DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Missouri is not a battleground state - doesn't have an early presidential primary, so often it gets overlooked by presidential candidates. But it is home to Ferguson, the community where racial tensions spilled into the streets last year and turned up the volume on a national conversation about race and policing. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton spent time talking to community leaders there. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Burned-out businesses are still boarded up on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson. Charles Davis, the owner of the Ferguson Burger Bar, counts his blessings.
CHARLES DAVIS: We were saved by God. Nothing happened to us.
KEITH: But business still isn't back to where it was and neither is the community. Ferguson is trying to heal from the wounds ripped open when a black 18-year-old was shot by a white police officer.
DAVIS: It takes time, you know. A year is not long enough. What people should understand is a lot of changes that needed to be made has been made.
KEITH: Many of the activists who rose up after the shooting of Michael Brown were on hand when Hillary Clinton walked up to the pulpit at Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Mo., fewer than five miles from where the rioting happened.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KEITH: Clinton got a standing ovation before launching into a speech that delved into religion, racism, repairing communities and also the shooting last week at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.
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HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: How do we make sense of such an evil act, an act of racist terrorism perpetrated in a house of God?
KEITH: She praised the ability of the families of the victims to look at the accused gunman and offer forgiveness. And later, Clinton retold an anecdote about the lessons she learned from her mother.
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CLINTON: I asked her, what kept you going? Her answer was very simple - kindness along the way from someone who believed she mattered. All lives matter.
KEITH: Whether intentional or not, that phrase, all lives matter, has been used by some to counter another phrase, black lives matter, that went viral in part because of Ferguson. Those three words, black lives matter, hung on a banner outside of the church. And to some in the pews, what Clinton said fell flat or worse.
RENITA LAMKIN: With her statement all lives matter, that blew a lot of support that she may have been able to engender here.
KEITH: Renita Lamkin is pastor at the St. John AME church in St. Charles. She is white and while protesting in Ferguson was hit in the gut with a rubber bullet. Her passion comes in part because her children are African-American.
LAMKIN: My children matter, and I need to hear my president say that the lives of my children matter - that my little black children matter - because right now, our society does not say that they matter. Black lives matter. That's what she needs to say.
KEITH: Clinton's campaign points out she did say it late last year, but that didn't stop a flood of complaints on Facebook and Twitter after Clinton's speech. Gabrielle Kennedy had a more charitable reaction.
GABRIELLE KENNEDY: I knew that when she said it that there would be -that there would be some people who would not be happy with that, but I'm of the belief that it's a process.
KEITH: And part of the process, she says, is the kind of conversation Clinton fostered with her visit. After her speech, Clinton, still in front of an audience, sat down for an hour-long discussion with community leaders. Kennedy gives her credit for being there and listening.
KENNEDY: What you say on that stage there - in the pulpit area there - is how we take care of ourselves. This is us doing us, and it's fabulous stuff.
KEITH: A pastor delivered a final prayer before Clinton left. And in it, she called for this to be the beginning of a conversation, not the end. Tamara Keith, NPR News, St. Louis, Mo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.