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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Remembering George Floyd. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired June 9, 2020 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STEVE WELLS, SENIOR PASTOR, SOUTH MAIN BAPTIST CHURCH: And we need healing, because you know and we know there is nothing that any of us can say that will bring George back.
So, we came to say today that we grieve with you and that your grief has awakened the conscience of the nation. Because we are here in God's house and in his church, because we believe in the risen lord Christ, we grieve in resurrection hope, a hope that promises not just a reunion someday, but a restoration this day.
We grieve in restoration -- in resurrection hope that God is at work in our nation rending hearts and changing minds and bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice.
And I hope you know that everyone would have understood if you said, we don't need to hear from any white people today.
WELLS: You have been silent long enough. You can be silent one more day.
WELLS: But I have to tell you, you asked the whole community to come together. And look what happened.
WELLS: You have chosen the path of love, the path of perfect love that casts out fear.
And I want you to know that that is the path not only to your own healing. It's the path to the healing of the whole world. It is the path of partnering with God in redeeming the world. And it is a difficult path.
You have been asked to carry a burden that would have crushed most people, and you have borne it with grace and courage. You have called those who disrupted protests with violence or looting to honor George's life with love. You called a president who sought to dominate to live in a peaceful world where we deliberate.
You called those people whose perfect fear casts out anything that even looks like love with a perfect love that casts out fear. And you have been a model for not just America, but for the whole world. And now we must follow your good example, calling out anything that doesn't honor George or any of the rest of us, domination, injustice, oppression, racism.
Stephen Klineberg, the eminent sociologist at Rice University, has taught us that Houston, Texas, is the most diverse city in America. Houston, Texas, is ethnically and demographically today what America will be ethnically and demographically in the year 2050, which means we are the experiment in America for how races can get along.
But unless and until we are willing to be as brave and as truthful as you have been, nothing will change. The experiment will not yield any new data. We will simply do over and over again what we have done over and over before, until, as Fannie Lou Hamer said, we get sick and tired of being sick and tired.
So, it must be different this time. And I have to tell you, at my church, it is easy to not talk about racism. At my church, it is easy to dismiss as politics the economics of hundreds of years of systemic racism, but not talking and not acting is the path to destruction.
And we can watch that on the news every night and ask if that's the future we want for ourselves. So, could I just have the privilege? I'd like to say a word to white churches.
WELLS: We are better than we used to be, but we are not as good as we ought to be. And that is not good enough, which means you have to take up the work of racial justice.
WELLS: Racism did not start in our lifetimes, but racism can end in our lifetime, but only if you ask and I ask, what am I going to do about it?
WELLS: And while it is still bothering you, write down what you're going to do on a note card and tape that card on the mirror you see every morning when you get up and every night before you go to bed. And each night, ask, was I true to the calling?
And every morning, ask, what can I do today to bring God's kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven?
Gianna, I saw you on TV. And a reporter asked you, what was the best thing about your daddy? And you said, "My daddy changed the world."
WELLS: And if we will do our part, you will have been a prophet.
So, from your mouth to God's ear. [15:05:00]
REV. RALPH DOUGLAS WEST, FOUNDER AND SENIOR PASTOR, THE CHURCH WITHOUT WALLS: Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Steve and Dr. Lawson and to this wonderful family that has demonstrated what it means to be faithful and courageous.
All of us in our lives begin with obscurity. We don't know how it will end in history. No one thought, on that January morning of the 15th day of 1929 that that boy would grow up to be the liberator to a movement called the civil rights.
No one knew in August in 1961 on the fourth day, in Hawaii of all places, in obscurity, that the first African-American president would be born. And nobody knew on October the 14, 1973, in obscurity, Fayetteville, North Carolina, parents boldly, courageously migrating to Houston had no idea, in Third Ward Cuney Homes, Jack Yates, that God had birthed someone that now belongs in a rightful place of history.
WEST: We all begin in obscurity. We don't know where we will land in history. The question of theology and theodicy is, where was God in all of this? God was and he is where God has always been. God didn't cause it, but God can certainly use it.
Unfortunately, we have almost turned it into cliche, but it's Christian bedrock belief that all things work together for the good of them who love the lord and who are called according to his purpose.
And so, to this family today, God is working his way, and he has been where he always will be.
I leave you now with these words, trials dark on every hand. And we cannot understand all the ways that God will lead us to that blessed promised land, but he will guide us with his eye. We will follow him until we die, and then we will understand it better by and by.
BISHOP JAMES DIXON II, THE COMMUNITY OF FAITH CHURCH: At the direction of Senior Pastor, Pastor Remus Wright, the program was necessarily altered because of the time factor.
We appreciate the fact that it was difficult for everyone else to stay within their time limit. Thank you, Dr. Wright, for your auspicious leadership. My privilege and my honor today, as we give honor to the family of
George Floyd, is to introduce today a man who needs no introduction, but deserves one.
Born October 3, 1954, Al Sharpton grew up like most of us, raised like most of us, in church. His Sunday school teacher had no idea who she was teaching. His pastor had no idea who he was preaching to. His teachers had no idea who they were teaching.
But since that time, he has become a social justice activist, a civil rights leader, a talk show host, a commentator, a leader of movements, a world-changer, a freedom fighter, a preacher amongst preachers.
When officer Chauvin put his knee on the neck of George Floyd, he had no idea that the man whose life he was taking would be important enough to have this preacher to preach his eulogy.
He probably thought it would end quietly in some obscure funeral home with a few people. But he had no idea that presidents of nations would think and write about him, and that the preacher who would preach the service would be the greatest civil rights preaching voice of our time.
And we have talked much about how we change things. But when God wants to change things, he brings a person to the Earth. And when this preacher was birthed, God knew there would be moments like this where it would take someone's voice to speak truth to power prophetically that would change the world.
And I hope that, when we hear this preacher, all America understands that, yes, we can change policies and legislation, but if we want to change this situation, white parents have to teach their boys to be brothers to black boys.
DIXON: We have to teach our daughters to be sisters, whether you are black, white, or brown, because, when George Floyd was gasping for breath, saying, "I can't breathe," he was speaking the words of 400 years of Africans in this country.
We couldn't breathe on the slave ships. We couldn't breathe in Jim Crow. We couldn't breathe through segregation. We couldn't read through mass incarceration. We couldn't breathe.
And there has been a preacher on the scene the last four decades telling us, Americans, we can't breathe in Bensonhurst, we can't breathe when -- Trayvon Martin in Sanford. We can't breathe.
And this preacher is here today in Houston, Texas, because George Floyd died saying, we can't breathe.
I want you to welcome to this pulpit today the iconic preaching voice, anointed preaching personality of the Reverend Dr. Al Sharpton, our voice, our fighter, our leader, our freedom fighter.
And because of him, guess what? One day, all of us are going to breathe better.
Let's stand and receive the honorable Reverend Al Sharpton.
REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: First, to this family, the whole family, that has suffered this crime, I hear people talk about what happened to George Floyd like there was something less than a crime.
This was not just a tragedy. It was a crime. And this family has borne this, those, and I am going to announce all of them that I am giving, because this is a time that we need to understand that they are going to do everything they can to delay these trials and delay the accountability and try to wear this family down.
And many that are standing and coming today and skinning and grinning in front of cameras will not be here for the long run.
SHARPTON: We must commit to this family, all of this family, all five of his children, grandchildren and all, that until these people paid for what they did, that we are going to be there with them, because lives like George will not matter until somebody pays the cost for taking their lives.
SHARPTON: We cannot just act like this is some new way of teaching sociology.
We can't act like this is some new need for some of us to add special justice to our programs on Sunday morning. There is an intentional neglect to make people pay for taking our lives.
If four blacks had done to one white, if four black cops had done to one white what was done to George, they wouldn't have to teach no new lessons. They wouldn't have to get corporations to give money. They would send them to jail.
And until we know the price for black life is the same as the price for white life, we are going to keep coming back to these situations over and over again. Either the law will work, or it won't work.
So, I want to give honor to the family and a commitment that we are going to be here for the long haul. When the last TV truck is gone, we will still be here.
SHARPTON: I have gotten to know some of the family over the last few days. I have seen them cry in private. I have seen them talk. I told them, I grew up in a black family. I know we always don't get
along. I have got some cousins watching me now. They better never call me.
SHARPTON: That's what families are.
But I have also seen them in light moments.
I will never forget, last week, when the family, part that was there, talked with the former President Obama on the phone and said: "We are not asking you to come, because it would take all the Secret Service stuff and all that, but we just want to thank you and your wife for calling and calling our name of our brother, our uncle during these speeches you have been making."
And the president made the mistake of asking: "Well, what is it you all want me to do? Just tell me where I can be helpful."
And Philonise said: "Well, two things. We want justice. And we're here in Minneapolis. Can you send me some food down here?"
SHARPTON: Because they only had the finger food. Everything was closed up in Minneapolis. He said: "I ain't on Reverend Al's diet. I want some food."
SHARPTON: So, we had some light moments.
I want to also say -- give honor to Reverend Dr. Remus Wright and Reverend Mia Wright...
SHARPTON: ... for opening the doors of this church and putting arms around Sybrina (ph) and her family at this hour.
They know this is going to be controversial in some circles, yet they opened the doors anyway, not knowing what would happen, not knowing how people would behave.
And as I spoke with them on the phone, and he welcomed this family, I think we are giving them a lot of -- or we should not take them for granted. And I think that they are deserving of a lot of honor. He's a man and she's a woman of courage. We have too many holy punks in the pulpit.
SHARPTON: You all do know I'm Al Sharpton. I'm going to say what I got to say.
Let's give a hand to our pastor, Remus Wright and Sister Mia Wright.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SHARPTON: I also want to -- and I am going to get into my eulogy, so we can stay on time, but I must recognize attorney Ben Crump.
SHARPTON: I call him black America's attorney general, probably because we don't feel we have one.
SHARPTON: Ben Crump has --