minorities job program

Web site sets sights on young minority professionals

Fewer than one

in four Lee residents are minorities.

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

A group of Tupelo citizens has launched an Internet site they hope will help bring home young minority professionals who have left the state to find jobs.

A coalition of clergy, government and private citizens announced the opening of the Web page (www.tuwm.com) Thursday. The Web address stands for Team Up With Mississippi.

The page, still in infancy and expected to undergo regular changes, will list links to job sites, local and state governments, cultural and spiritual organizations, and related information.

Its development was funded through a $3,600 Appalachian Regional Commission grant. Officials of the Three Rivers Planning and Development District created the Web site, which will be maintained by local supporters.

The Rev. Clarence Parks, bishop of the Temple of Compassion and Deliverance in Tupelo and a primary organizer of the support group, said many young people had voiced concerns that they had to leave the state to find jobs after graduating from college.

“Many of them were very concerned. They wanted to stay in Mississippi if they could find a job,” Parks said.

Parks and other supporters approached Tupelo Mayor Larry Otis about those concerns more than a year ago and a collaborative effort was begun to find a mechanism to keep graduating students in the state and to give others who had left the state opportunities to return.

“Their concerns are real,” Otis said. “We saw it as an opportunity for our community.”

Program principal Van Morehouse noted while about 36 percent of the state’s population is composed of African Americans, fewer than one in four of Lee County’s residents are minorities.

The goal is to be able to tell young minority professionals, “You can stay at home. We have jobs available,” Morehouse said.

But while the effort will focus on minorities, the site will be geared to attract young people of all races, he added.

“We need to attract them back when they’re young, not when they retire,” Mabel Murphree, Mississippi director for the ARC, said.

Although the migration of Southern African Americans to the north has been reversed, cities like Atlanta, Houston and Birmingham have reaped the benefits, Parks said.

He said Mississippi still suffers from negative perceptions that tend to repel industries or highly skilled workers. The TUWM Web page can help erase those perceptions, Parks said.

“One of our goals is to show the United States that Mississippi is doing something positive,” Parks said. “If we can do that, we can get industry to move into the state. We have problems. But we don’t have as many problems as some people say we have.”