By Jeff Brady
Both of the presumptive nominees canceled campaign events yesterday because of the sniper attack on police in Dallas. But Hillary Clinton did keep one event on her schedule. She spoke to a gathering of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, where NPR’s Jeff Brady reports the audience was primed to hear a candidate talk about race in America.
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: The AME church was founded by a former slave here in Philadelphia 200 years ago. It now has about two and a half million members around the world. The church holds its quadrennial convention during election years, and candidates – usually Democrats these days – come to make a speech. Before Clinton walked on stage, AME Senior Bishop John Bryant told the crowd he wants a presidential candidate who offers substance.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN EVENT)
JOHN BRYANT: We need more than encouraging words.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Yeah.
BRYANT: We need to leave believing we have found the person that will fight for liberty and justice for all.
BRADY: The shootings this week in Baton Rouge, outside St. Paul, Minn., and in Dallas – they were on a lot of minds at this convention. When Clinton took the stage, she talked about each incident and mentioned the names of those killed. She told the crowd that after the 24-hour news cycle has moved on from this issue, she won’t. Clinton talked about working for a better gun safety legislation and more training for police officers.
HILLARY CLINTON: And I’m going to keep talking about these issues with every audience. And if I’m elected, I’ll start working on this on day one and keep at it every single day after that.
BRADY: Clinton also said white Americans need to do a better job of listening when black Americans talk about their experience of living in this country – a point that drew a round of applause at this convention. Outside the hall where Clinton spoke, you could hear people talking about the shootings this week.
VERNETHA FORD: It’s enough. We must just stop the violence.
BRADY: Vernetha Ford from Georgetown, S.C., says she’s very concerned about how divided the country is becoming. Nearby, Reverend Alvan Johnson of Boston said when he heard the news that a black man in Dallas had killed five police officers…
ALVAN JOHNSON: I was very, very hurt, very discouraged. It is – it’s as though this country had been thrown back 50 years or more. To use race as a motive to destroy lives of people that we need to protect us…
MARCIA WILLIAMS: It’s difficult to make sense of it. It’s not a sensible phenomenon.
BRADY: Reverend Marcia Williams is from Denver. This is a gathering of religious people, and Williams says at a difficult time, for her, it comes back to faith, but also action.
WILLIAMS: We have to hold on to faith and that this country is built on a system of justice that many times gets tilted. And so we have to make sure to try to keep it right.
BRADY: Williams says in the AME church, a church with a proud history of fighting racism, there’s a mantra – enough is enough. When it comes to racial division and conflicts with police and violence, that mantra is being said a lot at her church’s convention. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia.