By Alan Bean
The Friends of Justice Mississippi civil rights tour is almost at an end. We won’t have time for a full report until we are back in Texas, but I wanted to give you a quick highlight reel from the first day or two.
After driving from Arlington to Cleveland, MS, we picked up civil rights veteran Margaret Block and headed for the 47th Annual Mississippi Civil Rights Memorial in Meridian and Philadelphia. On the way down we stopped at the Boys and Girls Club in Kosciusko. Most Boys and Girls Clubs struggle with inadequate funding, but Oprah Winfrey has seen to it that the club in her home town is state of the art. It makes a difference.
When we visited, 250 children were dancing, working on computers, dancing, playing ping pong and dancing. Every activity seemed to involve intense physical activity and the children were loving it. Several groups put on impromptu dance performances for our group. Margaret Block responded in kind by reciting one of her trenchant poems to a group of teenage boys.
Little Mississippi towns like Kosciusko are changing, but at a glacial pace. The community is 53% white, but all but two of the children at the town’s beautiful and fully equipped Boys and Girls Club were black. “This is the kind of facility most little towns can only dream of,” Margaret Block explained, “but the white parents still won’t allow their kids to attend.”
I don’t have time to tell you about the tense exchange between civil rights activist Diane Nash and the mayor of Meridian, MS, our troubling encounter with white supremacy in Carrellton, MS, my heart warming (and rending) visit with Curtis Flowers in Parchman, MS or the amazing woman we met in Doddsville, MS. I’ll tell these stories (and many others) when we are safely back in Texas and I have a little time on my hands. Today we’re visiting the all black town of Mound Bayou, Aaron Henry’s drug store in Clarksdale, the site where Emmett Till’s murderers were acquitted in Sumner, and Parchman prison where hundreds of freedom riders were incarcerated in 1961.