One of the surest ways to keep history from repeating itself is to shine a light in its darkest corners, and that’s exactly what 67-year-old Reverend David Kennedy has set out to do in the town of Laurens, South Carolina.
In 2019, Reverend Kennedy and local historian Regan Freeman founded the Echo Foundation. Its mission: transforming a symbol of racial inequality into an opportunity for reconciliation and education. Their target: the historically segregated Echo Theater, later home to a storefront, museum, and recruitment center dedicated to glorifying white supremacy known as the Redneck Shop.
“To be a Black person in America, I have too many stories to share that people wouldn’t believe,” Reverend Kennedy, told CNN. “Once you choose to speak out, people become fearful of us, and you have to be ready to sacrifice your mind, your heart, your soul, to tell the truth about history and what they did to our people. I was ready to make that sacrifice.”
Reverend Kennedy was instrumental in a lengthy legal battle to close the Redneck Shop. His story may seem familiar to you. The part of his saga that chronicles his outreach to a former foe was made into the 2018 film ‘Burden’.
John Howard and Michael Burden were co-owners of the Redneck Shop. When Burden broke from the ranks of the KKK, Reverend Kennedy offered sanctuary and spiritual succor to him and his family.
The Redneck Shop was closed by the courts in 2012. Rather than destroy its contents, many of the artifacts will be used as teaching points to engage in meaningful, transformative conversation about all-too-recent history.
So far, the Echo Project has raised close to $375,000 toward its goal of restoration and renaissance for the Echo Theater. In addition to the museum, the space will house community classrooms.
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“We don’t want to just have a museum to tell this story, the struggle for justice, and the fight against the Klan, but we also want to detail what happened here to make sure it never happens again,” Freeman told CNN. “The Echo Theater went from being a segregated movie theater to a literal Klan’s store to being in the possession of a Black minister, and it is about to become a place for reconciliation, justice, and healing.”
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If you’d like to donate to the Echo Project, you can head to the GoFundMe here.
(WATCH the video about the project below.)
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