King Center C.E.O. Bernice A. King today issued the following statement about the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina:

I am deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. On behalf of The King Center, I extend my heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of this horrific act of hate and violence. Humanity has been robbed of 9 sacred lives, in a manner that was steeped in racism, with the gunman reportedly stating, "I came to shoot black people," before he opened fire. This chain of events underscores that this nation has cultivated a culture of violence and has yet to earnestly address pervasive racism.

My family has a strong connection to this church, which has such a long and distinguished heritage and leadership role in African American history. My father preached at Emanuel AME church in 1962, and my mother, Coretta Scott King, worked with members of the congregation in the historic movement to unionize Charleston’s hospital workers, many of whom were African-American women earning subsistence wages. She led a march to the church and addressed a mass rally at the church on April 29, 1969, in support of their strike for decent wages and working conditions.

In this heart-rending moment, we are remembering the history of Emanuel AME and Charleston, revisiting past racial injustice and grappling with the pain of racism that this country still contends with today. We must drastically increase our efforts to educate people to reject racism and violence, and to create a culture of nonviolence, which is not a tactic, but a lifestyle. In the words of my father, Nonviolence 365, as The King Center calls our education and training based on his nonviolent philosophy and methodology, “must become immediately a subject for study and for serious implementation in every field of human conflict, and by no means excluding the relations between nations.”

We must interrupt business as usual and change the trajectory of our nation. And, as my father shared in his eulogy for the four little girls killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, “…We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”

We must choose to be concerned about the system, the way of life and the philosophy which produced the Charleston gunman. It is critical that we are concerned, for our concern reflects our attention to our ultimate choice between “nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” We must choose Nonviolence 365.

I pray for healing for the Emmanuel AME congregation, the Charleston community and for all of the families impacted by this tragedy.”