Emanuel AME Church shooting anniversary events

The second anniversary of the June 17, 2015, massacre at Emanuel AME Church will include a range of events to remember those who died and survived the tragedy. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

The second anniversary of the racially motivated Emanuel AME Church shooting, which left nine worshippers dead in 2015, will include everything from a unity march to a forum on race to an ecumenical church service.

Emanuel's pastor, the Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, and Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg announced the commemorations Thursday. Entitled “Light of Hope," the bulk of events will be held from June 15 to June 30.

Remembrance defined the tone of last year's events, Manning said, and will continue as a significant part of this year's commemorations. However, he said, he's also hoping for a turn toward action. That means encouraging discussions on such weighty matters as racism and hatred while also ensuring participants leave events inspired and hopeful.

"This year, not only do we remember, but we begin to do the hard work," he said.

The 2017 anniversary events include a Forum on Race featuring political leaders and victims' loved ones that will be held June 16. A “Hate Won’t Win Unity Walk” in downtown Charleston and an ecumenical service at The Gaillard Center will be held June 17, among a host of other events.

Manning echoed the sentiments of Tecklenburg, who said he thinks about the tragedy when he considers public issues like affordable housing and community relations with police.

The Rev. Anthony Thompson, whose wife died in the shooting, also hopes the tragedy leads to greater community involvement. His wife, Myra Thompson, was leading the Bible study on June 17, 2015, when a self-avowed white supremacist killed nine people gathered with them to study the Parable of the Sower.

Anthony Thompson and Manning will co-lead a commemorative Bible study on June 21.

Thompson said he hopes for community engagement so that "the light we shine in Charleston can be shown throughout the nation."

He added that he's been "feeling good" since the state and federal convictions of church shooter Dylann Roof, who was sentenced to die for his crimes earlier this year. In the nearly two years since the shooting, Thompson said, he's begun to focus more on the future.

"Because of these things that have happened since the tragedy, I'm not so much thinking about the tragedy anymore but about where we're going," Thompson said.

Jennifer Berry Hawes is a member of the Watchdog and Public Service team who worked on the newspaper's Pulitzer-Prize winning investigation, "Till Death Do Us Part."

Jack Evans is a reporting intern at the Post and Courier. He attends Indiana University and has written for the Indiana Daily Student, the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Knoxville Mercury, among other publications.