by Paul Bowers
One of the nine victims of a mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church Wednesday night was the church's pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, according to several friends and associates. Just two months before his death, Pinckney led a stirring service calling for an end to racism, bigotry, and violence at his church.
"We hope this program will help each of us to look deeply into our own hearts and minds and inspire us to root out any forms of violence and bigotry in our own lives," the Rev. Pinckney said by way of introduction at the April 26 event, which was called a Requiem for Racism and was presented by the YWCA of Greater Charleston. The program, which came on the heels of the police shooting of an unarmed African-American man, Walter L. Scott, in North Charleston, featured prominent community leaders including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, state Rep. David Mack, and Rabbi Stephanie Alexander of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.
Pinckney opened the service with a prayer. "We know that only love can conquer hate, that only love can bring all together in Your name," he said. "Irregardless of our faiths, our ethnicities, where we are from, together we come in love. Together we come to bury racism, to bury bigotry, and to resurrect and revive love, compassion, and tenderness. We pray that you would bless and empower all of us who are here to reach and to feel the love and to share the love."
Sen. Marlon Kimpson, Pinckney's friend and colleague in the state Senate, said Pinckney's death would be felt as a loss in Columbia as well as in Charleston.
"I would describe him as the moral compass of the Senate," Kimpson says. "When we oftentimes were at an impasse or a sticking point that prevented us from moving forward on legislation, we would turn to him for wise counsel and even spiritual guidance, and he would respond in a very distinct, deep, authoritative voice and give us guidance." Recently, Kimpson says Pinckney played a key role in ensuring the passage of a statewide body camera mandate in the wake of the Walter Scott shooting.
"We lost a giant in this state yesterday," Kimpson says.
Near the end of the April 26 Requiem for Racism, Pinckney framed the service as "a funeral, a mass, a service" in which to bury racism. Friday at 6 p.m. in Marion Square, the activist group Black Lives Matter Charleston will hold a funeral for white supremacy and terrorism, according to organizer Muhiyidin d'Baha.
D'Baha said the shooting at Emanuel AME was a spiritual blow to the city of Charleston. "It strikes at the root of our inspiration for existence, to carry on in the fight for justice, and to gather peacefully in a safe environment," he says.