Civil Rights Activism

 
There is a deep, long-lasting legacy of civil rights activism in the Mississippi Delta and House District 29. Many trailblazers have paved the way in the fight for equality, opportunity, and humanity for those of us here today. We all have too many people to name as the foundation for the progress we benefit from and the struggles still left to be addressed. I do my best to honor the history of the struggle for civil rights here in the Mississippi Delta by attempting to push the state forward. 

Two results of my efforts included co-authoring legislation that took several Black Codes off the books of Mississippi Law ( House Bill 668 ) and advocating to retire the state flag. 

First, House Bill 668 is critical because additional criminal justice reform is still a need for Mississippi. Too many young people, especially people of color, go through the school to prison pipeline. We need to find ways to build up our communities and not tear families apart. I am proud I co-authored a bill to remove several Black Codes off the books. I supported the bill because it included vagrancy laws that were designed with the express purpose to imprison black people and to further oppress their efforts after slavery. Their aim, and I quote, was to control the labor supply, to protect the freedman from his own "vices," and to ensure the superior position of whites in southern life.  Though we have more policy that needs to be advanced, we must celebrate every step along the way in this long journey to improve Mississippi.

Second, I also advocated to change the Mississippi State Flag. I participated on the panel at several events encouraging the state and local municipalities to cease flying the current state flag. While there is a history that I understand some Mississippi constituents want to preserve, the pain and suffering endured by African-Americans under the stars and bars of the confederacy is too negative of a legacy to continue with the current Mississippi State Flag including those symbols. I'm proud to have been part of the effort to retire the state flag from flying at both Bolivar County courthouses. Additionally, there is no municipality in Bolivar County flying the Mississippi State Flag. This is clear recognition that many are working to move House District 29 forward and looking toward the future rather than dwelling in the past.

Tourism in House District 29

I'm a strong supporter of business growth in the Mississippi Delta. I believe one of the key areas that has the potential for growth is tourism. We have numerous hidden gems in House District 29. Places, people, and stories draw a significant number of visitors to our area, but it could be so much more. One place that is already well known is Mound Bayou, MS. I'm proud of the efforts of Mound Bayou residents in preserving and building on the legacy as the first town in America run by Black folks who were former slaves. It impressed people enough it drew a sitting U.S. President to visit. People continue to visit Mound Bayou because of its lasting impact on our part of the world. This deserves to be remembered forever, and I, 100%, support the efforts of current Mound Bayou residents to ensure this happens. As mentioned in my previous newsletter, I, along with others in the Mississippi Delta legislative delegation, obtained $250,000 in funding for the restoration of the Isaiah T. Montgomery House. I will continue to seek additional funds for historic preservation and restoration efforts in Mound Bayou.

In terms of recent tourism improvements, the Grammy Museum Mississippi draws people from across the world to hear country and blues music history. There are revolving displays that have honored numerous Mississippi Delta legends and also great community concerts held on the beautiful lawn. The museum is a place for us to celebrate the Mississippi Delta's musical culture. An Aretha Franklin marker in Cleveland adds to the Blues Trail that encourages visitors to delve deep into various aspects of the Mississippi Delta Blues. The Hot Tamale marker in Rosedale signifies a piece of blues history. Bluesman Robert Johnson even recorded a song entitled ”They're Red Hot", using references to delta hot tamales in the song. All of these efforts show Bolivar County is a strong area that already draws people from around the world to visit, and I'll continue to support the growth of this wonderful tourism industry.
Entrepreneurship

As a business owner, I believe in entrepreneurship. I spent multiple years managing a program at Delta State University that supported the efforts of small business owners throughout the Mississippi Delta. I stay connected with both new and seasoned entrepreneurs in the area. A great area of growth for House District 29 is starting new businesses. I've had the chance to visit with many young people at schools throughout House District 29. I hear some brilliant ideas for businesses that I'd enjoy having start in Bolivar and Sunflower Counties. I always tell them to make it happen and that I will support them along the way. In conclusion, small businesses are the backbone of our local economy and I will do everything I can to support and develop entrepreneurs to start new businesses and grow existing businesses. 

 Voting...

The importance of voting cannot be overstated. In our democracy, a person with one vote has been able to shout a loud battle cry in efforts for civil rights and equal representation. Many people, including many who aren't in history textbooks, perished for our ability to cast a ballot. This wasn't a fight just to vote in presidential elections either. It was for every election and every public office. In terms of the importance of voting in local elections, that also cannot be overstated. Our local elections focus on issues that happen just down the street in places where we work, worship, learn, and play. These are often the elections that matter the most in our every day lives. Every person of voting age in House District 29 deserves the right to vote. I work to ensure my constituents understand their rights and vote in every election. This upcoming State Democratic Primary vote on Tuesday, August 6th is a perfect example. I would love to see the largest voter turnout in House District 29 history for primary elections. I believe this is possible, and so I encourage everyone to make a plan to vote on August 6th. 
7 Minutes in
House District 29
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