Charleston church massacre survivors lead Fort Wayne unity walk

Two survivors of the Charleston church massacre led a one-mile unity walk in downtown Fort Wayne to promote forgiveness and racial harmony.
Two survivors of the Charleston church massacre led a one-mile unity walk in downtown Fort Wayne to promote forgiveness and racial harmony.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – More than 100 people walked for racial unity in Downtown Fort Wayne Sunday. The walk, deemed the “Fort Wayne Love Train,” was led by two survivors of the mass shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015.

Polly Sheppard and Felicia Sanders support the walk’s goal to improve community relations and lay the foundation for increased inter-racial and bi-partisan cooperation in Fort Wayne. Imani Baptist Temple Reverend Bill McGill invited them to lead the walk because he was impressed that they had forgiven the gunman who attacked their bible study.

“They would have every natural excuse to be angry, to be bitter, to be disenchanted with life as they know it, but they decided to embrace this as an opportunity to grow, mature, develop and display grace,” McGill said.

He believes if the women can forgive the killer and embrace racial harmony, then people in Fort Wayne could strive for the same things.

The gunman, Dylann Roof, took the lives of Sheppard’s son, aunt and cousin when he massacred the bible study. He said he wanted to start a race war.

“I still refuse to be upset,” Sanders said at the rally that succeeded the walk. “I choose to forgive.”

She challenged people to seek unity.

“Can you imagine a world where there is no black or white?” she asked. “I don’t think that was Jesus’ intention. There’s only one race: the human race.”

The one-mile walk started at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Clinton Street and proceed south over the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge to Freimann Square. There was a rally of songs, poetry and remarks afterwards. It concluded with the singing of the O’Jays classic, “Love Train.”