The first of five moments of Mother Emanuel: Charleston 2015 entitled A Journey from Afar, is a work depicting the plight of the enslaved African people’s journey to the United States. This first movement moves through some of the atrocities of slavery, struggles for freedom, and the building of the first black church built in the south, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was built by slaves; its original foundation was laid in 1891. The next four movements move through the times to current day when the memorial of John C. Calhoun would finally come down. He was a statesman and politician from Abbeville, South Carolina who served as vice president of John Adams and Andrew Jackson, a move that would help dilute the racial tensions that still permeate the city to date.
This work was written weeks after the tragedy on June 17, 2015, at Mother Emanuel, in Charleston, South Carolina where nine lives were lost during a prayer meeting. I had the opportunity to speak with some church members including one of the oldest trustees of the church, Mr. Charles Williams. He gave me a personal tour of not only the church but the city and I came to understand and know the history, culture and the spirit of the church and its family. The strength of the family of the church along with the spirit of the city of Charleston are the two sources of inspiration of this work.