Race reconciliation group plans projects, events

By Sandi P. Beason

Daily Journal

OKOLONA – Blacks and whites can sit around the table together and discuss the things that unite and divide them, but real relationships form when people work together towards a common goal.

During a racial reconciliation meeting Monday, the group brainstormed projects that could be done together, to benefit the entire community. Ideas were varied.

“We want to be the model for the rest of the state,” said Dr. Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. “Mississippi has come farther than any other state, and it's happened in communities like yours. None of that good work happened by accident.”

Glisson and others at the institute have been in Okolona for months, working on ways to break down barriers that divide the city.

Among the plans during Monday's brainstorming session were a community-wide Thanksgiving service, a gospel singing, civil rights storytelling in schools and an Oct. 28 “love-in” at the downtown park.

“The city has declared October as racial reconciliation month,” said Mayor Sherman Carouthers. “We are trying to think of some type of function to promote that throughout the city.”

Patsy Gregory, director of the Chamber of Commerce, suggested that diversity training be held within city departments.

They all agreed that one area had to be tackled: Religion. Glisson suggested that area ministers preach one sermon on race issues during the month of October.

“Have we all asked our ministers why they're not coming to these meetings?” Asked Steven Shultz, Chamber of Commerce board chairman.

“Some of them are afraid they'll lose their positions,” Carouthers said.

Regina Pickens, city councilwoman, suggested that group members do something simple, like attending a church service with someone of a different color.

At night's end, the nearly 30 people in the room split off into groups to discuss how to make the ideas happen.

“If a group comes together – white, black, Hispanic – and people work together and share bread and do programs and get to know each other, in the long run, everybody benefits,” said Gene Barton, city attorney. “The more we will realize we have the same issues, regardless of the color of our skin.”

Contact Daily Journal reporter Sandi P. Beason at 678-1598 or sandi.beason@djournal.com

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