Rev. Al Sharpton speaks before the funeral for Stephon Clark
Stephon Clark’s shooting has drawn the attention of several national figures, perhaps none more so than Al Sharpton, who will land in Sacramento on Wednesday night in advance of Clark’s funeral Thursday.
Sharpton is scheduled to give a eulogy at Clark’s funeral at 11 a.m. Thursday at south Sacramento’s Bayside Boss Church. The 63-year-old’s jet-setting habits and street rally soundbites have built him into one of America’s most influential — and controversial — preachers.
Here are five things to know about Sharpton, a native New Yorker:
Sharpton’s career at the podium began at age 4, when he preached his first sermon to Washington Temple Church of God & Christ in Brooklyn. He was an ordained Pentecostal minister at age 9, and frequently preaches at Sunday services after hosting MSNBC’s “Politics Nation.”
At age 13, Sharpton was tapped by the Rev. Jesse Jackson as the youth director of Operation Breadbasket for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. When Jackson left the SCLC following a suspension three years later, Sharpton quit in protest and founded the National Youth Movement three years later. The movement folded shortly thereafter, but not before Sharpton met Teddy Brown, whose father, singer and songwriter James Brown, became a paternal figure to Sharpton before Brown's death in 2006.
Sharpton rose to prominence by advocating for the families of black men and women who suffered injustices. These included the police shootings of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell as well as the misguided case of Tawana Brawley, who claimed to have been gang-raped by a group of white men before a grand jury ruled she had fabricated her story. Sharpton was found guilty of defamation in the Brawley case and ordered to pay $65,000 in restitution, which was covered by his supporters.
National Action Network, founded by Sharpton in 1991, hosts an annual civil rights convention that draws predominantly black celebrities such as former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, filmmaker Spike Lee and then-presidential candidate (now HUD Secretary) Ben Carson. Sharpton remains NAN’s president and hosts the nonprofit’s summer conference.
Sharpton has run for political office several times, including three bids for one of New York’s U.S. Senate seats (1988, 1992 and 1994) and an unsuccessful 2004 Democratic Party presidential campaign. He also ran for New York State Assembly in 1978 and mayor of New York City in 1997.
Two Sacramento Police Department officers shot a combined 20 bullets at Clark, 22, as he stood in his grandparents’ backyard on the night of March 18. The officers had originally responded to the Meadowview neighborhood after reports of someone breaking into car windows and thought Clark had pointed a gun at them, though the object in his hand was later determined to be a cellphone.
Imam Zaid Shakir will lead Clark’s funeral service Thursday, just as he did for Muhammad Ali in 2016. Clark was born Christian but converted to Islam, family members said.
Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, firstname.lastname@example.org