By Jackie Hampton,
As cars rolled into the New Hope Baptist Church parking lot on Beasley Road in Jackson September 3, for the Elect Mike Espy (D) to the US Senate Mississippi rally, staff and volunteers greeted attendees as the 601 Band of Jackson blasted live hits such as “Let’s Stay Together” through the mics. Just in case rally goers wanted to keep their windows rolled up, they could tune into Radio Station 100.3 F.M. and listen to the band and later the speakers while enjoying the cool comfort of air conditioning.
The rally, with a combination of virtual and live appearances, was kicked off by emcee Othor Cain.
Judge Tyree Irvin, the new chair of the Mississippi Democratic Party, made a live appearance. He said whatever it takes to get around the restrictions caused by COVID-19, the Democratic Party will use every means necessary to get people to participate in the political process. Irvin said it is time for a change and he is confident that Mississippi voters are about to make a change, not only with Mike Espy being elected to the US Senate but also with many democratic candidates being elected in 2020.
Appearing on stage live was Court of Appeals Judge Latrice Westbrooks, who is a candidate for the Mississippi Supreme Court. She said her mother, who became a poll worker in Memphis, had birthed ten children and had two grandchildren before she could cast her first vote. Westbrooks said, “Every Mississippian should exercise their right to vote.” She referenced the unrest that is occurring throughout the country by stating that decisions regarding the George Floyd case, Ahmand Arbery case and the Jacob Blake case are made by elected officials.
Before, during and after each speaker, drivers of parked cars loudly honked their horns and when Mississippi legendary blues singer Bobby Rush took the stage horns seemed to get even louder. Rush encouraged everyone to get out to vote. “I’ve been singing the blues almost all my life, but I have been black all my life,” said the 86-year old legend. “I’m begging you to vote Nov. 3rd, he said. “Black Lives Matter” but voting matters more.”
As Espy came on stage with a resounding “Hello Mississippi,” horns blasted non-stop. He said, welcome to the Mississippi rally where we will show the nation what the new Mississippi looks like. Espy said that while the incumbent, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, has held Mississippi back, he is the candidate for bringing Mississippi forward. As he extended thanks to New Hope MB Church Pastor Jerry Young, and the New Hope family for their support, he referenced Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.” Espy said this scripture directs him. For example, when he thinks of feeding the hungry he thinks of food banks and expanding Medicaid through public policy; and when referring to giving someone thirsty a drink, he thinks about bringing clean water to rural Mississippi; and inviting a stranger in, he stresses attacking injustice in all forms. Espy said, “This is why I am running for the US Senate, not just to say something but to do something.” Espy said he is tired of Mississippi always being last – last in healthcare, last in education, last in job opportunities.
Espy shared many stories of growing up in a racially divided Mississippi. As a child, he had an asthma attack that almost took his life at the segregated hospital that did not have the equipment needed to help him but because of an arm of charity from nurses at that hospital, he survived.
He told the story of a Chickasaw County woman named Shy Shoemaker, who died in 2019 after having to travel across county lines because the emergency room near her had closed.
Among those who spoke in pre-recorded videos were Jackson, MS Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, State Rep. Shanda Yates, Rev. CJ Rhodes and Rev. Lowrey. The rally ended with a video support message from Stacey Abrams, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate.
Mississippi House of Representative Alyce Clark had a front row parking space at the rally. She said, “I was delighted to have been invited and elated to have a front row park. I thought the rally was very good, turnout was excellent and the people were so enthusiastic.”
She said people are so happy that Mike is willing to run for the U.S. Senate because we all know how good he is for Mississippi.