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'We Are Charleston' authors to students: Communities can unite

By Staff writer, For News Herald, On 06 February 2017, Read Original
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PANAMA CITY - In the face of seemingly insurmountable tragedy, the most powerful weapon is forgiveness.

That was the message historian Dr. Bernard Powers Jr., journalist Herb Edwards and poet Marjory Wentworth brought to the Panama City Advanced School on Friday as they discussed their book "We are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel" about the history, event and aftermath of the shooting that left nine members of the The Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church dead in June 2015 and a community in shock.

The trio, who have deep roots in South Carolina and the church, were on a two-day tour around Panama City, speaking at schools, libraries and other organizations to share that community's story and how they triumphed. Speaking to the largely Muslim student body, the message of forgiveness in the face of hatred was particularly meaningful, and the authors recalled how, after the shooting, groups of various races and religions came together to support each other and the church.

"The community came together across the lines of religion and race," Powers told the students.

"You don't have to climb that mountain by yourselves," Edwards added.

When asked what can be done to prevent hate crimes, Powers stressed a proactive approach of bringing together organizations beyond racial and religious lines and focusing on their common goals, rather than their differences, as well as use their voting power to bring in authority figures who meet them on their level and understand their needs. Hiba Rahim, regional coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Florida's Northwest office, said the Muslim community and organizations are looking to build alliances with other groups and foster that cooperation, saying they've spent the last 15 years educating the community on Islam and now it is time to work with and be one with the community to move forward.

"This is a time more than ever for community partnership," she said.

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