Youngest survivor of Emanuel AME Church shooting speaks out publicly for the first time

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – There have been numerous memorials and tributes over the past six years honoring the nine people who were killed during, and those who survived, the massacre at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015.

But one face was kept hidden, one voice left silent.

At 11 years old, Ka’mya Manigault was the youngest person in the room when a gunman opened fire during bible study.

Despite the horrific events that took place there, Mother Emanuel holds a special place in her heart.

“It’s one of my favorite places and I’ve made my friends here. I consider the people here to be my family.”

Ka’mya Manigault

Ka’mya said she loved Bible study, simply because she was the only child there. When she answered a question correctly, she would get a nickel. “I used to love getting those nickels,” she said.

The nickels would mostly come from Rev. Daniel Simmons. “I remember Rev. Pinckney gave me a nickel one time,” she recalled, referring to SC Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Both men died in the shooting.

Ka’mya and her grandmother Felicia Sanders survived, thanks in-part to Sanders’ whispered advice: play dead. Ka’mya’s aunt and uncle, who were also there that night, were among the nine killed.

Ka’mya says though she doesn’t think about it every day, it’s hard to move on.

“Through the beginning, I shut down a lot; I still shut down sometimes.”

Ka’mya Manigault

Her relationship with her grandmother has helped her get through it all.

Sanders explained to an audience of supporters that the family protected Ka’mya from questions and cameras as long as they could.

But now, Ka’mya is ready to tell her story. She expresses herself through poetry and is a budding entrepreneur, designing and selling t-shirts.

“All of the shirts I was selling today come from my poetry, call it punchline poetry,” she said before sharing a snippet from one of the poems she wrote.

Ka’mya most wants people to know that despite her struggles, she is okay.

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