Emanuel AME Church, Charleston (17th June 2015)

“I refuse to act as if this is the new normal.” President Obama on the Charleston shooting.

Today, many of you are here to celebrate the life of a friend, a colleague, an associate. Antoine may have been a man that you knew very well or just in passing. He may have inspired you to do better or he may have just been someone you admired from afar. No matter how well you knew or how long you’d had the pleasure of being in his company, I think we can all agree that he was a good man.

No, he was more than that. To me he was a protector, a provider. He was a teacher, a doctor, a philosopher. All my life he stood beside my mother as a constant symbol of love and security. He taught me my worth as a woman and, in turn, showed me what a real man looks like.

My father was not ordained, but when he did preach his words were bathed in love. His motto was “kill ’em with kindness”. It was hard, but I knew that he would never steer me wrong.

He was always smiling, always happy to see you even if you weren’t happy to see him. Love and happiness motivated his every move.

So, now as I remember him, I ask myself why did he die surrounded by so much hatred?

The person who killed my father, and 4 other innocent bystanders, spent his life absorbing hate. He hated black people, because that’s what his father taught him. That young man was raised to believe that the majority of people sitting in this church right now deserve to die.

According to the media, this learnt behaviour is now called a mental illness. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time I checked that was called racism. Prejudice. White supremacy. These aren’t mental illnesses. These are beliefs. Beliefs ingrained into the mind of a once innocent little boy who grew up to be a hateful man. So hateful that he took a gun to my daddy’s head and shot him in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard.

The funny thing is if this had happened somewhere else and to someone else, my father would’ve felt sorry for that man. He would’ve said that he needed to seek repentance and let go of his hatred. My daddy would’ve forgiven his sins and told others to do so as well. As he watches down on us today, that’s probably what he’s telling me to do right now.

But, daddy it’s not that easy. It’s not easy to forgive someone who stole the light from my life. The person who took the first man I ever loved. How can I forgive when I watch the news and see people saying that your murderer was “troubled”, but they call us “thugs” when we protest for our freedom. I can’t forgive when people are ignoring your death and debating gun laws instead. How can I care about their rights, when your right to life was robbed?

I won’t let my father’s death be in vain, even if the powers that be are determined to whitewash his death. Whether I stand alone or with millions behind me, I will keep his memory alive. I will fight to ensure that innocent children do not grow up with hate in their hearts, so that no-one has to experience the pain raging within me. I will talk  to anyone that listens about the problem we have in this country. I will campaign against the media who condemn us, the police who only protect and serve the white race and the hate that underpins this injustice. And while I do this, I will always speak with love. After all, I am my father’s daughter.

Fathers and daughters.

By Shaurna Cameron

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