Ebenezer Baptist Church vigil draws diverse crowd of hundreds to honor Orlando, Charleston victims

Several hundred Atlantans of various faiths, races and ages came out to Ebenezer Baptist Church Wednesday evening for a prayer vigil in honor of the victims of the Orlando shooting and to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine dead.

The vigil attracted a number of speakers familiar to the LGBT community, including:

  • Georgia Equality executive director Jeff Graham
  • Bishop Jim Swilley of Metron Community Church; Swilley famously came out to his Church In The Now congregation in 2010
  • Judah Swilley, the son of Bishop Jim Swilley and one of the stars of the Oxygen reality series “Preachers of Atlanta”
  • Bishop O.C. Allen, the openly gay founder and senior pastor of The Vision Church of Atlanta
  • Rabbi Peter Berg, senior rabbi of The Temple, and Rev. Dr. James Lamkin, senior pastor of Northside Drive Baptist Church, who were both part of the fight against the various so-called “religious freedom” bills that failed to pass in the state legislature the last three years

There was a reading of the names of the 58 victims of both shootings with a bell ringing after each one, then Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist, took to the podium.

Warnock drew comparisons between the shootings, saying that both were, “A tragic failure to see and honor the dignity of all humanity. Both represent an attack upon a sanctuary. Everybody needs a sanctuary. Everybody needs a safe place. And our message tonight is clear: we are one.”

Georgia Equality’s Graham also pointed out the significance of the Pulse attack taking place in a nightclub, saying, “Oftentimes, nightclubs in our community are those safe spaces where we can go and feel that we can be with the community, where people will not judge us for who we are and who we love. The young people at Pulse nightclub were celebrating who they are in the month that celebrates the first time that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people united together in New York in 1969 to say no to the police violence that had hurt so many of us for so long.”

He then read the letter that 35 Atlanta-area organizations signed onto earlier this week in response to the Pulse attack.

Warnock called the attack at Pulse a hate crime and an act of terror, said Georgia needed to repent for being ground zero for the guns everywhere law and, pointing out openly queer state Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) in the audience, said it was time to get a hate crimes law on the books in Georgia. The state is one of only five in the nation without such a law.

Here’s a photo gallery from the vigil: