A Day of Inspiration with We Are Charleston Authors
What is poetry? Pablo Neruda thought it this way: “Poetry is an act of peace.” It’s safe to say that South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth would agree and also espouse is perhaps our greatest resource in a time of crisis. Poems help us make sense of the world around us, particularly when we are feeling overwhelmed with emotions. It is not surprising, then, that during the days following the Emanuel AME Church shooting, The Post and Courier asked Wentworth to write a commemorative poem. Wenworth’s poem so powerfully consoled families and helped others express their grief and outrage that she was encouraged to write more.
At the same time, Wentworth’s publicist and one of Spartanburg’s Seven Reads founders Kathy Bennett suggested, Wentworth work on a volume not of poetry but one that would contextualize the shooting. Wentworth then contacted Herb Frazier, a former newspaper reporter and a book author with whom she had worked once before. Frazier immediately reached out to Dr. Bernard Powers Jr., a College of Charleston history professor and AME church member with an intimate knowledge of slavery and the civil rights movement. Powers didn’t hesitate. The three wrote the book, We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel, in thirds, tackling three or four chapters at a time, dividing the work among them then sharing what they wrote with one another.
Morgan Jackson, Dr. Bernard Powers Jr., Marjory Wentworth, Ashley Wade, Herb Frazier
As part of the District 7’s Seven Reads community reading initiative, now in its 111th year, Spartanburg High School hosted a special assembly with the authors of We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel. The book is based on extensive interviews with family and friends of the nine church members who died in the shooting. Written by Wentworth, Frazier and Powers, the book examines the history of the beloved institution known as “Mother Emanuel,” the history of the AME Church, the events of that terrible day in June 2015, and the amazing story of triumph and forgiveness that brought all of Charleston together in the wake of tragedy.
Video - Wentworth reciting her poem that inspired the compelling story of forgiveness in the book, “We Are Charleston.”
Video - How did you come to write this book together?
Video - How was the response to the shooting different in Charleston than in other places?
After spending the day with Spartanburg High School students, the authors joined a public forum for a conversation and a reading hosted by the District and several community partners at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. Chavis Jones, SHS graduate, captured the true essence of the day when he said, “The train of social progress runs on the tracks of human dialogue. We must become a space of grace.”
Since its inception, Seven Reads has brought more than 35 authors to the District 7 community and has put brand new books in the hands of thousands of students (well over 11,000 in the last 11 years). Seven Reads has also been modeled by over 100 high schools and colleges nationwide and was showcased nationally and internationally in 2007, when syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker published an article in The Washington Post praising the program.