9 people died because of racism, and my heart ached. Then I found this video and found hope.

What happened in South Carolina felt way too personal.

When I heard that a racist gunman entered Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston during a small group Bible study on June 17 and killed nine people, my body went cold.



Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

I have spent countless Wednesday nights in the chairs of a small black church, surrounded by 15 or so people — just like them.

Usually that bunch includes a handful of the church's older women, or "church mothers" as we call them. There will be one, maybe two people in their 20s who are holding down the fort for "the next generation."

Then there's the pastor, the associate pastors and deacons, and a few children fidgeting somewhat quietly on a chair next to their mother, grandmother, or auntie who brought them out after a hurried dinner, the only reason for them to ever be out on a school night.

I can imagine how a visitor could come in and sit down and be included in the group without question.

We would offer him a Bible and a seat of his choosing, as there would undoubtedly be many empty to pick from. I could imagine how, despite him not fitting in and potentially being a bit distracting, people would try to engage him in the prayer and discussion because that is what we do: welcome the stranger with love.

Congregants hold hands during a prayer vigil for the nine victims killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

So when I heard about what happened in South Carolina, I felt in my gut the terror and horror that must have ensued when said stranger turned out to be a gunman on a mission to eradicate people who share my skin color.

It all felt so familiar.

I didn't think my heart could feel any more deeply for Mother Emanuel, for the lives lost, for the loved ones left behind, for my people, and for our country...

Then I was forwarded this video from the church service at Mother Emanuel that took place just three days before the shooting.

It isn't the greatest quality (though the audio does get a bit better at 0:18), but for some reason, I couldn't stop watching it:

You see, last Sunday, Mother Emanuel celebrated Children's Sunday.

Children's Sunday in many churches is a day where the church honors its young people by both speaking directly to them and handing over the reigns and allowing them to showcase their gifts and talents during the service.

Here, the girls were dancing to a song by gospel artist Tamela Mann called "Lord We Are Waiting." The lyrics to the chorus are:

"Here in this place, we humbly bow
Our hearts are waiting, speak to us now
There is no time here, only Your presence
Show us Your Glory, speak to us now.
Speak to us now."



Why have I watched this short clip over and over again?

Because I can't get over the fact that before the week was out, just three days after these girls were recorded dancing in a service meant to show the church's support and love for them, one of Mother Emanuel's children, a 5-year-old, would play dead to avoid being murdered in the very same sanctuary.

Photographs of the nine victims killed are held up by congregants during a prayer vigil at the Mother Emanuel AMC Church in Charleston. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

This is what racism does: It infiltrates even the most sacred of spaces and terrorizes even the most vulnerable among us.

Many have highlighted the irony of such a heinous act of hate and white supremacy happening in a place of worship during a religious gathering.

But I can speak only for myself, as a black woman who claims the historic African-American legacy of being progressive, activist, and religious. The message is clear.

Racism has no boundaries, and hatred has no shame. We can use all the help we can get — divine and otherwise — as we do the work and fight to end racism forever.

These beautiful children were dancing in a place that was founded by the organizer of a slave rebellion and that served as a hub of abolitionist and civil rights activity for hundreds of years.

The steeple of Mother Emanuel AME Church. Image by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.


They were dancing in a church led by a pastor who only a few months ago stood on the floor of the state Senate to condemn police brutality and who regularly spoke about political participation like this:

A pastor who is no longer with us. Because of hate.

The people of Mother Emanuel have been fighting hatred and racism for generations. Will we join them?

I believe that their cry for God to be with them and to speak to them was not one of religious passivity or weakness but of a recognition of the need for divine strength and wisdom to support them in the massive work that they are called to do on this earth.

That is the work that all of us who believe in freedom and equality are called to do.

More than anything, this dance from a few days before the tragic hate crime was carried out within the church's walls reminds me that hope and beauty always remain.

Each generation will continue dancing even as the fight continues.

Thank you, children of Mother Emanuel. We're all dancing — and fighting — right by your side.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less