CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – There was barely a place to stand inside Emanuel AME Church Monday night, as a discussion about race in America took place.
The town hall type forum was hosted by multi-Grammy award winner, Pharrell.
8News sister station WCBD was there as the producer and singer comforted a young student who said she was bullied because she is black.
The central topic of the night included racial inequality. The audience heard from the family members of those who were killed inside Mother Emanuel back on June 17th, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, state senators, local officials, and members of the community
One of the most moving moments of the night came when a 12-year-old girl told Pharrell she goes to a predominantly white school and is bullied by her white classmates. It was Pharrell’s touching response that made her laugh, made her smile, and made a point about the racial divide here in Charleston.
The young student named Sarah told Pharrell and a large audience at Mother Emanuel that her classmates use racist stereotypes to taunt her. She said the tell her to go eat fried chicken and watermelon, because she is black.
Pharrell tried to ease her pain by saying, “I love chicken!” After the audience laughed, Pharrell added, “I’m not worried about what anyone in here thinks.”
The pop superstar hugged the crying girl and told her she has nothing to be ashamed of, and that there is love all around her.
“Know that there is love; there is love in this room,” said Pharrell.
After a strong, tearful, and emotional response from the entire room, Pharrell repeatedly told Sarah, black is beautiful, and she is beautiful.
“You’re beautiful and you’re black, but before you’re black, you’re beautiful; because you have a life and you have a soul. You’re beautiful.”
The idea behind the discussion Monday night was to examine the racial divide in South Carolina and across the country.
South Carolina State Senator Marlon Kimpson said though this community is known for being friendly, there are places where anger and hurt are present. Kimpson responded to Sarah’s remarks by saying, “It was very touching. I worry that when my daughter goes to school, people will pick on her because of her race.” Kimpson told WCBD about the strong emotions on display inside Mother Emanuel by saying, “It’s not surprising there was a lot of pain expressed. I think that’s positive for the discourse.”
Students from predominately black Claflin University attended the event and said; they too, had been victims of racial intolerance. Some said they were relieved to witness the beginning of the healing process
Briana Williams is a Sophomore Class Officer at Claflin and told News 2 she empathized with Sarah. “I can relate to that. Coming from an environment where it was like that…It happening tonight was a special thing, and I commended him for responding the way he did,” said Williams.
Another emotional moment came when Interim Pastor Reverend Norvell Goff explained why the Charleston community didn’t riot after the tragedy at Mother Emanuel. Goff explained it was because the parishioners, “practice what they preach.” Goff said, “Our faith is stronger than fear…we exercise forgiveness.”