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 Mississippi, Mississippi Free Press
Working Together Jackson Calls for Change to State Flag
[Working Together Jackson] interfaith leaders stood on the steps of the Catholic cathedral in downtown Jackson Thursday morning, calling for the immediate removal of the Mississippi state flag.
In a resounding a voice, they said any discussion of what design should replace the current flag must not impede the current goal: Taking down a flag associated with white supremacy.
"Anything is better than what we've got now," said Bishop Ronnie Crudup of New Horizon Church International.
People have been protesting for racial justice in Mississippi and across the nation this month at levels not seen since the civil rights movement more than 50 years ago.
There is renewed hope that the Legislature might act to change the state flag, which contains what is commonly known as the confederate battle flag.
"It is time," said Bishop Brian Seage of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi. "It is time for a new flag that truly represents all of us... We call for our legislative leaders to act now."
Bishop Joseph Campbell of the Church of Christ likened the flag to "a large splinter in my hand."
Mississippi Flag: Clergy Leader Group Calls for Immediate Removal, Clarion-Ledger [pdf]
Working Together Jackson Negotiates Water Bill Repayment Plans for Residents
After months of research and negotiation to address a municipal crisis in water billing and repayment, the City of Jackson announced a plan, developed in collaboration with Working Together Jackson, to both help the residents repay past-due bills and the Public Works Department collect essential payments.
“As a result of our collaborative efforts with the Public Works Department, there are now multiple payment options available where before there was only one,” Working Together Jackson said. “But more importantly, there are objective criteria so if you act in good faith you will not leave without being presented options to pay your bill in a way that works for both you and the City.”
The plans were informed by conversations organized by leaders through house meetings and water bill advocacy sessions in which residents brought their bills and learned how to manage repayment.
[Photo Credit: Seyma Bayram, Jackson Free Press]
Jackson Unveils Water-Bill Payment Plan Required for Delinquent Residents, Jackson Free Press
Press Statement Regarding Water Billing, Working Together Jackson
'Working Together Jackson' On the Ground in Wake of ICE Raids in Mississippi
Likening the use of about 600 federal agents in an immigration raid carried out Wednesday in seven Mississippi chicken processing plants to an “invasion,” Bishop Joseph Kopacz, who heads the Diocese of Jackson, said some of the families affected by the action appear “traumatized.” And though about 300 of the roughly 680 people who were arrested were released on Thursday, Aug. 8, the bishop said the effects of the raids will only intensify in the coming weeks.
“This is a man-made disaster—literally,” Bishop Kopacz said. “These folks are our neighbors. They’re not criminals, the vast majority of them. They’re hard-working people.” He said he was bewildered that authorities would choose to carry out the operation as these Mississippi communities began the first day of school.
Chevon Chatman, who heads up Working Together Jackson, a network of community groups including Mississippi parishes, said...“The kids who were left behind on their first day of school came back to no one,” she said. “There have been some reunifications, but it’s still a work in progress. There are a significant number of children who have not been united with their parents.”
Ms. Chatman said that many companies in Mississippi count on immigrant labor....
[Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis, AP Photo]
After ICE Raids in Mississippi, Catholic Charities Prepares for Long-Term Impact, America Magazine [pdf]
Working Together Jackson Leaders Call for End to Hate, Anti-Semitism
Faith leaders gathered Monday at the Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson to call for the end to hate in the wake of Saturday’s massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Jewish, Islamic and Christian leaders prayed for tolerance in the same synagogue that members of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi bombed in 1967....
“Although this horrific attack did not take place in Mississippi, we understand that Mississippi is not far from the history where terror was used to incite fear and where people were murdered because of their differences,” Working Together Jackson said in a statement....
At the Beth Israel gathering, Bishop Ronnie Crudup of New Horizon Church of Jackson said he was here to “let this city know that we stand with our brothers and sisters.”
If anyone comes after the Jewish community, “you won’t just come after this congregation, you will come after all of us,” he said. He declared, “We Stand Together.”
The crowd joined him in the chant, and he told them, “we’re going to overcome every horrible, demonic circumstance that comes forward.”
After Synagogue Shooting, Mississippi Leaders Call For End to Hate, Anti-Semitism, Clarion-Ledger
Working Together Jackson Fights to Preserve Location of Zoo
When the Jackson Zoological Board announced its intent to relocate from west Jackson to northeast Jackson, Working Together Jackson quickly mobilized for a press conference with Mayor Chokwe Lumumba.
Said WTJ leader Heather Ivery, the "intent to leave west Jackson is disheartening -- not only because of the possibility of losing a historic, 100-year old ecosystem, but because of the lack of transparency and involvement of the community in the decision-making process." Mayor Lumumba echoed WTJ's words, calling the proposed $50 million investment required for relocation "disrespectful to the history of the zoo and the folks in the community in which the zoo currently resides."Read more
Working Together Jackson Protects Jackson Public Schools
Working Together Jackson (WTJ) collaborated with member institution Mississippi Association of Educators and Mayor A. Chowkwe Lumumba to prevent a hostile takeover of the Jackson Public School System by the state of Mississippi. WTJ worked with leaders, the Mayor and others to reach a compromise with Gov. Phil Bryant to develop the Better Together Commission and a totally new School Board to avoid the takeover. Four WTJ leaders are now on the Commission and new school board, planning for long-term reform.
Working Together Jackson Celebrates Grocery Store Opening
Rev. Ronnie Drudup Jr. announced that the organization wants to not only "support this store, but all" stores across Jackson. "We've got to make sure we bring high quality fruits, vegetables, and produce all around the city of Jackson."Read more
Working Together Jackson Holds Accountability Assembly
Incoming, Hopeful City Leaders Pledge to Help Rebuild Jackson, Jackson Free PressRead more
Working Together Jackson Demolishes Campus Blight
Two months after Working Together Jackson put public pressure on Jackson State University (JSU) to replace long-abandoned buildings with green space, leaders celebrated the first demolition on campus. The demolition resulted from a collaboration initiated by Working Together Jackson in which Revitalize Mississippi Inc. agreed to demolish the properties at no cost to the JSU Development Foundation or university.Read more