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When Charleston, S.C., Pastor Spoke, 'People Listened'


We're going to learn more now about Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims of the attack who we've been hearing about. He was the 41-year-old pastor of the Emanuel AME Church and also a state senator. A couple of years ago, he was asked why, as a religious leader, he would also be involved in politics. His answer was recorded by the Mullikin Law Firm, which was leading students on a tour focusing on civil rights history.


CLEMENTA PINCKNEY: Our calling is not just within the walls of the congregation, but we are part of the life and community in which our condition resides.

CORNISH: The Rev. Clementa Pinckney speaking in 2013. Bakari Sellers worked with Pinckney in the South Carolina legislature, and I want to begin by welcoming you to the program and saying that we're deeply sorry for your loss.

BAKARI SELLERS: Well, thank you so much and just please keep in mind it's not an individual loss. It's a state's loss. It's a family's loss. And I'm going to be thinking about and praying for his two children as they're going into this Father's Day weekend will not have their father.

CORNISH: Can you tell us a little bit more about the reverend? I understand he had a very rich voice. We heard a little bit of it...


CORNISH: ...Just there.

SELLERS: (Laughter) It was like, a baritone. It was a deep baritone, and he didn't use it all the time. But when he did speak, people listened. You know, he - our districts overlapped. He was a Senator and - when I was in the Statehouse for eight years. And our constituents, many times, they were less fortunate. Many times, their voices weren't being heard. And so I really learned a lot from the way that Sen. Pinckney carried that burden. We're going to miss him. This is really tough for us all. You know, there are eight other families that are going through the same thing - they're librarians, teachers, grandmothers - so we have to be resolute. We have to be strong. But today, we're just crying, we're screaming, we're yelling and we're asking why.

CORNISH: Bakari Sellers, how will you be spending the next few hours? Who will you be reaching out to in this time?

SELLERS: Well, we're reaching out to the - we're reaching out to the country. We're - I'm trying to hug. I'm trying to fight back tears. I really don't know what my emotions are. I'm just tired. There's so much death around us from, you know, Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown and Eric Gardner. With all their - whatever flaws there may be - and Walter Scott, and now, I mean, you welcome somebody in your church for prayer service only for him to gun you down and talk about taking his country back. You know, I just don't know. I'm kind of just hugging my parents right now, who've lived through this before. And, you know, we're very, very spiritual, very religious. And we understand that joy comes in the morning.

CORNISH: Bakari Sellers, thank you so much for speaking with us.

SELLERS: Thank you for having me.

CORNISH: Bakari Sellers, speaking about his friend, Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and a South Carolina senator. He was murdered by a gunman last night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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