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‘We are all hurt’

Words spoken and sung can provide an outlet when trying to understand tragedy and remembering those who were senselessly lost.

That was the motivation for a special event Tuesday night centered around music and poetry to remember the nine people shot and killed last week at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“We have gathered here together to reflect deeply and with our souls and spirits on that tragedy,” said professor of law Margaret Burnham, who led efforts to organize the evening’s event. “We are all hurt.”

In Memory of the Charleston Victims: An Evening of Poetry and Music

Professor of Law Margaret Burnham. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

More than 100 people, including President Joseph E. Aoun and Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, attended the event, which was held in the Fenway Center. The event featured poetry readings and musical performances by artists from around the Boston-area, as well as personal reflections from three Northeastern University students.

Akira Brown, S’18, who is a member of the Northeastern Black Student Association, explained that in order to take her attention off the tragedy, she did research on Emanuel AME and found a religious community that has overcome adversity after adversity.

“Resilience is indicative of the black experience,” an emotional Brown said, “and just like the resilience of Emanuel AME, I too have become resilient.”

In Memory of the Charleston Victims: An Evening of Poetry and Music

Akira Brown, S’18. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Brown added that while she knows conversations about race can be “tiring and redundant,” she urged those in the audience not to become desensitized to violence and oppression.

Six poets read including Nicole Terez Dutton, the poet laureate for the city of Somerville, Massachusetts; Sonia Sanchez, recipient of the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service and author of more than a dozen books; and Robert Pinsky, former U.S. poet laureate.

“Poetry and music testify to humanities’ capacity for greatness, great compassion, and expansive generosity,” said Lori Lefkovitz, the Ruderman Professor and director of the Jewish Studies Program and director of the Humanities Center, who also read a poem.

In Memory of the Charleston Victims: An Evening of Poetry and Music

The jazz trio Earth Tones perform at Tuesday’s event. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The event was sponsored by the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service, the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Program, the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, the Northeastern Humanities Center, the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute, and the Northeastern University School of Law.

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