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Congregation paints over, scrubs out hate

Grafitti was found on the side of Four Cross Masonic Lodge No. 109 in Catawba.
Grafitti was found on the side of Four Cross Masonic Lodge No. 109 in Catawba.

CATAWBA -- The church and the community center at Catawba Chapel AME Zion are made of brick. Brick is strong, but if defaced it can be scuffed, and scarred, from scrubbing.

When racist and religious graffiti late last week had to be removed from the predominantly black church southeast of Rock Hill, some marks remained Monday. A close look shows some of the nastiness, even if it is just an outline. The word "Killa," can be made out still.

Hate, even when the words are gone, can never quite be erased, anyway.

"When I saw it after it happened, I was mad," said Quatavia Belton, who at age 15, at a church that her family has gone to for so many years, shouldn't have to see words and symbols that describe blacks as epithets.

But that is what happened at her church.

Yet hate can't stop faithful people from praise. At the Sunday service -- a celebration that the community center had been paid off -- longtime member Mary Massey said there was a "huge turnout" at the small parish way out in the country. Standing room only, even people from other churches.

"People here are strong in their faith," Massey said. "There is the Holy Spirit here. It was rejoicing."

A cleaner with a special solution that was used Saturday was able remove much of the graffiti off both buildings. More than 40 people from the parish and from elsewhere scrubbed with brushes and pressure washers. Good people, with good hearts, all trying to erase the hate.

It took paint to cover the sanctuary side door, though, to cover that hateful word. The word that starts with the letter "N." You who read this know what that word is. It is a word that cuts and shreds and destroys. What that hate phrase said was "No N..."

I guess that word "Killa" also means something to whoever would do such a thing. Maybe some kind of funny joke to somebody who thinks discrimination is hysterical. Funny hate.

It's not funny to see the face of Sam Rollins, 82 and a church member for 50-plus years, who said to me Monday, "To deface the house of the Lord is just, well, terrible."

Hezekiah Massey, a church trustee, said the cleaner is expected back to get rid of all the remnants of the hate.

"Sunday, we didn't even mention it," Hezekiah Massey said.

The cleaning means no more outlines of marijuana cigarettes, or Swastikas that are emblems of the Nazi killing of Jews and Christians and anybody else who didn't agree with the Nazis. No Stars of David with a "C" in them that must mean to belittle Jews and anybody else that haters can hate.

No more that is vile and nasty, hurtful and mean.

Almost.

Because Hezekiah Massey took me Monday across from the church and down a tiny gravel road to the concrete block Four Cross Masonic Lodge No. 109. His lodge, and that of so many proud black men in his community.

More graffiti. He and others found it Sunday.

The same vile stuff.

"We'll paint over this," Hezekiah Massey told me. "They can't stop our spirit."

Massey hates no one, nor does Rollins, who lives next to the lodge. Each is too fine a man to hate back.

There are indicators the two sets of graffiti are related, said Capt. Jerry Hoffman of the York County Sheriff's Office.

So the investigation continues into hate, where the people praise their God. Hate where they fellowship as men.

Hate, in the hot sun, that smells of shame and cowardice.

Want to help?

Anyone with information about the vandalism of the Catawba Chapel AME Zion Church or Four Cross Masonic Lodge No. 109 is asked to call Crimestoppers at 1-877-409-4321 or the York County Sheriff's Office at 628-3059.

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