Black ExperienceFaithReligionStacy M. Brown

Black Clergy Leader Picked for Inaugural Benediction

The Black community at large can trust Joe Biden to fulfill his campaign commitments of ensuring that African Americans would be better positioned to prosper, says the man chosen to give the benediction at Wednesday’s presidential inauguration.

“We need a president who is after the heart of God,” the Rev. Dr. Sylvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware, told NBC News. “In these terrible times, if anybody can bring healing and reconciliation to a divided country, if we give him room to work, Joe Biden can be that person.”

Born in Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital in upper New York and raised by a single mother in a family of nine children, Beaman rose through the African Methodist Episcopal Church ranks.

His Bethel AME Church in inner-city Wilmington counts as an intergenerational congregation with 50 ministries.

Beaman joined Bethel AME in 1993 after serving at St. Paul AME Church in Hamilton, Bermuda. Shortly after he arrived in Delaware, Beaman and then-Sen. Joe Biden became friends.

According to the Royal Gazette in Bermuda, Beaman said Biden telephoned him late Sunday to ask whether he would pronounce the benediction at the inaugural.

“If I weren’t [available], I would have changed everything to be able to deliver that benediction,” said Beaman, who rode in the presidential motorcade during the second inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2013. “I was immediately humbled, surprised.”

He added that he supported Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “from the very beginning.”

“I knew his temperament, his experience, his commitment to family, to his faith,” Beaman said of Biden. “I felt that he would be right for this time.”

In a February interview with National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., Biden reiterated his commitment to Black America.

“I got started in the African American community. I got involved in the civil rights movement when I was a kid. I helped de-segregate a movie theater, that kind of thing,” Biden told Chavis. “I was the only guy who worked in the projects on the East Side who was white. That is how I got started, and the Black community is the community that, as we say, brung me to the dance. That’s how I got elected.”

Biden acknowledged in his November victory speech that Black people “have [had] my back,” both during the campaign and throughout his career and that as president, he will have theirs.

Beaman said the Black community could trust Biden.

“As an example, when George Floyd protests occurred, Joe Biden called and asked, ‘Can I come to your church and hold a meeting with community leaders and clergy? I just want to hear what people think,'” Beaman said. “Contrast that with President Trump bypassing protesters and having them cleared out to go stand in front of a church to pose for photos with a Bible.”

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