Once a White Supremacist Store & Meeting Space, Today a Community Center for Healing

This preacher and local resident from South Carolina are transforming a once Ku Klux Klan meeting space in a community center where education and fight against racial injustice will take over.

The historic Echo Theater in Laurens is located between diners and cafes full of customers and music from the 50s can be heard from the streets.

Keeping Motivational Messages Alive
Keeping Motivational Messages Alive

However, this building has a much darker history than the now cheerful life it shows.

Klans Took over the Theater: It Was their Meeting Place

Back in 1996, the movie theater became the home to the Redneck Shop, a white supremacist store where people could buy White nationalist and neo-Nazi paraphernalia, robes, and Confederate memorabilia.

It was forced to close in 2012.

The building, owned by John Howard and Michael Burden, KKK members, also became a self-proclaimed World’s Only Klan Museum and the sole place where several white nationalist groups met, including the biggest neo-Nazi organization in the country, the NSM.

Transformation Is Happening-It Will Be a Place of Healing

Today, the Echo Project took the building under their wing and aims to transform it.

This organization was founded in 2019 by Freeman, a resident of Laurens, and Rev. David Kennedy, a local Black preacher.

Their goal is to transform the theater into a community center and a museum for racial reconciliation.

According to Freeman, they don’t want the museum just to tell a story, but to express the struggle for justice and the fight against supremacists, as well as more details about what happened to ensure it never happens again.

Their goal is to transform this place into a place to heal, get justice, and reconcile. Kennedy says that as a black person in America, he has a lot of stories to share that people wouldn’t believe.

He adds that when one decides to speak out, people will fear you. Still, you need to be ready to sacrifice your heart, soul, and mind to be able to tell the truth about history and what they did to their people, emphasizes Kennedy.