(LAURENS, S.C.) — Not decades in the past in a diminutive, rural South Carolina metropolis stood The Redneck Store — a racist emporium and Ku Klux Klan museum housed in an ancient theater, the set aside white supremacist neo-Nazis gave heil-Hitler salutes and flaunted swastikas and Riot flags.
That building, as soon as the property of the Klan, now belongs to a sad preacher and dedicated foe of racism who fought the community for more than 20 years. The Rev. David Kennedy plans to remodel it into a shrine of reconciliation.
How Kennedy, whose sizable-sizable-uncle became as soon as lynched in the community, obtained ownership of the typical Echo Theater building from an ex-Klansman — a one who as soon as contemplated murdering Kennedy — is the sphere of a movie that would possibly maybe well maybe additionally end up raising funds for that transformation.
“It symbolizes correct now in the form it’s in — hatred,” Kennedy mentioned. “Nonetheless we hope we are in a position to turn it into a building of devour.”
A decade in the past, the white supremacist store in Laurens became as soon as a neighborhood the set aside one in every of the few shirts offered without an overt racial slur mentioned, “If I had known this became as soon as going to occur I would procure picked my procure cotton.” The World Infamous Ku Klux Klan Museum with its racist assembly space became as soon as in the abet.
The KKK had set aside the title in the title of a relied on member, Michael Burden. Burden says varied Klan participants as soon as suggested that he wreck Kennedy, and he regarded as it. Kennedy didn’t know that when he seen Burden, hungry, abominable and entire of abominate, and took him to a buffet to hang his abdominal, then to a hotel so his family wouldn’t procure to sleep on the facet road.
Burden’s lady friend at the time kept urging him to leave the Klan and in 1997, he did. He also bestowed ownership of the typical theater building upon Kennedy for $1,000.
Nonetheless there became as soon as a twist. Under the agreement, John Howard, who owned The Redneck Store, would be allowed to hang and urge his store as lengthy as he lived.
Howard deserted the shop years in the past, ignoring repairs. Duct work and piping procure been ripped from the partitions. He died in 2017, giving Kennedy total hang a watch on over the building.
Kennedy estimates it desires at least $500,000 in repairs that must be carried out fastidiously due to the theater’s age and ancient location. That seems no longer doable for the minister whose Contemporary Origin Missionary Baptist Church congregation meets in a converted gun store loads of miles west of Laurens.
Nonetheless a movie would possibly maybe well maybe additionally provide a Hollywood ending.
The chronicle of the potentially no longer friendship between Kennedy and Burden has been made into a movie called “Burden,” scheduled for nationwide originate Feb. 28. Starring actor Wooded area Whitaker as Kennedy, it became as soon as proven at the 2018 Sundance Movie Competition.
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101 Studios, which dispensed it, has promised Kennedy it’ll lend a hand restore and reopen the theater.
“The South can’t rid itself of its previous. Nonetheless we would possibly maybe well maybe additionally rid ourselves of the Redneck Store,” Kennedy mentioned.
The studio is getting corporations to donate materials and time and is promoting commemorative bricks that would possibly maybe well maybe additionally additionally be placed at the theater.
The movie’s director, Andrew Heckler, first entered The Redneck Store in the slack 1990s after reading a rapid article about Kennedy’s battle. He knew it needed to be a movie and carried out the screenplay in 2001, in the smash getting the inexperienced light from 101 Studios to produce the movie a couple of years in the past.
“I knew this chronicle would indicate one thing to of us. Three of us in the course of nowhere South Carolina did one thing that is more seemingly to be essential to all of us,” Heckler mentioned. “There is a pathway for scuffling with abominate. It’s no longer straightforward. It’s devour, faith and never giving up.”
Kennedy knows about no longer giving up. He protested when a South Carolina county refused to peek the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and he helped foyer to take hang of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome. In his church space of job, he keeps a poster-measurement photo of a lynched sad man swinging at the tip of a rope. It is a long way his sizable uncle, killed more than 100 years in the past by a white mob in Laurens County.
Kennedy also has a photograph of white of us about 15 years in the past in the abet of the theater, wearing uniforms with a Nazi swastika and raising their fingers and fingers in a white strength salute.
“Racism is a peculiar more or less organism. It is a long way systemic. And it potentially will no longer bound away in our lifetimes,” Kennedy mentioned.
Burden and Kennedy remain chums, even supposing no longer as shut as they as soon as procure been. Burden obtained married, modified into his life round and now drives a truck real by the nation.
“When I modified my standard of living I buried that guy,” Burden mentioned of his racist previous.
Burden cautiously shares his chronicle with these he thinks must know that commerce is doable.
The movie named after him is a capacity to set aside that on a increased scale.
“I’m keen to plow by this again,” Burden mentioned. “Am I overjoyed about it? Some days sure, some days no.”
Kennedy no longer too lengthy in the past gave a tour of the theater to some of visiting reporters. Thru the at ease chilly climate afternoon sunlight, ancient two-chronicle artwork of Nazi and U.S. flags can restful be considered on a wall. A Confederate flag remains on the theater marquee.
The photography are deteriorating, nevertheless they linger.
“Racism and hatred, they are every unfavorable and so that they have not got any future,” Kennedy mentioned. “Nonetheless devour, forgiveness and mercy will always procure a future on story of they are constructive.”