Charlotte public radio station WFAE premieres its 60-minute documentary Eyes Closed in Prayer, about the racially motivated shooting at the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., tonight at 8 p.m.
After tonight's premiere, the doc will air three more times: Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Listen to a clip from the documentary at bottom.)
WFAE news director Greg Collard said the idea for the documentary came when he realized the station was sitting on hours of material from its coverage of the Charleston massacre and trial, as well as tangential stories from earlier debates over the flying of the Confederate flag outside the South Carolina Statehouse. Most importantly, WFAE had personal stories from Charlotte residents who were either directly connected to victims — such as Malcolm Graham, brother of victim Cynthia Graham Hurd — or connected to the City of Charleston.
"We spoke with one woman whose sister had died in the shooting and she had taken in her nieces," Collard said. "It told the story of one family's survival."
Collard knew there was an even larger story to tell about race in America, in the South, and in our region.
"We had a lot of other stories, so it just occurred to me, 'Hey we have so much material: Why don't we weave it together?" Collard said. "The great thing about a documentary is you can put all these pieces together and a story with a stronger message emerges."
Eyes Closed in Prayer was written and produced by Tom Bullock, and hosted by Gwendolyn Glenn, who traveled to Charleston for much of the reporting.
Listen to a segment of the Eyes Closed in Prayer below, and tune in to WFAE tonight at 8 p.m. for the full documentary.