Ethel Lance funeral

The Rev. Sharon Risher and her son Brandon Risher (left) place roses on the casket of her mother, Ethel Lance, in 2015. File/Grace Beahm/Staff

The Rev. Sharon Risher, whose mother died in the Emanuel AME Church shooting, will speak Wednesday at the College of Charleston in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

Risher, an AME minister and former trauma chaplain at a large Dallas hospital, will discuss "Addressing Race Through a Loving Lens," the theme of a series of events to honor King at the college. Her mother, Ethel Lance, was Emanuel's sexton and a devoted longtime member of the church.

Risher has felt a lifelong bond with the late civil rights leader. In 1967, when she was a child, her mother summoned her to hear King speak at a Charleston hall where she was working. Risher couldn't see King, but she could hear his voice.

"It was like hearing the voice of God," she recalled.

King's words inspired her to see beyond the career limitations for black women at the time and to become engaged in politics. Since the shooting, Risher has spoken across the country advocating for gun reform and racial equality. 

Now a Charlotte resident, she will speak at 6 p.m. in the TD Arena's McAlister Suite. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, call 843-953-5079 or email

Contact Jennifer Hawes at 843-937-5563. Follow her on Twitter @jenberryhawes.

Jennifer Berry Hawes is a member of the Watchdog and Public Service team who worked on the newspaper's Pulitzer-Prize winning investigation, "Till Death Do Us Part."

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