Mission Mississippi event tackles race relations
By Shanderia K. Posey
Lots of prayers went up for state leaders Tuesday during Mission Mississippi’s second annual Governor’s Leadership Prayer Luncheon and Summit at the Jackson Convention Complex.
Gov. Phil Bryant and university presidents were among the more than 2,000 people from across the state who attended the event which explored race relations. The summit was held from 8:30-11 a.m. and the luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tuesday’s luncheon marked a slight change in agenda for the annual event.
Neddie Winters, president of Mission Mississippi, explained this was the first time the audience participated in the summit and offered feedback through recorded table discussions. Previously, audience members just listened to selected speakers respond to questions.
Winters is awaiting evaluation results from the summit, but said, “based on what I heard from the debriefing it comes down to love, prayer and forgiveness.”
He also plans to push an initiative on creating intentional relationships through mentorship, discipleship and partnership.
Five university presidents served as panelists during the luncheon and answered questions on race relations in the state.
On hand were President Alfred Rankins Jr., Alcorn State University; President Roger Parrott, Belhaven University; President William LaForge, Delta State University; President William Bynum Jr., Mississippi Valley State University and President Mark Keenum, Mississippi State University.
Bryant spoke briefly at the event before heading to the Delta to meet with a FEMA representative and to assess the areas in 11 counties damaged by recent floods and storms. While Bryant didn’t speak directly about signing HB1523, also called the religious freedom legislation, into law that restricts rights of those in the LGBT community, he did allude to the issue.
“There are a lot of people in my life who want to tell me the things I should be doing … or (they’ll say) we might not like you anymore,” Bryant said. He went on to reference Jesus’ plight in the Bible when He faced accusers and was told his life would be taken from Him.
“You have no power over me except that which has been given to you by my father,” said Bryant quoting Jesus’ words. “They have no real power over you unless you lose your faith,” he said.
In addressing the impact of Mission Mississippi on the state, Bryant said to the crowd, “Because of what you’re doing this is a better place to live and raise our children.”
After Bryant’s speech, panel discussion moderators Elayne Hayes Anthony, dean of Jackson State’s School of Journalism and Media Studies and Cynthia Cooper, CEO of The Cooper Group, asked the university presidents two questions on race relations.
The first question was, “Why do you believe racism, racial hatred, racial prejudice and racial division are being passed on from one generation to the next?”
“I go straight to the issue of sin in our lives,” said Parrott. The Belhaven leader said the sin rooted in selfishness must be dealt with and forgiveness should be sought.
Alcorn President Rankins said, “As a society we have to make a conscience and deliberate effort to get to know one another … make the effort to move outside of our comfort zone. The other thing is to recognize what racism is and isn’t.”
Delta State President LaForge said, “It’s (racism) personal and family. It’s also institutional. Racism has been passed down because people have allowed it. It’s home-based.”
The second question posed to the panelists asked what can be done collaboratively to prevent racism?
“We must be man enough to stand up and do what is right,” said Rankins. “Right has no color or religion. Right is right all the time.”
Mississippi Valley President Bynum shared a story of visiting Starkville and calling Mississippi State President Keenum to request their families attend Keenum’s church together. Keenum insisted on picking up Bynum and his wife so they could all ride together. Bynum offered the story as an example that people should “be more intentional in the things we do.”
Keenum shared three principles he emphasizes students to have – integrity by being an honest person, value hard work and serving others and having respect for all. He also noted students should understand what it is to remain humble.
“Humility is a wonderful attribute,” he said.
Shanderia K. Posey can be reached at email@example.com.
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