Her boisterous laugh warms the nearly empty sanctuary. She is flanked by three young black journalists who are wrapping up an interview for a TV station that airs out of Columbia, South Carolina.
It’s Dr. Betty Deas Clark’s fourth week as the first female pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, affectionately referred to as “Mother Emanuel.” The pew she grips while chatting with the young men belongs to the same set inhabited by the nine churchgoers massacred last June by 21-year-old Dylann Roof, a white supremacist.
“Hold on,” she tells me before we start the interview. Clark wants to switch up her attire. “I have an African outfit in the car,” she says with a beaming smile as she hastily exits the room.