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Multiple vigils for Sean Kennedy held across S.C.
Columbia Mayor Bob Coble speaks at vigil; victim’s mother starts foundation to fight hate crimes

by Mark Smith

Elke Kennedy-Parker, mother of slain 20-year-old Sean Kennedy, pays homage to her son during a candlelight vigil held in his memory.
The murder of 20-year-old Sean Kennedy has resonated across the Palmetto state, prompting multiple vigils to honor his brief life.

To date three vigils have been held: Greenville (June 3), Myrtle Beach (June 6) and Columbia (July 1). At press time a fourth was planned for Charleston on July 10.

In Greenville, Kennedy’s mother Elke Kennedy-Parker stood before a crowd of 300 in downtown, recalling the day her son, Sean, told her he was gay.

“He said, ‘Mom, if you don’t want to love me anymore, I will understand. I told him that there is nothing that he could ever do for me to stop loving him.”

Sean Kennedy’s friends, family and supporters packed the center city plaza for the candlelight vigil.

Leaders from the religious community called for peace and an end to violence.

Donna Stroud, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Upstate offered a prayer for Kennedy’s friends and family, as well as for Stephen Andrew Moller — Kennedy’s accused killer.

“No one is safe from hatred until everyone is equally valued as a human being and equally protected under the law,” said Stroud.

Well-wishers gather to pay their respects to the memory of Sean Kennedy during one of three vigils held recently.

A few people in the crowd wept as Kennedy-Parker read a poem, “Sean’s Last Wish,” written by a friend.

Sean, beautiful young man
Your demise has touched our hearts
There must have been a wondrous plan
For God chose you to play the part
This sad and bitter world
Is due a wake-up call
We saw the snarling jaws of hate
And you dear, took the fall
Your spirit all encompassing
Cries out for all to know
We will join hands, your song to sing
And vow to never let this go
We must cast light on your purpose
Lest it all have been in vain
Today you have our promise
From you, this world has much to gain
I see pure determination
There in your Mother’s eyes
Your last wish will know realization
On this you can rely

Volunteers sold bracelets at the Sean’s Wish List tent at the vigil.
During the Greenville vigil, Stroud pointed out Kennedy’s commitment to equality for all people. “Even in death, he saved lives by donating his organs,” said Stroud. “Because of his choice, the lives of four people he never knew have been saved.”

Just three days later another crowd came to pay homage to Kennedy’s memory. Kennedy-Parker was once again in attendance.

“His death is an example of what hate can do,” Kennedy-Parker told the group gathered for the candlelight vigil at The Center Project in Myrtle Beach. “We need to stop the hate and stop the violence.”

In Columbia, candles lit up the night in memory of Kennedy at the State House.

Despite the fact the crowd was somewhat smaller — around 100 people — the emotion surrounding Kennedy’s death was ever present. “How could anyone think of hurting anyone because of who they are?” Kennedy-Parker asked those present.

In addition to Kennedy-Parker, Sean’s sister Dawn, South Carolina Equality Coalition board member Ed Madden and Columbia Mayor Bob Coble spoke to the group.

Even in death, Sean Kennedy leaves a legacy to fight hate crimes.
The outpouring of support for Kennedy-Parker has prompted the mother of the slain youth — along with other members of the Upstate — to put together Sean’s Last Wish, a foundation to honor her son and fight for hate crimes legislation and prevention.

“Sean always fought for equal rights for all people,” says Parker-Kennedy. As his last wish, we want to make his goal a reality. We need to make sure that we send a message loud and clear — we will not tolerate violence or hate in our communities in this country.”

In addition to Kennedy-Parker’s efforts, MCC of the Upstate Pastor Donna Stroud has undertaken an effort to document victims of hate crimes in the Carolinas. If you have a story to tell, contact Stroud at mccupstate@bellsouth.net.

For more information on Sean’s Last Wish, visit: www.seanslastwish.com. Donations to the foundation can be made to: Sean’s Last Wish, CPM Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 2297, Greer, SC 29652.

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