President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama ad Vice President Joe Biden will make an appearance in Charleston, S.C., in order to attend the funeral service for Reverend Clementa C. Pickney. The president will deliver the eulogy for the slain pastor of Mother Emanuel and state senator.
“Mother Emanuel”, as the Church is nicknamed, is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) church in the United States. The church was founded by slaves and was once burned down for its connection to a thwarted slave revolt. It has been a site of activism and empowerment for the African American community for nearly 200 years, The Washington Post Reports.
Pickney, 41, was a widely admired state senator and pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where he was killed while leading a Bible group, along with eight others by 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof.
In a statement, Biden said it was “the senseless actions of a coward.” He recalled seeing Pickney last at a 2014 prayer breakfast in Columbia, The Washington Post reports.
“He was a good man, a man of faith, a man of service who carried forward Mother Emanuel’s legacy as a sacred place of promoting freedom, equality, and justice for all,” Biden said of Pickney.
President Obama said that he and first lady Michelle Obama knew Pickney as well. He said that the shooting of Pickney and others at the A.M.E. church raised questions “about a dark part of our history,” Reuters reports.
Pickney was married and had two children. He is remembered as a talented orator with a baritone voice. He started preaching at 13-years-old, and at 23 he became the youngest African-American to ever be elected to the state legislature of South Carolina.
Several thousand mourners attended Pickney’s wake at the Charleston A.M.E. church. Lutheran Bishop Mike Rhyne drove with his wife and three children from Pennsylvania to attend. He said Pickney was “one of the best men I have ever met.”
“He was on track to be someone really important,” a high school friend of Pickney said at the wake.
On the South Carolina Senate floor, just a few weeks before his death, Pickney gave an impassioned speech on racist violence, The Washington Post reports.
He spoke of the case of Michael Slager, the police officer who shot the unarmed black man Walter Scott in the back as he fled arrest. Pickney said Scott died “face down in the ground as if he were gunned down like game.”
Pickney said that there was “a real heartache and a yearning for justice, for people not just in the African-American community, but for all people.” Pickney said that his faith requires forgiveness, even of those who kill. “The Lord teaches us to love all, and we pray that over time, justice will be done,” Pickney said prior to his death.
After murdering Pickney, Roof was held in a cell next to former North Charleston police officer Pickney spoke of, Slager. Both Slager and Roof were charged with murder for their killings of nonviolent African Americans.
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