On Friday, former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton served as the keynote speaker for the Charleston Branch NAACP 98th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet. The event was held at the North Charleston Convention Center and was attended by several hundred people including Sen. Marlon Kimpson S.C. and Mayor Joe Riley. Clinton spoke on a range of topics from her New College Compact, equal pay for women, ending racial profiling and reforming the criminal justice system.
Earlier on Friday Clinton spoke in Georgia at the historically black Clark Atlanta University where she was met by 10 protesters from the Black Lives Matter group and was thus forced to shout over their chants. However, the North Charleston banquet occurred without any protests.
Mayor Riley spoke at the event, commemorating the progress of the Charleston NAACP branch over the past 98 years. “The work is not finished, the work is not done and we cannot give up the fight,” he said. He urged the community to “give voice to the voiceless.”
The banquet honored the victims and families of those from the tragic shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. Members from the family of each of the nine who perished lit a candle for the loved one they lost, which remained glowing throughout the night.
When Clinton took the stage she thanked the Charleston community and said she was honored to be back. (She previously made an appearance at the organization’s annual banquet in 2007.) She urged the pressing need to bring an end to racial inequality, saying, “As we sit in here tonight, not far from where Walter Scott was shot and killed, we know that something is deeply broken.”
Clinton pointed toward the incredibly high incarceration rates in the United States as “tearing families and communities apart.” She used the statistic that one in every 28 children in America has a parent in prison to prove her point. If elected president, Clinton said she wants to help prisoners successfully re-enter communities, which she aims to do by “banning the box, the box you check if you have a conviction” that appears on job applications.
Clinton spoke of her New College Compact, in which she aims to make attending a public college or university within the reach of many more Americans, saying students “shouldn’t have to borrow a penny to pay for tuition.”
The national minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, and Clinton said if elected she “will fight to raise the minimum wage” and make it one that will “lift you out of poverty.” She also advocated for equal pay for women and said that is a non-partisan statement. She spoke directly to “those on the other side” who say she is playing the gender card, stating, “If fighting for equal pay is playing the gender card, then deal me in.”
“We need to try as best we can to walk in one another’s shoes,” Clinton said, referencing the Columbia high school incident earlier this week where a black student was thrown out of her desk when a white police officer attempted to arrest her. Clinton described the student as “being thrown around like a rag doll.” She said, “No child should ever be treated like that..We should be livid if it happened to anybody’s kid.”
At the end of her speech, Clinton called for more love and kindness in the world, saying, “It’s exactly what we need to come together as one big diverse nation and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”