Turning a place of hate into a place of hope

Updated: Feb. 23, 2022 at 10:56 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Laurens, SC (FOX Carolina) - Turning a place of hate into a place of hope is the goal of the Echo Project.

The Echo Theater in downtown Laurens has a racially charged past. The segregated movie theater later became a headquarters for hate groups and then, the site of the Redneck Shop.

Reverend David Kennedy remembers going to the theater as a child.

“Not only did we enter the building with humiliation, we went up the stairs to further humiliation because we had to sit in the balcony,” Rev. Kennedy recalls, “We had somebody over us to keep us in line.”

Kennedy bought the building from the owner of Redneck Shop in 2012.

He has big plans to transform the space.

“It’s just like being born again. It’s a real transformation. The old things die and it’s time for the new stuff like diversity, justice, and equality to emerge.”

He’s working with Greenville-based architect Michael Allen to transform it into a place of hope.

“That extent of change that you can create by having control of a design and taking that design into something that is more powerful and uplifting for everybody and taking the racism away, that’s huge,” lead architect Michael Allen said.

Allen, a Clemson grad and South Carolina native, is working on the Echo Project for free.

The design is still in the beginning phases, but Allen said it will echo Reverend Kennedy’s vision for a diversity and inclusion center.

The gutted building is a place with history as dark as it’s dirt floors. New walls and paint won’t erase the past, but it gives anyone who enters a chance to learn and see the light ahead.

“The ironic part of this, being a racist building towards Black people,” Allen said, “You have Black people taking the same building, controlling it, and turning it into something that unifies people.”

The expected completion date is sometime in 2023.