A Feb. 4, 2014 article that ran in the Clarion Ledger states, "When Percy Bland III took office as the new mayor of Meridian on July 1, he knew exactly what he was getting into. Not only was he hoping to rekindle Meridian’s once thriving economy. But he was also determined to break down racial barriers and put thousands of his fellow citizens back in the workforce.
"But perhaps more daunting than that, Bland knew he had to restore Meridian’s sorely tarnished image after a barrage of bad press condemned the city’s educational and judicial system for endorsing what became known as a "school-to-prison pipeline.'”
In Isiah 43: 18-19, God says, “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider ye the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in desert places.
What we witnessed this past week is just the beginning of what’s to come. People need not fear either, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Fret not citizens, mayor, councilors, judicial systems, educational systems, county supervisors, Civil Rights veterans past and present and others; the battle is not ours, it’s the Lord! We couldn’t stop the changes headed for Meridian if we wanted to!
The article published in the Clarion Ledger was fitting; but curiously interesting! Are you seeking outside glorification, before local constituents give their seal of approval, regarding all the things you mentioned in that article?
You mentioned damage control was high upon you list of priorities, “Admittedly, damage control for Meridian’s reputation is high on the mayor’s agenda,” the article states. In early 2012, the nation was shocked to learn that Meridian police were handcuffing students in front of their peers and herding them off to jail for such paltry violations as wearing the wrong color socks or being late to class.
Once they were transported to a detention facility some 80 miles away, many students had to wait up to 48 hours or longer, for a probable cause hearing. If, they received one at all. And even more appalling — all of the young prisoners were black.
The United States Department of Justice subsequently filed a joint lawsuit against the city of Meridian, Lauderdale County, Meridian’s two youth court judges, the State of Mississippi and the Department of Human Services (MDES).
Then he mentioned how ironically, the DOJ released a school discipline guidance package earlier this month that discourages the school-to-prison pipeline and will assist states and school districts, like Broward County, Fla., and Meridian, to develop new practices and strategies that will enhance the public school climate while complying with federal laws. What I don’t understand is, he turned around and admitted that most of Meridian’s inner city youths are struggling.
“There’s a lot of wealth in the city, but Meridian is a poor city,” Bland is quoted in the Clarion Ledger article as saying. “We have the highest number of public housing in the State of Mississippi and 92 percent of our kids in the public school system are on free and reduced meals.”
“We have to do better with how we educate our kids in this city and across the state,” but yet he, nor the council, have even addressed the school issue, struggling community youth, and the so-called petty crimes they commit.
Mayor Bland also mentioned, “we need to invest more into our public schools to make them stronger, before we allow charter schools to be our only choice for public schools. Education is the only way that we’re going to advance this city the way that it should be, and we’re all working together. And a consensus between civic leaders is what most Meridianites wanted.”
“They wanted us as leaders to be on the same page.” And that’s why I’ve reached out to the county officials, even working closer with our legislators and our city council so when we go to the State and we go to our delegation in Washington, we’re speaking with one voice. And that’s important because when a community is working together locally and within that region, they seem to get more things done and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
He also mentioned, sometimes you have to get past petty politics to get things done for everybody.” But that won’t be easy for the city, at the core of the civil rights movement with the murders of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and Meridian-born James Chaney, in June 1964, while they were trying to register voters in the city; this healing hasn’t taken place, and we are about to embark upon (50th) year anniversary since the murders.
He also mentioned our major crimes are down, but we’re seeing more of our young people committing petty crimes, and a lot of the times, that comes from the child being inactive and having nothing to do. And that’s why we’re trying to build up more programs, especially in our parks and recreational department, to keep our youth active and get them involved in positive things in the community.
I thought the community should view this article with respect to all what we’ve seen happen this week. The mayor’s intentions are noble; you have to have spiritual awareness and guidance, in order to win a spiritual war!
Randle Jennings, Meridian NAACP