Mississippians react to VP’s first visit

Greenville Public Schools Superintendent’s Public Relations Specialist Everett Chinn displays a banner to welcome Vice President Kamala Harris. PHOTO BY Jackie Hampton

By Gail H.M. Brown, Ph.D.,

Contributing Writer ,

Greenville Public Schools Superintendent’s Public Relations Specialist Everett Chinn displays a banner to welcome Vice President Kamala Harris. PHOTO BY Jackie Hampton

Excitement buzzed around the City of Greenville, Miss. early Friday, April 1, about the anticipated arrival of the first African-American and first female Vice President of the United States.

The Mississippi Link was honored to be an invited media representative of the Black Press to provide coverage of the history-making event,” said Publisher Jackie Hampton. Hampton is also an officer of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) aka the Black Press. 

Prior to Harris’ arrival to the city’s E.E. Bass Cultural Center, 323 S. Main Street,  excited groups and individuals, gathered outside of the United States Secret Service (USSS)-secured area with welcoming signs.

Among them were officials and leaders of the Greenville Public Schools, whose building is across the street from the culture center. Superintendent Debra Dace told The Mississippi Link, “Yes, we’re very honored to have our Vice President Harris visit our small city of Greenville.” 

“And, we are just elated. Although she is not visiting the schools today, we will have an opportunity to see her and hear about the support that she is going to provide the small businesses because the small businesses all help to support the school district. So, just hearing about the opportunities that our businesses will have is as exciting for the school district because that means that we’ll have that much more support….”

Dace shared that GPSD is one of the first school districts to partner with a four-year college for an early college-entry program. 

Also outside of the security zone bearing welcoming banners were members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. who were poised to wave at their internationally-known sorority sister. They declined comments without their chapter president present.

The following are various reactions and excerpts of reactions from others before and after the event:

“It [the VP’s visit] means a lot. As a commissioner, I know that the president, with all of his executive orders,…has oftentimes talked about communities that are left behind: poor communities, rural communities, and communities of color. This fits all categories. As Transportation Commissioner, I’m fighting to get monies for the infrastructure system to add to what we are already doing. – Mississippi Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons (On the steps of the E.E. Bass) 

The Mississippi Link also asked Simmons his opinion on whether the SBA EIDL and companion grants should be brought back for the many small business owners who may not have known or had time to access them before the December 31, 2021 deadline. Simmons replied:

“Of course, there are those small businesses that were trying to make a comeback, but they ran out of juice … because the funds are no longer there. They need another booster. Just like we need another booster for the virus, these businesses need another booster in order to survive and make it through inflation. As food prices and everything are going up, they are struggling. Some businesses still have to pay rent when they don’t have income…So all these things are affecting small businesses.”

Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Debra Day pauses for a photo in front of the school district office across from the E.E. Bass Culture Center where VP Harris spoke. PHOTO BY Jackie Hampton

Mississippians from practically all sectors were invited and cleared to attend the historic event.

This is what a Delta native and key member of the state’s ecumenical community had to say: 

“I am going to tell you right away. I don’t think there is any question about it. It is extraordinarily encouraging and motivating to all of us who are a part of this regions. No question.” – Dr. Jerry Young, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Jackson and president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. 

After the event, Sen. Derrick Simmons reacted to his twin brother Mayor Errick Simmons’ hosting the vice president’s first visit to the state of Mississippi.

“I am extremely excited about that. I’m so proud of him, and my mom is as well. She is also actually extremely excited about the historic times for the City of Greenville…My dad, who passed a number of years ago,  would be so, so proud and happy to see Vice President Harris come to Greenville, and especially under Errick’s administration. From a legislative perspective. Sen. Simmons said, he would like to see the legislature “Take federal dollars and at the state level figure out how we can improve or create programs so that those federal dollars can get to small businesses. We need to set up programs at the state level. I’ll be looking forward to doing that.” – Sen. Derrick Simmons (MS, D-12).

Jim Hood, former Mississippi Attorney General for 16 years, shared this reaction: “I’ve known Vice President Harris while we served as AG together. She is a kind soul that cares about people. She, Bo Biden, and I all served. That way I got to know [the now] President Biden, and they both absolutely care from the heart about people, particularly people that just need a little help. I am so honored that she came down here, and I am glad to come down to visit with her and to see her for a minute.”

Hood is currently practicing law in Chickasaw County. 

Among the chatter on the sidewalk in front of the center was heard the voice of longtime state legislator and history-maker, Sen. David Lee Jordan: “I hope that Greenville can become an oasis. The fact that the VP of the United States who happens to be an African-American female picked a town in the Mississippi Delta, Greenville, instead of Jackson, says a lot because this is where the money is really needed. I think we got a good friend in the White House, and we got a black lady vice president to make her first trip to the Mississippi Delta is great.”

Also attending the event were Beulah and Leslie Greer, founders of the nonprofit, Community Students Learning Center (CSLC), Lexington, Miss. Beulah Greer said: “Friday’s visit by the vice president is another shining example of how committed the Biden-Harris administration is in providing small businesses what they need to start and to grow. As I sat in the audience thinking about the fact that CSLC is a hub for one of the administration’s SBA Community Navigator Pilot Projects (CNPP), I felt humbled and thrilled that we are already a part of the its’ boots on the grounds helping small businesses become what Vice President Harris termed, ‘agents of economic prosperity.’ We are so grateful and honored that our Community Navigator Pilot Project was invited to attend.

Greeville’s first lady, Dr. Temika Simmons, a Jackson native, told The Mississippi Link: “For Greenville, today is an incredible opportunity to be able to show the amount of attention that the Biden-Harris administration is paying to small businesses and across Mississippi…What’s most significant is that we have with the mayor being the first black male mayor and then this first black vice president being here in the Mississippi Delta, where the Emmett Till measure was just passed. That’s significant and it signals the direction that the country is going. But more so, it’s potential, if we continue to work collaboratively with people of all talents across all races, across all backgrounds to move the nation forward.”

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