The audience at times all clasped arms, and ended the night singing "We Shall Overcome"

By Adam Carlson
Updated June 20, 2015 01:55 PM
Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Refusing to be influenced by the racism that motivated a deadly mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, about 4,000 people of all races and faiths reportedly filled the College of Charleston’s TD Arena Friday night to remember the nine victims and to heal together.

About 60 members of the grieving families were among them, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“If that man [allegedly confessed shooter Dylann Roof] thought he could divide this city or this country with his racial hatred, we are here today to say he miserably failed,” Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said according to the L.A. Times, before an audience that at times clasped arms all together, ending the evening singing “We Shall Overcome.”

It was a night about perseverance, about remembrance and about the unknowable shape of the future after enduring a tragedy of this size.

“How do we eradicate the hate? How do we eradicate the violence? We search, but we search together,” Rabbi Stephanie Alexander said during the service, according to the Associated Press, linking Wednesday’s shooting to the deadly Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing 52 years ago.

It was also announced that the city will dedicate its forthcoming museum on African-American history to the victims of Roof’s shooting: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor and Susie Jackson.

“Our sisters and brothers who are gone would say to let our light shine while we have it,” Rev. Jeremy Rutledge said, according to CBS News.

And to the cheers of the audience, Riley said, “Our diversity is not a weakness, it is a strength.”

Individuals who want to donate in memory of the victims of the Charleston church massacre are asked to text “prayforcharleston” to 843-606-5995 or donate online at the Palmetto Project.

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