Democracy Now! broadcasts from Charleston, South Carolina, in front of the Emanuel AME Church, Mother Emanuel, where nine people were gunned down on June 17 as they attended Bible study. On Thursday, mourners gathered for the first two funerals in a series of services that will continue today and over the weekend. Loved ones remembered Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, a 45-year-old mother of three, reverend and high school track coach; and Ethel Lance, a 70-year-old grandmother who had worked at Emanuel AME for more than three decades. The funeral for Emanuel AME’s pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, also a state senator, will be held today. President Obama will deliver the eulogy. Outside Rev. Pinckney’s wake on Thursday, the line wrapped around the block. We hear from some of those who came to pay their respects. "To me it’s the 9/11 of the black church," says Rev. J. Michael Little. "We snatched victory out of this. [Dylann Roof] wanted civil war, but instead it’s a rally for unity."
When Rev. Clementa Pinckney lay in state at the Capitol this week, his body had to be brought past the Confederate flag that still flies there and is the symbol embraced by his killer, Dylann Roof. The Emanuel AMEChurch in Charleston is located on Calhoun Street, named for one of the most prominent pro-slavery figures in history, the late Senator and Vice President John C. Calhoun, who argued slavery was a "positive good" rather than a "necessary evil." "Slavery is deeply embedded in the history of this state," says our guest Kevin Alexander Gray, a civil rights activist and community organizer based in Columbia, South Carolina. Alexander notes calls to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol are just the beginning of what needs to change. "It’s about where we go moving forward. … We can’t just talk about that flag."
As funerals begin for the victims, Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader and MSNBC host, reflects on the Charleston massacre and the renewed battle over the Confederate flag. This week South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the flag’s removal from the state Capitol grounds, while Alabama Governor Robert Bentley took the flag down in his state. "It’s about 150 years too late," Rev. Sharpton says. "Someone should have told them they lost the Civil War."
In Charleston, South Carolina, we speak with Brett Bursey, director of the South Carolina Progressive Network, who calls himself the oldest living Confederate prisoner of war. He says he is still out on bond after he burned the Confederate flag in 1969. Bursey knew Rev. Clementa Pinckney and says, "I feel a responsibility to Clementa to take advantage of the sacrifice he made to challenge the hypocrisy and bigotry" of Governor Nikki Haley and Republican lawmakers who backed voter ID legislation and blocked the expansion of Medicaid eligibility in the state.
Outside the wake for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Amy Goodman interviews civil rights leader and South Carolina native Rev. Jesse Jackson, who says of the massacre at Emanuel AME Church, "The question is, is this an embarrassment, or is it transformational?" Jackson argues efforts to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol shouldn’t stop there. "If you still have less access to voting, it’s not a good deal. If the flag comes down and you still have racial profiling … it’s not a good deal," Jackson says.
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