Agency, Not Apartheid: A Call to Action for Mississippi
The past couple of weeks in Jackson, Mississippi have been hard to say the least. On top of continuing water system failures that have been plaguing residents for years, the Republican-controlled House passed legislation that some Black leaders in Jackson are referring to as “American Apartheid.”
One bill would create new court system in Jackson with appointed rather than elected judges, giving white government leaders increased power over Jackson, whose Black residents make up over 82% of the city. Meanwhile, the state Senate passed a bill that will establish a regional governing board for Jackson’s water system, whose members would also be state-appointed rather than elected by the people. In other words, government officials in suburban cities hundreds of miles outside of Jackson could potentially have more decision-making power about the city than the folks who live there.
The Governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, has made no attempts to conceal his disdain for the capital city, referring to it as “the murder capital of the world” and exclaiming at an event that it was “as always, a great day to not be in Jackson.” Residents in Jackson and surrounding, primarily Black, cities have been asking the state for support around its infrastructure for years and have been regularly denied. Now that hundreds of millions of federal dollars have been approved to revitalize the water system in Jackson, Republicans want to loot resources from the people who need them most.
These bills, if implemented, would continue to strip governing agency away from Black leaders and voting rights from Black residents in Jackson. The new court system would also increase the police presence in the city, further endangering Black residents’ lives. #JXNUndivided, a big-tent coalition of advocacy groups, community leaders, and more are asking that people sign their petition for the Lt. Governor to reject these dangerous bills before they can take hold.
One thing is certain: the fight in Jackson is a fight over access to resources and people’s lives are hanging in the balance. Late last year, Grantmakers for Southern Progress (GSP) released our virtual Learning Tour of Mississippi, which featured key leaders working to build the infrastructure of the state. Leaders kept sharing the same refrain: the systems imposed by the Republican-controlled state on the Democratic-led Jackson keep residents in a chokehold, preventing them from making progress while more and more threats come down the pike.
Their work needs to be funded now to prevent conditions from becoming worse. “At this point, philanthropy has to move and do something differently. We have to show up for community in ways we never have before. We have to provide cover and protection, because people’s lives are at risk while we’re trying to figure out a grant strategy” said GSP’s Director, Tamieka Mosley. Philanthropy has the time and resources needed to come up with creative funding solutions in this moment, but Mississippians can’t wait. Leaders are being pulled in every direction as national news outlets are rushing to cover the controversial bills. Mosley continued “[Funders are] not there to do the work. [Grassroots leaders are] doing that. They’re giving everything they’ve got every day. We, as funders who say we care, need to infuse money into these organizations…so that people can have the security they need to do this work.”
If you are interested in funding work happening in Mississippi, please reach out to us to get connected.