Changing What I Cannot Accept: An IAF Organizer's Story Of Understanding Mississippi Racism


....there was a moment when I had to fight back tears of rage as I listened to my son sobbing about an experience he had while playing with a white boy at a nearby park. The boy’s dad had seen the two together and called him over to tell him that he couldn’t play with Black kids. When my son tried to re-engage the boy, he told him what his father said. He was 7.

I was angrier than ever.

By this time, I had begun dealing with my anger through my broad-broad organizing with Working Together Jackson, the local affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which engages in the building of power through institutions. Having returned to the South, I had started to understand my work as an organizer as a reckoning of sorts.

Indeed, I was here working to deal with the same evils that drove my family away from here long ago, “evils” that now present in the form of disinvestment in poor Black communities, failing to adequately fund public schools, failing to expand Medicaid (“because … Obama”), and other issues that keep Mississippi in last place.

State Flag: ‘Hell Did Not Freeze Over’

For 126 years, that evil was embodied in the state flag. And while many try to claim otherwise, indisputably, the battle flag has racist origins. It was a constant reminder of the collective pain, trauma and the systematic subjugation of Black people, my people.

So for me, bringing down the flag marks a new season for Mississippi. And it gives me a renewed sense of hope for Mississippi, because if we can do this now, so much more is within our grasp. When the votes came in on Sunday, I exhaled both literally and spiritually. A weight was lifted from my consciousness that I had not realized was so heavy.

I also felt a tremendous amount of pride. As the senior organizer with Working Together Mississippi, our statewide organizing vehicle, I worked with clergy from various faith traditions across the state in the fight to remove the flag. We worked with Jews, Muslims and Christians from many different denominations, such as Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Mennonites, COGIC, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and Southern and Missionary Baptists. It was the honor of a lifetime, an ode to the ancestors and others who championed this cause long before me.

Changing What I Cannot Accept: My Story of Understanding Racism in MississippiMississippi Free Press