Tywanza Sanders was a son, brother, uncle, and friend to many. He walked into Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday, June 17, 2015, to attend Bible study. That night, Tywanza’s life was taken along with eight other innocent people during a horrendous act of violence fueled by racial hatred. At the age of 26, he was the youngest victim of the attack. This writer is fortunate because I had the pleasure of knowing Tywanza personally. He was an activist who believed in the power of education and encouraged so many.
As the two-year anniversary approaches of the Emanuel AME Church shooting, Tywanza’s legacy continues to inspire and help others pursue their dreams through the Race 4 Achievement Scholarship Fund and the Tywanza Sanders Legacy Foundation.
Rolling out spoke to Tywanza’s mother Felicia Sanders, a survivor of the despicable attack; father Tyrone Sanders; sister Shirrene Goss; and friends at the second annual Race 4 Wanza Doughnut Dash 5K held in Charleston. The race is sponsored by the Race 4 Achievement Scholarship Fund, Charleston Jewish Community Center Without Walls and Krispy Kreme. The race honors his life by granting scholarships to high school students as well as support to community events.
“I am really pumped up about the walk today. I just left NY; I attended the Women in the World Summit. I came back ready to go and fired up. This walk was exactly what I needed. It’s just what the doctor ordered. Everyone should come out next year and join us. Let’s change lives and let’s change people. We want all races to come together through this walk. We want to unify communities and unify the world. That’s what my son stood for.”
“Since Tywanza’s passing, we’ve wanted everyone to come everyone together. Hopefully, things like this will continue to bring all races together so that we can have dialogue. There’s a good mix of all ethnic groups. Everyone is getting along this is what we want to see. I want the world to know that Tywanza was a good kid. A go-getter like his dad [chuckles]. He never took no for an answer.”
“We are happy to be here supporting the Race 4 Achievement Scholarship Fund 5K that was put together by Tywanza’s friends. My parents started the Tywanza Sanders Legacy Foundation. We are launching our first scholarship of 5,000 dollars to SC seniors graduating high school this year. Students can go to the Tywanza Sanders Legacy Foundation.com and apply by June 9. Tywanza really felt like education and being entrepreneurial was important. We want to keep his legacy alive by helping other pursue their dreams.”
This year over 140 people of all races and ages lined up at the starting point with Sanders’ parents kicking off the event leading the crowd of runners and walkers. Race participants were cheered on by community watchers and business owners. The atmosphere was full of comradery and support.
Longtime friends of Tywanza started the Race 4 Achievement Scholarship Fund after the tragedy. We chatted with three of them; Rashaad Lennen, A.J. Harley and Dominque Gray on commemorating his legacy.
“Last year was our first year and we were able to reward scholarships to three students. Students were from Tywanza’s graduating high school and the high school in the community he grew up in. This year we are aiming to expand and reward 4-5 students. Each year we want to continue [the] growth. It is important to have this walk today because, in all my conversations with Tywanza, he expressed how he wanted to help get the youth into college. Through this walk each year we want to reward more students in his honor.”
“This is the second year we have partnered with The Jewish Community Center to put on this race. It’s a fun race that brings everyone together. Tywanza was a motivator, he was driven. Our goal is to keep his energy alive and push his message forward.”
“This walk is great because it allows us to keep our friend’s values and everything he stood for in his life alive. He had a tremendous affect on all of us. Everyone showing up here this morning in support shows a testament [to] who he was. He was a champion for education. We want to help students achieve their goals as he did. That’s what he would want.”
For more information, check out Race 4 Achievement.org and the Tywanza Sanders Legacy Foundation.com
**In memory of Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance and the Emanuel nine victims**