President Barack Obama traveled to Charleston, South Carolina on Friday and delivered a powerful eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of nine victims of last week’s mass shooting.
Mr Obama, who concluded his speech with a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” was joined by First Lady Michele Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jil — all three of whom knew the pastor personally. The eulogy was held at Charleston College’s TD arena.
Thousands were in attendance to pay tribute to Mr Pinckney, who was also a state senator and a vocal supporter of Mr Obama’s initial presidential campaign in 2008.
Mr Pinckney, 41, was the youngest African American to be elected to South Carolina's state legislature when he was made a representative in 1996 at the age of 23. He was elected to the state senate in 2000 and named by Ebony Magazine as one of the black community’s top 30 leaders of the future.
Mr Obama not only honoured the victims of last week’s mass shooting, but he also took the time to speak on America’s racism, gun control, and the income inequality which plagues the nation’s black citizens across the states.
"Every time this happens someone says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race... We don't need more talk," he said. However, the president added: “It would be a betrayal of everything Rev Pinckney stood for if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again."
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was also in attendance. Ms Haley has recently lead the call for removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from state grounds.
During the tribute, Mr Obama said that South Carolina’s current push to remove the controversial battle flag “expresses God's grace. But I don't think God wants us to stop there.”
He also called attention to the nation’s “unique mayhem” that gun violence inflicts upon the US stating that Americans need to take action rather than “talk.”
The passionate speech comes during a crucial week for the president.
Earlier in the week, he celebrated two Supreme Court victories as his new trade deal passed along with key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, calling it a "victory for hard-working Americans."
During a podcast interview, Mr Obama was highly criticised for using the “n-word” to explain the intricacies of racism in the US. Fox News even went as so far as calling him the “rapper-in-chief”.
“Racism - we’re not cured of it. It’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n****r in public, that’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t overnight erase everything that happened two to 300 years earlier,” he said.
Despite being overwhelming praised as the nation’s first black president, Mr Obama had not spoken so freely about race in the past. He was highly criticised by “Black Lives Matter” activists for not taking a stronger stance against police brutality against blacks, citing outcry in Baltimore, Ferguson and Cleveland the past two years.
Yet, Mr Obama seemed comfortable, respectful and confident naming the slain victims leading the racial healing of a community that suffered from another racist, fatal shooting this year, that of 50-year-old Walter Scott by the hands of a North Charleston police officer.
Mr Obama closed the procession by singing “Amazing Grace” amongst clergy members. The hymn was penned by an English slave trader turned clergyman named John Newton and the song’s melody is often attributed to eighteenth century slaves.
By the processions end, the White House had issued a statement saying that Mr Obama would meet with the victims' families after the service.