Skin colour effect

The events in Charleston, South Carolina, where a 21-year-old shot nine African Americans in one of the town’s most historic black churches have shaken my comfort as I travel towards the state of California, just below.

Getting closer to Miami, and pit-stopping halfway to releasea 9-hour drive ahead, I stopped in a motel in a small town of 7000 inhabitants. ‘Perry’ is also a town that has seen blacks being attacked in the past.

Although not a churchgoer, the news that perpetrator, Dylann Roof, had carried out his massacre in the name of making a statement against the black community had me query his action, but also had me think twice about walking into a black church, just because I didn’t want to bring any ill feeling to any of the churchgoers.

On the contrary to what he might have thought, doing so not only perpetrates fear for the locals, but as days go by, also brings the black community closer together, out of union for their ethnicity.

Being white, this is perhaps the first time I have been in a position of being the ‘outsider’, of being the person who is looked upon with a dismissing eye because of their skin colour. Because as I stood there listening to the proceedings, I wondered what people thought of me; if they were looking at me just because I was a foreigner in their church, or if they had an internal fear inside, as if they were waiting to see my actions. Or maybe it was just me making a big deal out of nothing.

The case has been classed as a ‘hate crime’, and the trial is get to begin. Roof purposely left survivors in the attack so that they could convey what had happened, and pass on the message that ‘blacks are taking over the country’, and that this has to end. On the contrary, this sounds like the beginning of something very different. You have no glory Roof.

*** Published in the Cyprus Weekly

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About Melissa Hekkers

I am freelance journalist and author, who has frequently been featured in mainstream news outlets and other publications in Cyprus. Recently, I've been focusing on developing my writing, promoting my own books and teaching creative writing to children and adults. My most recent publication (2020) - Amir's Blue Elephant- pushes the boundaries of creative non-fiction, and recreates the moments that marked me the most, whilst volunteering in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and during her ongoing involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus. In 2018 I published My Capre Greco Mandala which is the third in a series, an interactive colouring book about the biodiversity of the Cape Greco peninsula in Cyprus. My Akamas Mandala, the second in the series, is a colouring book inspired by the variety of endemic plants found on the Akamas Peninsula. In 2016, I published My Nicosia Mandala, the first of the above series, an innovative, interactive colouring book about the historic fortifications of the old town of Nicosia. I also focuses on silenced communities in Cyprus: I writes about migrants and refugees, both as a reporter and a features writer; I profile them and teach them creative writing skills. In 2007, soon after graduating with a Communications degree, I published my first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, I launched my second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which I was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. My third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014. In between the last two books, I published my first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London