OUR OPINION: New initiatives present opportunities

By NEMS Daily Journal

The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi late in 2011 was approved for a $3.1 million grant from the W.W. Kellogg Foundation to help support its widely noted programs – helping make people whole within communities, dealing with some of the hardest and most intractable issues in our state and elsewhere.
The new partnership with the Kellogg Foundation is notable for several reasons, but especially because the foundation was begun by the founder of the Kellogg cereal empire to help improve life for all children its resources could touch.
In more recent years, it has expanded its mission to include achieving racial equity, an issue that fits hand-in-glove with children’s issues in Mississippi and elsewhere.
Susan Glisson is the institute’s executive director.
“As for future partnerships, the Winter Institute has already begun negotiations with both the Youth Link in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the Apartheid Archives Project at the University of WitSwaterrand in Johannesburg, South Africa,” Glisson said in a recent email interview, an appropriate global emphasis paralleling the foundation’s revised mission.
She will bring the institute’s resources to Tupelo on March 29 for a community roundtable.
“(Some have) shared with us concern that the citizens of Tupelo might be more effective in making the community better if there was more trusting and open communication,” Glisson said. “So, (we have been asked) if we might help provide some support and tools to improve communication and to build trust. So, this meeting would be an initial meeting of community leaders to gauge interest in a long-term process. Because we believe that the residents of Tupelo know their community best, we believe there must be a group of community leaders who are interested in shepherding this process.”
The Winter Institute is named for the former governor who broke new ground in race relations as governor and later as a leading voice nationwide for tolerance, acceptance and respect.
The partnership with Kellogg broadens its reach and emphasizes foundational principles for communities as described by Kellogg:
• Eliminating racial disparities and inequities because “racial inequity is one of the largest barriers that vulnerable children confront, so we support efforts to promote racial equity and healing. We target children who grow up in what is known as ‘double jeopardy’ – living in poor families and having minority status. And we take aim at the systemic inequities, underperforming education systems, limited access to good food and quality health care, and economic constraints that create barriers to success.”
• “We’re working to eliminate the disparities between geographic areas and to create opportunity zones where children have equal access … for long-term success.”
• “Individuals and communities must have a strong voice in their future, so we support activities that help build a critical mass of new community stakeholders engaged as problem solvers.”
• “Studies show that when children enter kindergarten with basic learning and literacy skills, they are much more likely to achieve success by third grade. This transition from early learning at home to the school environment is especially important for vulnerable children – and for the schools they attend.”
• “Growing evidence suggests that children living in racially segregated neighborhoods can learn negative health behaviors, experience delayed development and are more likely to become teen parents. Unlikely partners are aligning their resources to engage communities of color and policymakers in productive dialogue aimed at eliminating these disparities …”
• “Environmental and economic forces are converging to open new employment pathways in the emerging green-collar economy.”
If the Kellogg principles sound familiar it is because they are the same ones promoted by a growing, strengthening network of Mississippians determined to break with the past and link to the future.
The “Bridges Out of Poverty” event last week in Tupelo was part of that movement.