On the Charleston Massacre and the Burden of Grief for Black America


by Rev. Andrew Wilkes

The essay below was originally posted at .Mic on Juneteenth. Religious Socialism is reprinting the essay to mark one week since the massacre. 

A seemingly ever-present cloud of grief burdens the souls of black folk in America. Wednesday evening, according to evolving reports, a 21-year-old white male named Dylann Roof shot and killed nine individuals at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church's pastor and a South Carolina state senator, was among the dead. 

Grief in this instance is an affective and political act. It's a simmering anger and anguished contemplation about the harm imposed on black communities — inadvertently, individually and institutionally — by a culture and political economy that prioritizes and protects whiteness. 

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Rev. Andrew Wilkes is the Executive Director of the Drum Major Institute, an organization founded by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Wilkes is also the Assoc. Pastor of Social Justice and Young Adults for the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York. His writing and work have been featured in the Washington Post, the Guardian and Stanford Social Innovation Review.