MONTCLAIR, NJ - Chris Singleton lost his mother in 2015 at Charleston’s church shooting. On Saturday, he spoke to a room of more than 100 people at Montclair's Union Batist Church to discuss the power of forgiveness.
The former professional baseball player for the Cubs, says his work to impact lives will continue until he has exceeded his goal of reaching 100,000 students.
Singleton, who was a high school standout, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 19th round in 2017, nearly two years after his mother was tragically killed. He now uses his platform to preach love and forgiveness.
In 2015, Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. and killed nine people. Singleton, when interviewed immediately following his mother's death, told reporters that he forgave Roof.
Singleton told the audience, “Dylann Roof used eight magazines, fired more than 70 bullets into a church while people were praying. Fifty bullets entered their bodies, six hit my mom."
There was an eerie silence in the room as he spoke these words and the audience processed them.
Singleton's mom, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. After graduating from Montclair State University and becoming a speech pathologist, Coleman-Singleton became a reverend at the Southern Baptist Church.
She was survived by Singleton and his two siblings.
He continued saying that though he had no choice in the outcome of this senseless act, he could control his response.
He added, "I had zero control over this. We have a choice in how we respond.”
Singleton said. “I’d never hate someone over their skin color, and they should never hate me for mine.”
Singleton ended his powerful 45-minute testimony by asking everyone to ebrace their neighbor.
“Hug somebody that looks different than you and tell them you love them.”
Singleton said his goal is to reach 100,000 youth with his message.
Following his inspiring speech, a panel discussion ensued.
Mayor Robert Jackson, who was among the panelists, said that Singleton inspired him and went on to advocate for safe gun laws.
“It’s important to have safe gun laws and end racism. But we’re a long way from ending racism. Because we’re impacted... teach love, but also teach the reality."
Rev. Campbell Singleton, III of Union Baptist Church, echoed a continued theme brought up by panelists to call for gun control.
Led by Rev. Singleton, no relation, the audience chanted, “Break the Hate! Do Something.”
The panel, which also included James Harris of the Montclair NAACP and Montclair Police Chief Todd Conforti, as well as, students Dena Salliey and Michael Ellis, spoke on several issues. The common sentiment discussed were ways to protect schools, houses of worship, and communities, as a whole.
Conforti said his department adds resources devoted to training and drills at schools and public gathering venues.
As a culmination, attendees signed petitions in favor of extensive background checks for gun permits and for limiting ammunition sales to 10 round magazines.