"We don’t have the fortitude legislatively to do anything about guns in this country and we don’t have the fortitude spiritually to address America’s Achilles heel, and that is racism," says Malcolm Graham

By Michelle Boudin
June 17, 2019 05:58 PM
Malcolm Graham, Cynthia Graham Hurd
Courtesy Graham Family

“My niece called and said we can’t find Aunt Cynthia,” Malcolm Graham recounts of the day four years ago when his world turned upside down. “The shock of it … the suddenness of it. I had just spoken with her hours before.”

Graham still remembers every moment of the night he learned his older sister, Cynthia Graham Hurd, was one of nine people fatally shot while worshiping at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The others killed were Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Reverend Daniel L Simmons, Reverend Depayne Middleton-Doctor and Susie Jackson.

RELATED: Dylann Roof Guilty in Charleston Church Shooting That Killed Nine

Avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof joined Hurd, a 55 year old librarian, and the others for bible study before opening fire on them. “The senior minister invited him in and when they bowed their heads and closed their eyes for the benediction, he killed them because they were black,” Graham says.

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The city of Charleston has hosted a week’s worth of events to mark the anniversary — including worship services and community discussions about race in America.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Graham says he worries that not much has changed since his sister was murdered.

“I don’t think we’ve learned a lot as it relates to race and discrimination. The Pulse nightclub shooting happened after Charleston. Look what happened at the synagogue in Pittsburgh,” he says.

“We haven’t learned a lot — we don’t have the fortitude legislatively to do anything about guns in this country and we don’t have the fortitude spiritually to address America’s Achilles heel, and that is racism.”

RELATED: New Documentary on Charleston Church Shooting Looks at Faith, Forgiveness 4 Years Later

NBA star Stephen Curry teamed up with Oscar winner Viola Davis to produce the documentary Emanuel. The film focuses on the idea of forgiveness and features survivors and victim’s family members. The producers have pledged to give their proceeds from the film to the victims’ families and the survivors.

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