By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Throughout the world, few things bring people together more than music, and a Tupelo group has formed a choir in hopes of overcoming racial, denominational and economic divides.
The Tupelo-Lee County Diversity Choir was formed in October during an event that was devoted to racial reconciliation.
“We just really wanted to make a statement about unity in the body of Christ,” said cofounder Stephanie Stubbs.
The event at Hope Church was sponsored in part by Mission Mississippi, a group dedicated to bringing black and white Christians together in honest – sometimes uncomfortable – dialogue about race and religion.
That night, singers from black churches, like Temple of Compassion and Deliverance and Poplar Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Saltillo, joined voices with counterparts from white churches, such as Harrisburg Baptist Church.
The resulting chemistry has sparked genuine excitement among participants.
“It’s just a lot of fun, and I get the opportunity to sing a type of music I’m not that familiar with,” said Jimmy Jackson, who joined the Diversity Choir along with several of his fellow members of Hope Church.
The choir, which has about 75 members from a dozen churches, performed in January at the Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration. After a short break, members are starting to meet and practice again, and they hope others will join in.
“It’s come one, come all, and no special skills are needed,” said Stubbs, whose musical accolades include singing in the Mississippi Mass Choir.
Right now the group hopes to perform at the Elvis Festival in June, and the annual July 4 celebration at Ballard Park. A documentary also is in the works.
John Oxford of Renasant Bank is helping the choir with publicity.
“This is a great way to try and change the national perception of Mississippi as a racist state,” said Oxford, a member of Tupelo First Presbyterian Church.
“This choir is bringing people together in faith, and in a shared love of music.”