After the Charleston A.M.E. massacre, the Simmons sisters chose to forgive, and to challenge everyone else to show love in the face of fear
When Alana Simmons stepped up to the courtroom microphone and looked into the face of the young man who a night before had murdered her grandfather and 8 other people in a Charleston, South Carolina church, she didn’t curse him. She didn’t cry for revenge. She didn’t show anger.
Alana forgave him instead. And then she uttered words which would give her family a newfound purpose.
“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate,” Alana said, “this is proof — everyone’s plea for your soul is proof — that they lived in love. And their legacies will live in love so hate won’t win. I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”
Hate won’t win.
As the shooter stood motionless, one by one family members of the people he murdered forgave him. None knew that their words were being broadcast live on CNN to an audience of millions of people.
Two months after their grandfather Daniel Simmons, Jr. lost his life at the A.M.E. Church in June, Ava and Alana Simmons traveled to Milwaukee to deliver a keynote at Public Allies’ National Leadership Institute dinner, where hundreds of leaders from across the country listened to their message of forgiveness and love. The sisters were presented with Public Allies’ “Living Our Values” award for their courage in living out their values.
“I challenge you to lead by demonstration,” Alana says. “It’s so important for people to see people loving each other regardless of their differences. It’s really important that we do the groundwork to motivate people, and facilitate that community and diversity our country lacks.”
The Simmons sisters — Ava and Alana — have made a conscious choice to use the media attention the murder bestowed on them to launch a new social campaign: #HateWontWin.
They are asking people to show an act of love toward people who are different, and post about it on social media with the hashtag #hatewontwin. Hundreds all over the country have accepted the challenge, including a mother and a young boy who baked cookies and walked them over to a police station, even though the young boy was frightened of police from the stories he’d heard in his neighborhood.
“We believe that true freedom doesn’t rely on a change of a policy,” Alana says. “True freedom relies on the change of the hearts of the people. So we’re asking you to help us change the hearts of the people.”
You can follow their campaign on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/HateWontWin_