The man who fatally shot nine people during a Charleston, South Carolina, Bible study picked the wrong church to spread hate, a granddaughter of one of the victims told a crowd gathered Sunday in Tacoma.
The shooter was trying to divide the community, said 25-year-old Alana Simmons, granddaughter of Daniel L. Simmons Sr., who was killed after being shot with the others inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June.
Instead of spreading hate, the tragedy has launched a challenge of love, she said, with the mantra, “Hate Won’t Win.”
Tacoma became the first city to accept the challenge with a proclamation Sunday, which brought Simmons to Tacoma to share her message with those gathered at Bethlehem Baptist Church at 4818 Portland Ave. The crowd of a couple hundred people on hand included law enforcement and community leaders.
“It’s so overwhelming to see that there’s another city that ... can come together for the greater good,” Simmons said.
She said she was proud of Tacoma for choosing love.
“I’m so glad that Tacoma didn’t miss it,” she said. “You guys didn’t miss it.”
The challenge encourages posting photos or videos with the hashtag #hatewontwin, showing acts of love to someone different than the poster.
It started after Simmons and other family members of the victims told the shooter in court that they forgave him.
She said to him, “Hate won’t win. ... My grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate. Everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies live in love.”
Two stories since the start of the movement have especially resonated with her.
One is of a young boy who was terrified of police. His mother baked cupcakes and took her son to deliver them to local law enforcement.
He was petrified and “thought he was going to lose his life to deliver cupcakes,” Simmons said.
Instead, after meeting the officers, he decided he wanted to become one when he grows up.
“A simple act of love changed his life,” Simmons said.
The other story is of a little girl, who in response to the shooting asked: “Why can’t the good people teach the bad people to be good?”
That question was the most powerful part of Simmons’ speech for Vincent Taylor, a 48-year-old industrial painter who moved to Tacoma eight months ago.
“I think Tacoma is a very good venue to begin something like this,” he said. “I find that everyone is pretty genuine.”
The city became the first to accept the challenge, simply by asking, Tacoma Councilwoman Victoria Woodards said.
Fellow organizer Melanie Denise Cunningham, director of multicultural recruitment at Pacific Lutheran University, emailed Simmons inviting her to Tacoma recently, and got a quick response accepting.
“This ‘Hate Won’t Win’ concept and challenge falls in line with what Tacoma has been demonstrating and believes,” Woodards said afterward. “We live it every single day.”
For more information
Go to hatewontwinmovement.com.