Dr. James Meredith has done his part to change our world. But in his world, Mississippi is the center of the Universe.
“If we can do something to make a change in Mississippi… we can take that, and change things everywhere,” he said to the people at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Gulfport Campus on Wednesday night. An audience that, he mentioned, was the largest audience he’s spoken to recently.
Meredith is most known for being the first African American student to be integrated into the University of Mississippi. And now, almost 60 years later, he devotes his time and energy into sharing the one thing that he believes will actually heal us all: values.
“We got to teach the Ten Commandments and The Golden Rule to all of the young, and to all of the uninstructed,” said Meredith. “If they’re a hundred years old, and they don’t know right from wrong, or good from bad, they’re in as much need for teaching as a three-year-old that ain’t been taught.”
The event event began with a speech from Gulfport Police Chief Chris Ryle and Chief Administrative Officer Leonard Papania.
Chief Ryle asked the audience, “What is the police going to do to stop this violence?”
And then assured us, “The City of Gulfport is implementing a campaign that will identify young adults whose life path is taking them down the wrong road.”
The campaign is called “Before the Bullet” and is an initiative that gives the youth in the city the chance to seek out mentorship, career opportunities, and safety in the form of a buddy-system.
“Violence has plagued our city for several years. And we’ve lost far too many young men and women.”
Following the introductions, Dr. Meredith took his seat on the stage next to Rev. John Whitfield.
Dr. Meredith started out by stating, “what I’m going to say tonight I wrote 25 years ago, but I was scared to say it. Now I’m not scared anymore.”
He picked up a packet of papers which held his plea for Mississippi churches to start taking accountability.
“Every church in Mississippi should take accountability of every child born within two miles,” he said. “Prevention is better than cure.”
Throughout the lecture there were a variety of topics brought up, and people from the audience were encouraged to ask Dr. Meredith questions.
From easy topics about the education system and church involvement, to in-depth questions about reparations, critical race theory – no subject was left untouched. But through it all, Dr. Meredith assured us of one thing: it’s about the values we place on ourselves and one another that will make the difference.
And more than a dozen times through the night, he encouraged us to follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”