right in front of us.

The country’s collective response to the nine lives laid down at Mother Emanuel shows the pain and pleasure of progress as proof.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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