Bracey Harris, The Clarion-Ledger 10:31 a.m. CST January 23, 2016
A United Nations working group focused on combatting matters of disenfranchisement affecting people of African descent has selected Jackson as one of four cities that members will visit as part of a fact-finding mission.
The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent will hear testimonies Saturday at the Lumumba Center at 939 W. Capitol St. on a number of social justice issues such as education, mass incarceration and environmental rights.
“We will gather first-hand information about the current human rights situation of African-Americans, and follow up on the recommendations to fight racism we made during our last visit to the country in 2010,” said human rights expert Mireille Fanon Mendes-France, who is the head of the panel, in a news release.
Ward 4 Councilman De’Keither Stamps, who sponsored a resolution welcoming the delegation at the Jan. 12. Jackson City Council meeting, says the visit is a culmination of outreach tracing back to 2013 and the late Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who is remembered by many as an activist dedicated to human and civil rights.
In December 2014, the council approved a resolution supporting the U.N.’s International Decade for People of African Descent. Between 2015-24, the U.N. says it will commit to “promoting respect, protection, and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental rights for people of African descent.”
Stamps describes Jackson as the “ground zero” of black America because of its population makeup and majority-minority leadership. He explained that the Hinds County city is in one of the state's counties where African-Americans hold the majority of elected positions.
The composition, he said, means Jackson experiences a “higher concentration of issues" such as poverty — that are of interest to the working group — “at a higher degree.”
Stamps is optimistic that the visit will have a positive impact. He said he believes state leaders have not shown a commitment to improving social and economic conditions in the state capital. The lack of assistance, he says, is one of the reasons he embraces outside support.
“Anytime a group is focused on solutions that can be implemented in Jackson to change the economic conditions of poor folks, Jackson can benefit from it,” he said.
He went on to say Mississippi's history and present-day climate on matters of race also will provide a helpful framework as the organization seeks to address racial discrimination.
“Some of the anchors from our past are hindering us from going forward,” Stamps said.
During the event the International People's Democratic Movement Uhuru Movement, an activist group, will set up a tent encampments in the parking lot of the Lumumba Center, while a representative from the group, Chimurenga Waller, will speak about for the InPDUM's police reform initiative.
Organizers said in a news release that their purpose is to raise awareness for several issues they believe are affecting the black community such as officer-involved shootings, poverty and housing discrimination.
On Monday, the UN working group will continue on to Chicago, followed by New York City. Its tour will conclude in Washington, D.C., where preliminary findings will be shared at a news conference ahead of the delegates' final report, which will be presented before the U.N. in September.
Contact Bracey Harris at email@example.com or (601) 961-7248. Follow @braceyharris on Twitter.