White and Black residents want to change the world, starting with Stone County.
For the second time, locals discussed race relations at a town hall hosted by First Baptist Church in Wiggins on July 16.
Residents want to see more unity, during a season of heightened unrest across the country.
“This meeting is about plans of action. What is the next step?” said Danielle Jackson Kinnard, lead organizer of the event. “We can discuss things all day, but until we put in a plan or method to put in place to move forward, we’re just talking.
Panelists included: Steve Chambers, former principal, and educator; Robby Rikard, lead pastor of First Baptist Wiggins; Tyler Eggers, of Venture Church’s Wiggins campus; and Anton McBride, pastor of New Morning Star Baptist Church.
About 40 people were in attendance, spaced, and wearing face coverings. The Facebook live feed garnered more than 1,500 views overnight.
The meeting opened with a brief prayer, then got straight to business.
Chambers spoke first, relating his experiences as a young black man. He experienced racism firsthand.
As a young boy of seven children, he worked to help his parents support themselves. He worked summers at the local pickle factory and did yard work on the side. On his way to work, White people spat on him, threw rocks and sometimes, called him racial slurs.
“The only thing I was trying to do was earn a few nickels in my pocket,” Chambers said.
But one of the most painful experiences after desegregation.
Locker High became Stone Middle School after desegregation. Over the summer, the school was renovated. All school achievements vanished classes resumed.
Chambers said the athletic and academic awards displayed in the main hall went missing. Sports championships and other accolades by Black students were erased.
Each time he walks through SMS, the absence of those memories saddens him.
Chambers spent years looking for the awards’ location. The city dump is his best guess, he said.
Despite his experiences, Chambers said he does not hate White people.
He wants people to understand that racism is real and hurtful.
“To those of you who are White, you don't know what it means to be Black. You don't know my struggle. You don't know what I went through,” Chambers said.
After he spoke, the floor opened for questions.
Since the brutal death of George Floyd, there have several African Americans killed by White cops…Is it due to the lack of training? Fear for their lives? Or is it self-motivated hatred?
Pastor Rikard said that, while some cops are bad, it is important not to generalize one group based on its worst representation.
Pastor McBride said to reduce the number of cops who abuse their power is to hold them accountable and maintain high standards for law enforcement officers.
The slogan “Black Lives Matter,” is followed by “All Lives Matter.” Why is that? Are Black lives not a part of “all lives”?
McBride thinks many White people misunderstand the phrase.
“It does not mean that Black life is more important than White life,” he said. “A lot of people get upset because they're seeing ‘Black lives matter,’ but they’re seeing in their mind ‘Only Black lives matter.”
That’s not the case, he says.
McBride said he knows all lives matter, but black lives are the ones being treated unfairly right now.
He likened the situation to a house on fire.
He said nobody would expect a fire truck to hose down every house when only one is on fire.
Pastor Rikard agreed that Black lives do matter.
Rikard said he does not need to qualify it with adding “All lives matter,” either.
Do you see Mississippi redesigning the State flag—without Confederate symbolism—as positive?
Pastor Eggers said even though many people argue the Civil War was fought to preserve the states' rights, every Confederate state listed preserving slavery as the main goal.
Though some people see it as heritage, it is important that represents everyone, he said.
Eggers said he is for removing anything that causes division.
“(The Confederate emblem) is an emblem that kept Black people down for so long,” Eggers said. “If it divides us, let’s get rid of it. Let’s move forward.”
Rikard said many people fear Christian symbols will be the next to go.
He disagrees. But he does not worry if people do begin calling on removing Christian symbols.
“Our faith is not based on images and things,” Rikard said. “Our faith is in God, in a risen savior. He’ll never be taken away.”
Several questions dealt with how to move forward and strengthen relations between White and Black residents.
All panelists suggested keeping the conversation going and try to learn more about each other.
Several attendees suggested attending church with each other and inviting Black and White friends home for meals, and being more inclusive all-around.
“It’s time for Stone County as a people to show more love toward each other. If you are Black or White, it makes no difference,” Chambers said. “We are a good community. We can be an example to the rest of the world.”