Stepping to the pulpit at Greater Grace Church — minutes from where a suburban St. Louis police officer shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old — the Rev. Al Sharpton wielded the fiery words that have marked his long, often notorious career.
"These parents are not going to cry alone," he preached to the crowd that packed the pews last Sunday in Ferguson, Missouri. "We have had enough!" But when Sharpton sat down days later with New York's mayor to discuss the response to a Staten Island man's death in a police officer's chokehold, he recalibrated his rhetoric. "We don't have to agree on everything, but we don't have to be disagreeable," Sharpton said, facing the city's police commissioner.
Plenty has been said in recent years about Sharpton's "reinvention," as he shed nearly 170 pounds, traded warmup outfits for tailored suits, took to the camera for a daily cable television show, and built relationships with the White House and New York's city hall. But to allies and critics who have watched him parachute into racially charged crises for more than three decades, recent weeks are just testament to Sharpton's unflagging ability to seize the moment, regardless of setbacks and no matter how the opening presents itself.