On Tuesday night in Greenville, Mississippi, the historically black Hopewell Baptist Church was firebombed, destroying most of the sanctuary. On the side of Hopewell Baptist Church, the words "Vote Trump" were spray-painted. It was the latest, and perhaps most awful symptom of a political climate that has been contentious like few before. The violence toward the church not only recalls the recent firebombing of North Carolina Republican headquarters last month, but a long history of racial violence in America that most felt we had left behind decades ago.
Yet, in the midst of the horror, there is actually a gleam of hope. J. Blair Reeves, a product manager for an IT company from New York City, was outraged by the terrible incident and decided to help. He had previously lived in North Carolina, close to the site of the GOP office bombing, and was impressed by how quickly a GoFundMe campaign had raised money to repair the damage after that attack; as such, he started his own GoFundMe to help Hopewell Baptist Church.
He set it up, tweeted it out, and went about his day. When he came back a few hours later, it had surpassed its $10,000 goal. At the time of writing, just over a day after he posted the original link, the GoFundMe has raised more than $180,000 to help the church.
"When they give to a thing like this, it's an expression of solidarity, or an expression of their own values," Reeves tells Bustle in a phone interview. To him, it's a way for people to say "we're not that" and separate themselves from those who attacked the church.
Reeves describes himself as "not a Trump guy," but doesn't see his project as a political act. He says donors have come from all parts of the political spectrum — Democrats, Republicans, and even people from outside of America. One person even gave $1,000 from Switzerland.
Reeves says he feels strongly that most of the Trump supporters funding the campaign were sincere and good people — though he says he wasn't pleased that some Trump backers on the internet claimed the GoFundMe was being led by pro-Trump people. To Reeves, the campaign is a means of bringing people together in the wake of something this country should have moved beyond.
"This is just one thing. And there's all this apocalyptic language coming out of the campaign," Reeves said. "Things will cool off after the election. The sky will not fall. The republic will survive, and people will sorta go on with their lives.
"Some people have been too mad, and for dumb reasons."