We shall overcome; We shall overcome; We shall overcome, some day.
The words of the Civil Rights anthem rang out across the State House grounds Monday night, as an assembled crowd joined hands and sang to honor the memories of the 49 people murdered a year ago in Orlando, sending the message that while the terrorist took those lives, his mission to spread fear, hate and division failed.
“One year ago a terrorist and a hater took 49 angels away,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, one of the speakers at the “Honor Them with Action” rally, hosted by SC Equality, Harriet Hancock, Black Pride, Upstate Pride and the Nickelodeon Theater. “It’s made us stronger. This sends a message and I hope it’s loud and clear, just what Columbia is really about.”
Speaker after speaker echoed the message that love always wins over hate. “Even in the face of hate, we cannot give in to hatred,” said Pastor Thomas Dixon. “Love will win. Hatred anywhere is a threat to love everywhere. We need to undress it and send it back to the pits of hell where it comes from.”
Dixon said the attack aimed at LGBTQ people in Orlando had something in common with the terrorist attacks in Charleston and Dallas: it was motivated by hatred. His fellow faith leader, Pastor Tin Bupp of Reformation Lutheran Church, said we must all come together to defeat such evil.
I don’t know why we look at each other as separate communities. We are one, and we yearn for justice,” Bupp said. “We are connected. The Jewish carpenter I follow tried to tell us that.”
The evening was a mix of laughter and tears as the crowd celebrated unity and progress, symbolized by the State House pillars lighting up with the colors of the rainbow as darkness fell, and by the rainbow flag spread over the steps behind the statue of George Washington.
“We are indeed one Columbia,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “Together we will work to disarm hate. Together we will work to empower each other, to love one another.”
Hand in hand, the crowd, gay and straight, black and white, old and young sang together. We shall live in peace; We shall live in peace; We shall live in peace, some day.
“Hatred has never and will never overcome love,” said Tiffany Adams of Kingdom Outreach. “What he meant to do was divide and destroy. What he ended up doing was showing us how much we need each other.”
Voices growing ever louder, the crowd proved her right with the night’s final verse.We are not afraid; We are not afraid; We are not afraid, TODAY!