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National

Youngest Charleston, S.C., Shooting Victim 'Wanted To Make It'

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We continue our coverage now from Charleston, S.C., a city that's mourning the shooting deaths of nine people killed during a Bible study on Wednesday night. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish, and we're here in North Charleston. We're far away from downtown Charleston. We wanted to find out more about the life of one of the victims - one of the younger victims. His name was Tywanza Sanders. He was 26 years old. He had just graduated from Allen University last year with a business degree. He was working at a barbershop here. It's called Against Da Grain. We decided to come out here and find out more about what Tywanza, or Wanza, as his friends called him - what he was like. So we talked to his boss, Paul Singleton. He's a co-owner of the barbershop.

PAUL SINGLETON: He liked it, you know? He came in every day. He was here early. He made jokes, was all comedy, you know? He always had a smile on his face.

CORNISH: So in every barbershop, everyone's got a little bit of a different personality at each chair, and I notice his chair is up front.

SINGLETON: He always liked talking to people, so, like, hey, put the guy that likes to talk to people the most at the front door. So that's where he was.

CORNISH: How did he talk about his future? You know, people sit around and just talk about what they want to do.

SINGLETON: He wanted to make it. Like, listen, I don't care what it takes. I don't care if I got to ride four buses to get here. Like, he was dedicated.

CORNISH: What's it like being in here today without him?

SINGLETON: It's kind of rough, you know? Like, most of the time, he'll normally beat me here, you know? So for me to get here and he's not here, it's, like - it's a little different.

CORNISH: What are you going to remember most about him?

SINGLETON: He was living a dream, and he wanted to make it come true, you know?

CORNISH: It's hard. It's OK to say that it's hard, you know? His clippers are still plugged in.

SINGLETON: They are. We just seen him the day before yesterday. Like, it was - it was, like, all right, see you tomorrow. And to get home and find out that it was him, it was, like, shock. We used to have customers come in here and joke. Like, they'd always ask us, like, yo, y'all boys twins - like, you and Wanza twins? I was like, no, we ain't twins, but, you know, we just look alike. Now, it's almost, like - it's not going to be more no more twin jokes.

CORNISH: Well, Paul Singleton, thank you so much for talking with us, and I'm sorry that you lost your friend.

SINGLETON: Thank you.

CORNISH: Paul Singleton is one of the owners of the Charleston barbershop, Against Da Grain.

BLOCK: And he was sharing his memories of Tywanza Sanders. He was one of the victims of Wednesday's mass shooting there in Charleston.

CORNISH: That's right. Sanders worked there as a barber.

BLOCK: Audie, how would you describe the range of emotion that you've been hearing as you've talked to people there today?

CORNISH: Well, when you go to a place like the barbershop, all is quiet. People are still in shock. And then when you travel to other parts of the city, where there are more activists speaking out, that's where you can see glimmers of real anger.

BLOCK: And where else did you go today?

CORNISH: Well, at one point, I went to a press conference for the NAACP chapter here. Lots of reporters were there. But what was interesting is, at the back, there were a lot of community members who were just standing and listening. And one of them turned out to be Rev. Anthony Evans. He's from the National Black Church Initiative, and he traveled here from Washington, D.C. And he was incredibly frustrated. He says he doesn't think he's hearing what he wants from the Justice Department or from President Obama. He doesn't think that there are any real plans for helping protect black churches in the country.

ANTHONY EVANS: I mean, if this would've happened on a Jewish mosque, we'd be all upset. The whole country would be upset. Well, the country should be upset now.

CORNISH: But people are very much mourning. The president, obviously, talked about the country grieving. And my sense is that you just don't think that that's enough.

EVANS: Well, he hasn't done anything. Where's the Justice Department? Are they providing technical assistance to the black church? Are they providing program monies to the black church? What are they doing in terms of black church security? They're not doing anything. That's why I'm down here, to make sure that our churches in the South take nonviolent steps to protect themselves against individuals who will harm us during our worship service.

CORNISH: What would those steps be, especially given that a hallmark of the church - open doors?

EVANS: We have open doors, but let it be very clear. Our doors will remain open, there will be no weapons on our premise, but we would employ, in our congregation, men who will protect women and children and that worship experience.

CORNISH: Armed men?

EVANS: I said that there is no guns involved here - none. We reject any guns in our churches. We reject any guns.

CORNISH: Speaking personally, as a pastor, what has this been like for you the last couple of days?

EVANS: Well, this is crazy. What are we supposed to do? I mean, we throw our hands up as clergy. First of all, white, racist law enforcement want us to say that they have a right to gun down innocent, unarmed black males. We won't say that. We will protest against that. And we will use the nonviolent apparatus of this society to prosecute them, just like we're trying to prosecute the North Charleston officer who shot Walter Scott in his back. So this is frustrating. How can we, somehow, be a man of peace and a man of love when we got people who are killing us and they say that we shouldn't even have the right to protest against them killing us? So that's silly. And this president and this administration is doing nothing to protect the black community. He has the power. Use it, Mr. President.

CORNISH: That was the Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the National Black Church Initiative of Washington, D.C. He spoke to us in downtown Charleston, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.