BLACK VOICES

Clementa Pinckney, Slain Pastor Of Emanuel AME, Said The Church Is About Freedom

06/18/2015 07:56 am ET | Updated Jun 18, 2015

Reverend Clementa Pinckney, a South Carolina state senator and a pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, was killed Wednesday along with eight others after a white gunman opened fire during bible study.

The 41-year-old married father of two participated in a prayer vigil for Walter Scott earlier this year, and had been campaigning for police to wear body cameras. "We have a great opportunity to allow sunshine into this process," Pinckney said on the floor of the State Senate, "to give us new eyes for seeing so that we are able to make sure that our proud and great law enforcement officers, and every citizen that we represent, is able to at least know that they will be seen and heard and that their rights will be protected."

Pinckney became the youngest member of the South Carolina State House in 1996, at age 23. He was also the youngest African American to enter the State Senate when he won his seat in 2000, at the age of 27.

clementa pinckney
Senior Pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, hugs a church member after the Watch Night service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina January 1, 2013.

In a 2013 speech, Pinckney spoke about the history of his ground-breaking church -- once led by Denmark Vesey, organizer of a major failed slave uprising -- and the freedom it represents.

"Could we not argue that America is about freedom whether we live it out or not? Freedom, equality and the pursuit of happiness. And that is what church is all about: freedom to worship and freedom from sin, freedom to be full of what God intends us to be, and to have equality in the sight of God. And sometimes you got to make noise to do that. Sometimes you may have to die like Denmark Vesey to do that. Sometimes you have to march, struggle and be unpopular to do that."

Watch Pinckney's speech below.

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