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Nine represent millions

Rev. Richard Coleman of St. Mark AME leads the benediction for a small group of people gathered in Duluth to remember the the shooting victims of the Charleston Emanuel Methodist Episcopal Church. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)

The sound of a small bell echoed for a long moment, creating a solemn mood as each name was read.

Individually, nine Duluth pastors stood up and recited the names of all nine people shot and killed one year ago at an historic African American Church in Charleston, S.C.

On June 17, 2015 a gunman opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The gunman shouted racial epithets while shooting a group of 12 people who were gathered for prayer. Nine people died. Because the shootings were racially motivated, it was considered a hate crime.

In Duluth on June 7, a service of music, readings and prayers marked the year since the tragic event.

"White Christians must start acting more Christian than white," Rev. David Carlson said as he recited the preface to "America's Original Sin" by Jim Wallis. Carlson is the minister of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.

Rev. Richard Coleman is the pastor of St. Mark AME in Duluth, the same denomination as the Charleston church.

Nine pastors from the Duluth area participated in the service, but fewer than five community members were present. Coincidentally this number is about the same as those at the prayer service in Charleston. That fact was observed by those present.

"I am encouraged by those who were here," said Coleman.

The minister, who commutes from the Twin Cities to lead Sunday services at Duluth's St. Mark AME, said the extra mid-week drive for this vigil was worth it.

"It's so easy to forget," he said of the tragedy. "Our hope is that there's something good to come out of remembering ... so that we will be better equipped for it not to happen again."

He said it was important not to forget the nine because they represent the millions who have suffered because of racism.

Chrystal Gardner, a member of St. Mark AME said, "I believe that if that young man (the gunman) would have had a supportive family and a supportive school the whole event wouldn't have happened."

See also: Orange is the new black in mourning

This bell rang nine times to signify the nine lives lost to racial hatred during the Charleston church shooting. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)

Rev. Jeremiah Kanabe of First Presbyterian Church speaks about the Belhar Confession, in which the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa took a stand against racism. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at