By Elmetra Patterson
Black History Month Celebration is generally celebrated in February
but spilled over into March with Mayor James Young of Philadelphia
meeting youth at NFusion VII, Louisville, MS for a celebration which
turned out to be a very inspiring ‘pep talk’.
Over 30 youth, staff, parents and stakeholders, greeted the First
African American Mayor of Philadelphia with attentiveness as he
shared with them his history and the history of the town he was
elected in May 2009 to serve.
Mayor Young, a 57 year old Pentecostal preacher and a former county
supervisor, defeated Rayburn Waddell, a white, three term incumbent
to win the Democratic primary. There were no Republican challengers
and therefore the winner of the primary became the city’s mayor. His
victory was noted across the world as remarkable. Hopefully, his
elected will give a new topic for folk to discuss when the city is
Three civil rights workers, James Chaney, who was black, Andrew
Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were white – were murdered while
registering voters in Philadelphia. During a trial in 1967 seven
defendants were convicted of conspiracy and in 2005 Edgar Ray Killen,
an 80 year old former Klansman, was convicted of manslaughter for the
killings and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Jim Prince, publisher of the local The Neshoba Democrat newspaper
said, “Philadelphia will always be connected to what happened here in
1964, but the fact that Philadelphia, Mississippi, with its notorious
past, could elect a black man as mayor, it might be time to quit
picking on Philadelphia, MS.
Mayor Young spoke about the important of knowing the achievements of
Blacks in our world and suggested that the youth should “start
enjoying who you are.” He mentioned that President Barack Obama, our
first Black president, is being treated worst than any other
president in our history but he keeps smiling and taking care of
The mayor used one of the Hip-Hop terms and told the youth that they
must ‘represent’– by being the best that they can be. He stated,
“Step forward and be the person that God wants you to be. Your
potentials are unlimited. Our history is important. I love success
and successful people. I appreciate the success of others before me
(as he pointed toward the pictures on the wall of Medgar Evers,
Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Josephine Baker,
Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks,
Shirley Chisholm, Aretha Franklin, Josephine Baker, Barbara Jordan,
Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, Julian Bond, Mary McLeod Bethune, Angela
Davis, Marian Anderson, Mahalia Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Andrew
Young, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., W. E. B. Dubois and many others).”
His message was very powerful and seemingly inspiring to all present.
One youth noted that Black History should be studied daily and should
be inclusive in our regular history books. The students were informed
that they can request a course in Black History at the Louisville
High School and take it as an elective. Several of the high school
students from Starkville have taken the course there.