Indianola youth march for the right to use the Henry M. Seymour Library in 1964

                                                              Indianola youth march for the right to use the Henry M. Seymour Library in 1964

Young Folks Can Make a Difference

By David Rushing, Chair, Sunflower County Democratic Executive Committee

Old folks don’t fight wars, they start them. Young folks don’t start wars, they fight them.

This adage, perhaps as old as mankind, can be applied beyond its obvious reference to combat. It is generally true about any struggle — cultural or political. The subliminal message is clear. It is the youth who have to clean up the mess we make and live with the collateral damage.

What alarms most old folks, however, is when young folks realize this fact and rise up against our “grown-up” stupidities. As agents of change not yet imbued with elder fallacies, they are perceived as a threat to the status quo, another hallowed concept among old folks who treasure cultural and political stability. Grown ups have had in hand many tools to enforce it — the school, the pulpit, the media and the political machinery. These tools are powerful and seemingly insurmountable. They can be overcome, however. Unity of purpose behind a just cause, raising a communal and sustained voice, turning the other cheek to insults and bullying and, above all, patience, are such paths.

Many old folks might chuckle themselves into complacency about any such challenge because they think these are not traits commonly attributed to young folks. Let them bask in their self-assurance. It simply is not true.

The recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida was a grievous assault on our youth and another stain on our national psyche. As horrible as it was to the students, their families and communities, it may serve a positive purpose as the final straw in ending the interminable debate over reasonable gun control. As the grownups continue their ceaseless chatter over the whys and why nots, the youth have rescued the message and once again are filling the state houses, the public parks and the streets with a clear, unconfused chant:

Enough is Enough!

We have seen this before, fellow old folks, right here in Indianola, when we were young folks — the marches and rallies for basic human rights by our friends and neighbors, most of them young. They marched and sang and toted signs in a city and county world-renowned for antipathy to their cause. Most of us ignored the storm raging about us, while some joined the campaign of berating and denigration. When they showed up in our schoolrooms, many of us dragged our desks to the other side of the room in an overt act of shunning. Yet a few of us watched and listened to our hearts and our lives were forever changed.

Young folks, some younger than ourselves, were out in the streets making a difference, knowing that their doing so posed a modicum of risk. Young folks paraded in front of the local public library in 1964 simply to get the right to read the books in their library. These young folks got the chance to see the power of the elders in charge when their adult leader, not much older than themselves, was thrown violently against a tree, cuffed and dragged by the hair to the jail which then was nearby. Yet they kept marching.

The young folks won and we are all better off because of the victory.

As hopeful as I am that the horrible Florida massacre may spark a youthful reaction as powerful as that of the 1960s, I also was dismayed by the verbal assaults against the motives and even characters of the students who have stepped forward. Using language that harkened back to the insults hurled by the power structure in the 60s, so-called adults are trying to undermine the validity of peaceful protest and petition in a democratic society. I would call shame upon them if such mouthpieces of hatred, discord and self-interest could be shamed.

Though the tenor of the insults is old, the wounds are new. I urge any of the young folks who read this to salve these wounds by getting involved. The easiest way is to register to vote. Not many realize that you can register before the age of 18. Though you cannot cast a ballot until you are 18, please consider taking that step now. You can do it by going to the Circuit Clerk’s office. Also, the Circuit Clerk in the near future will visit your school for the sole purpose of youth registration.

Please step forward and join the process, learn to use it and then get to work to help save your future and us old folks from ourselves.

Posted Feb. 28, 2018

Making Good Trouble — A Celebration

Sunflower County Democrats urge you to join them in the "real" dedication of Mississippi's Civil Rights Museum on Feb. 24

"You must find a way to get in the way and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. To save this little piece of real estate that we call earth for generations yet unborn. You have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate when you leave here to go out and seek justice, for all. You can do it — you must do it.”
— John Lewis

Few could have said it better.

Mr. Lewis has placed the burden on us all, white and black, male and female, young and old, to protect our hard-earned freedoms and to restore those which have been eroded by the current climate of meanness, arrogance, ignorance and yes, even violence. We must revive the fight and recruit our friends and neighbors — anyone of good will — to join us. Our state and nation are at stake. Let us work together to rekindle the flame that was lit right here in Sunflower County in 1962 and again make "good trouble."

To this end, I urge all Democrats, indeed all Sunflower Countians of good will, to attend the Grand Celebration of the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the museum located at 220 North St., Jackson (one block north of the Old Capitol), to remind ourselves of the struggles past, how much there is to lose and to rededicate ourselves to the basic tenets of Democracy.

Rep. Lewis and our own Rep. Bennie Thompson will be the keynote speakers, along with many others who played significant roles in the struggle.

The Sunflower County Democratic Executive Committee has its roots deep in the movement and many of its members were personally involved in the struggle of the 1960s. Our connection to it is inextricable and undeniable.

For this reason, I urge all Sunflower Countians to attend as a delegation due to the significant role our county played in the restoration of Democracy to Mississippians, especially Fannie Lou Hamer of Ruleville. Mrs. Hamer and Sunflower County are major components of this new museum and our presence on Feb. 24 will lend further honor.

The Sunflower County Democratic Executive Committee fully supports this event, which will make up for the grand opening fiasco late last year when the GOP governor thoughtlessly asked forces hostile to the movement to participate, which led to a statewide boycott supported by a wide cross-section of Mississippians.

As Sunflower County Democrats, we proudly carry our "little light" to do our best to rekindle the fire that Mrs. Hamer and other Sunflower Countians lit so long ago to free us all from political injustice. Please join us on Feb. 24.

Our plans are to gather at 9:00 a.m. at the nearby Veteran's Memorial Building and march as a group to the nearby museum no later than  9:30 a.m. Bring signs and banners if you wish.

If you wish to join us, please call Linda Smith-Myles at 662-207-1073 or Maude Triplett at 662-347-2197, committee members charged with coordinating car pooling. For more information about the celebration itself, go to this website: Friends of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (the gala sponsor).

David Rushing, chair

Sunflower County Democratic Executive Committee