'Hate won't win': Granddaughter of Emanuel victim vows to make a legacy of love

'Hate won't win': Granddaughter of Emanuel victim vows to make a legacy of love

A Virginia woman with South Carolina ties and a place in Charleston history is this months Jefferson Awards recipient.

Her grandfather was murdered in Mother Emanuel last summer. Instead of falling, Alana Simmons took a stand. Instead of turning and running, she faced the tragedy. Instead of letting hate win, the young woman who looked up to Rev. Daniel Simmons acted without wasting any time.

Looking back, more than a year after the shooting and the bond hearing two days later, Simmons explains how she found love so quickly in the shadows of unspeakable hate.

"When I went to the courtroom, we initially had nothing to say. Our family elected not to speak," she said.

Other family members and survivors of the Mother Emanuel shooting did choose to speak, and offered words of forgiveness. Their words to the alleged gunman changed the dialogue, and inspired Simmons.

"I remember being completely moved in my heart. I believe god put these words in my heart; I believe god put it in my heart and told me to get up and say it," she said.

And there, in the small bond hearing room with the 21-year-old Eastover man in a jail jumpsuit displayed over closed circuit television, Simmons offered these words to him: "Everyone's plea for your soul is proof. They lived in love -- their legacy will live in love so hate wont win."

Those three words, Simmons' words spread quickly.

"We got out of the courtroom and it was a global hastag. It was everywhere," Simmons said.

From a hashtag to a symbol -- 2 hands, one black and one white, creating one heart -- to honor her grandfather.

"His life inspired me as much as his death inspired the rest of the world to continue to create a legacy of love and not a legacy of something that is good for yourself," Simmons said.

Simmons' "Hate Won't Win" movement was kickstarted when the President and First Lady tweeted out a picture of him holding up the Hate Won't Win shirt and her making a heart with her hands.

But it's something much deeper that drives her.

"When I learned the motivation of the crime, it puts whole new hurt on you literally because he was who he was and they were who they were -- that someone hated them, hated them enough to take them out," Simmons said.

"I couldnt ignore it. It was so clear. I couldn't wiggle out because it was so clear. His intent was clear, his motive was clear, the result was clear. You can't ignore something like that -- instead of doing what the shooter intended, we had to do the opposite."

Out of an act of hate came a labor of love.

Simmons created the nonprofit HateWon'tWin to reach not only victims of crimes but also of discrimination and bullying.

"I don't believe god would let this be the end of any of their stories. We had a conversation with family, and asked why did this happen," she said. "Mom found this quote: 'God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.'"

And Simmons is seeing it through one heart at a time.

Simmons has taken her message as far as Tacoma, Washington, sharing her story with schools, churches, and other organizations.

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