Houston Rockets Dwight Howard Attends Vigil For South Carolina Victims

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Houston Rocket center Dwight Howard attended a city-wide vigil in South Carolina on Friday where at least 1,000 people were present to mourn the loss of the nine victims needlessly killed by a white gunman in the basement of the Emanuel AME Church.

Dwight Howard attends vigil honoring victims of SC church shooting. http://t.co/w0uwPBVOEu via @ABC13Houston

— Tamberlyn's Tip-Off (@TTOTambz) June 22, 2015

“One of the safest places we think is safe is the church. And for something to happen there hurt me a lot. “That could be any one of us. It could happen in Houston. It could happen in Boston. It could happen anywhere – Howard

Howard spent time talking to the victims families and friends at the vigil. While Howard isn’t always the most beloved NBA athlete he does a lot off the court, specifically with his BreatheAgain movement.  In the video below Howard says he was motivated to go to the vigil because he wanted to show his support and to show people it’s time for change.

On why he attended the vigil:

“It hurt to see the things that happened in Charleston. It just broke my heart, I just felt like it could have been me, it could have been my friends, it could have been my pastor, it could have been anybody. I wanted to be there to show my support and that we need change in our society” –Howard

In terms of his Breathe Again efforts he answered why he started the movement:

We need to step back and take a look at ourselves and our lives and if we want change we need to be that change. We gotta have hope, we need some type of hope, some type of bright light to make us want to move forward. I just feel like there is so much hate going around in this world that  needs to stop. I hate to see the things that have happened to our society because of hate. Hate cannot drive out hate only love can. I just want to spread as much love as possible to everybody around the world, that’s why I started this movement.” –Howard

I spoke with @PoppyHarlowCNN abt #Charlestonshooting vigil, families & #BreatheAgain http://t.co/5V4Xi06niC @weBreatheagain

— Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) June 21, 2015

It was a pleasure to meet the families of Myra Thompson and Rev. Sharonda Singleton. #breatheagainhttps://t.co/mdTYBWRmWl

— Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) June 20, 2015

Pray for Charleston. Pray for our nation. Pray for peace. #breatheagain. https://t.co/xE2ZzrzKP3

— Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) June 19, 2015

Howard summed it up eloquently at the end of the interview:

“If we can find a way to become better people and treat people better and treat people with love and respect our world would be a better place” – Howard

You can visit Howard’s BreatheAgain campaign at www.wewillbreathe.com

The nine victims were killed on Wednesday night when a gunman entered the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina during a bible study and opened fire.  The gunman was later discovered to be 21 year old Dylann Roof. He was arrested late Thursday morning in Shelby, N.C., 250 mile north of Charleston.

Victims:

Reverend Clementa Pinckney was 41, married (wife – Jennifer) and a father of two: Eliana and Malana. He was a 19-year Democrat of the South Carolina legislature. He became a pastor at 18 and continued this work while also joining the South Carolina House of Representatives. In 2000 he moved on to the Senate. Like Rev. Simmons he also attended The Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia and likewise received a Master’s of Divinity

Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was 45 and also a pastor at the Emanuel AME Church. In addition she was the head coach of the girls track and field team at the local Goose Creek High School and a speech language pathologist. Coleman-Singleton was a single mother of three.

Reverend Daniel L. Simmons Sr. was 74. A retired pastor who was attending Emanuel AME for the service and bible study. He had been the reverend at another Charleston area church, but was retired. He fought in the Vietnam war, and received a purple heart.  When he returned from the war he attended The Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia and graduated in 1988 with a Master’s of Divinity. Simmons was the lone gun-shot victim to survive the initial shooting, but after hours of surgery he succumbed to his injuries.

Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor was 49. She retired as the Charleston County director of the Community Development Block Grant Program in 2005 and then last year became the Admissions Coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University for the school’s learning center. Middleton-Doctor had preached at both Baptist and AME churches in Charleston and the area. She also became a member of the church choir when she joined Emanuel AME in March of this past year.

Cynthia Hurd was 54. She worked at the Charleston County Public Library as an employee for 31-years.  During this time she served as branch manager of the John L. Dart Branch and then manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library. Her husband Steve is a merchant seaman who was currently working in Saudi Arabia and is en route home to be with the family and attend to his wife’s services.

Tywanza Sanders was 26 and the youngest of the victims. He was a graduate of Allen University, a historically Black college in Columbia, South Carolina. Sanders worked two jobs, at the first he cut hair in a barber shop in North Charleston and he also worked in a restaurant kitchen. He was one of three victims from the same family (Ethel Lance and Susie Jackson) and is said to have stood in front of the assailant and said “you don’t have to do this” in an effort to protect his grandmother and shield the others. His mother Felicia Sanders was also at the church and survived by pretending to be dead.

Myra Thompson was 59. She worked with the church on it’s property committee and had been active in restoring and preserving Emanuel’s historic buildings. She was a mother and was married to a pastor and had recently decided to pursue a vocation to join the ministry. Sadly she had just received her license to the ministry hours before the shooting.

Ethel Lee Lance was 70 and had worked at the church for more than 30 years. She was a sexton at Emanuel AME. She was also a custodian of the  Gaillard Municipal Auditorium from 1968 until her retirement in 2002. Lance is survived by her children: Gary L. Washington, Sharon W. Risher, Nadine L. Collier and Esther Lance.  Her husband Nathaniel passed in 1988 and her fifth child; daughter Terrie Washington died from cancer at the age of 53.

Susie Jackson was 87.  Jackson was the oldest of the victims. She was the matriarch of her family and sadly one of three victims from the same family. Her nephew was Tywanza Sanders (who tried to protect her from the gunman) and her cousin was Ethel Lance.  She was a trustee of the church and at one time was a member of the church choir.

“If we can find a way to become people and treat people better and treat people with love and respect our world would be a better place”

Suspect Charged:

On Friday the suspect Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was formally charged with 9 counts of murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime. As the video above showcases Roof had been stopped from committing a similar shooting only days earlier.

For the families and loved ones who were in attendance at the the sentencing instead of anger they chose to speak to Roof from a compassionate stance.. In addition, the families asked for prayers for the community of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church.

For me the most gut wrenching side of this is how the families who have suffered such needless loss have been able to rise above this horrific act and ask everyone to pray and use this as a catalyst to end hatred and violence:

“Please move away from the sidelines and unite together – regardless of your faith or religious practice – to seek an end to hatred and violence.” -families of victims

We at Space City Scoop send our condolences, prayers and love to the family and friends of the victims. May the victims rest in peace.

Next: Howard's Breathe Again Movement

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