Former Charleston Mayor Riley leads 'Race in America' discussion

Citadel Professor and former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is leading the discussion, (Source: Live 5)
Citadel Professor and former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is leading the discussion, (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The church where a man shot nine parishioners and told authorities he hoped the incident would start a race war hosted a discussion on Race in America Thursday night.

Citadel Professor and current Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is putting on the event at Mother Emanuel AME Church. The church's pastor, the Rev. Eric Manning and Congressman Jim Clyburn are also taking part.

The topic of the evening was all about moving forward.

Clyburn delivered a speech entitled, "Race in America: Reflections on Obama, Trump, and the Emanuel Massacre."

Clyburn's speech was in conjunction with the undergraduate course Riley is teaching this semester, "Old South City, New South Revival."

On the evening of June 17, 2015, the church's pastor, State Sen. and the Rev. Clementa Pinckney was gunned down along with eight of his parishioners during a Bible study inside the church. The man convicted of the crime, Dylann Roof, told investigators he hoped to start a race war with the killings.

"That man thought he could start a race riot and the opposite happened," Riley said.

Manning said solving the race issue isn't a sprint but a marathon, and that the first step is to get started.

"The problem is real and we have a lot of work to do but we also know we do not have the time to sit down and let it pass," Manning said.

Clyburn did most of the talking,  using personal examples to spread the message racial indifference won't go away, but you have to move past it.

And after hearing the message people said they left feeling inspired.

"I always feel hopeful whenever like minds or unlike minds come together in a body and discuss and respect an talk with each other and talk together," attendee Stacia Murphy said.

And they also say they left with ideas of how they can make a difference.

"Say something but get up and do something to become more active and involved in the community and let people know there are still problems but we can work together to fix them," attendee Wanda Purcell said.

The event was open to Citadel students and the general public.

Riley is a member of The Citadel Class of 1964 and served as mayor of Charleston from 1975-2016.

Roof was convicted on 33 federal charges in December and sentenced to death in January. On Monday, he pleaded guilty to 13 state charges in exchange for consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole for each of the nine deaths and additional prison time for three counts of attempted murder he also faced.

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