Mion Edwards | Staff Writer
Alana Simmons, a Newport News, Virginia native is the epitome of what it means to be passionate about a cause.
The former Miss Virginia is creating a legacy built on love. Her campaign “Hate won’t win”, grew out of the killing of nine church members by Dylann Roof at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church June 17, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.
One of the God fearing victims included Ms. Simmons’ grandfather, Reverend Daniel Simmons. Alana and her family watched the coverage of the story unfold on different news outlets. “I was in a state of shock” said Simmons. “He knew it was a historically black church. He wanted to start a race war”, said Simmons in reference to the killer Dylan Roof. Even though the killer’s intentions were malicious, the town of Charleston did not result to violence, but remained peaceful.
“When I went to Charleston, I was fearful of it being a race war; however, because of what happened people made an extra effort to speak to other people who were different.” The positivity continued with support from sympathizers nationwide of different races, different ages and different religious denominations. Simmons’ belief in love conquering all was tested when she and her family had the opportunity to confront the killer. Simmons and her family could have said negative things to the killer, but instead they forgave him of his actions.
The current Miss Black Virginia USA said “I wanted him to know that he did not have control of my feelings, emotions or actions. He had the wrong church, the wrong people and the wrong city.” The family continued to walk on a path of faith and forgiveness because even though their grandfather died at the hands of hate, they knew love conquered all hatred.
While confronting the killer, Simmons did not know that she was being filmed by CNN reporters. While talking to Roof she uttered the words “Hate won’t win.”
“Before I could even reach the car hate won’t win was everywhere.” The phrase “hate won’t win” immediately began flooding timelines, dashboards, and mainstream social media within minutes.
Ms. Simmons’ phrase “Hate won’t win” was becoming a movement, a movement not restricted to just the U.S. but internationally as well. “We don’t have the power of national media but we do have the power of social media, this is how the Hate Won’t Win non-profit was started,” says Ms. Simmons. As the #HateWontWin began to form, new ideas were cultivated out of the movement.
A social media challenge emerged. The challenge was to do something nice for someone that is different from you or you may not know that well, to create a since of community and unity. Hundreds of people participated in this campaign and shared their stories via social media. The social media challenge caused an out pour of unity and love.
The movement Ms. Simmons created is one she defines as a movement of the heart. “Politicians don’t have the power to change people.”
She explains how African Americans during the Jim Crow era fought for laws and marched for freedom and equal rights. However, now that these laws are in place some people still hold prejudice thoughts and views and instead of embracing diversity they shun it.
This is why Simmons believes the new method of changing the heart. “No one culture can survive in this country on their own.” Simmons was honored at Hampton University’s 73rd Opening Convocation with the Presidential Citizenship Award for the impact her non-profit organization has had on the nation.
You can follow the movement and get more information about how you can help the organization on the website hatewontwinmovement.com. In August she plans to run for Miss Black Virginia USA. She wants her legacy to be one of inspiration.
“I want to be remembered as a leader who inspired other people to be good people”.