Calvitt, others on mission to unite Natchez

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 5, 2001

Andrew Calvitt isn’t just a &uot;black and white&uot; kind of guy. As a co-chairman of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce’s Unification Committee, Calvitt is definitely painting in shades of gray – shades created from shared interests and common ground.

His canvas is as varied as the Natchez community, and the people who come to visit it. And he paints whenever he finds the opportunity.

&uot;At the last Business After Hours, Monica Lynch (of the United Way) introduced me to a mentor in town to work with her,&uot; Calvitt said. &uot;I shook his hand and said, ‘I’d like to welcome you to Natchez.’&uot;

Then Calvitt continued, telling the visitor which of the important tour houses should be included on a must-see tour of the city.

&uot;A little later on, he called me over and said, ‘I’m coming back to Natchez’ so I gave him my card and said, ‘call me. I’ll take you around.’&uot;

And Calvitt, a man known for both generosity and hospitality, will do just that.

&uot;Some people say, ‘how in the world can a black man walk around here and talk about these houses?’&uot; Calvitt said. &uot;I say the black man (and) slavery helped build these houses, and we have a lot of stories to tell.&uot;

On both sides of the issue.

It’s those shared stories Calvitt draws on in his work with the Unification Committee, which he co-chairs with McDonald’s of Natchez co-owner Mary Ann Langnes. Some may call their work ambitious. For Calvitt, it’s simply pragmatic.

Take the upcoming Business After Hours being coordinated by the Unification Committee. The event will take place at the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African-American History’s museum, where a new exhibit is on display. &uot;There are some business people who’ve never been in the museum or even know what it looks like,&uot; Calvitt said.

They’ll come for the networking opportunities offered by the popular Business After Hours event. They’ll leave having helped build a communication bridge in a community nearly equally divided between black and white races. Calvitt saw the painting come together this spring, when the Unification Committee hosted a brown bag luncheon in Memorial Park.

&uot;Four of five people were watching when the older guy came wandering over and asked, ‘what are y’all doing.’&uot; Calvitt said. &uot;I explained that we were having a unification brown bag luncheon – businessmen from different walks of life are going to just eat and have a fellowship.&uot;

Calvitt came to learn the visitor was a tourist to Natchez, and he was so impressed with the unification efforts he said, &uot;You all are really doing something good here.&uot;

That observation swelled Calvitt’s heart with pride in the committee and his community. But it won’t cloud his vision.

&uot;We’re at a time in our lives where we need to put the past behind us and look to the future,&uot; he said. And his committee’s role is a simple one, &uot;we’re here to unite, not to divide.&uot;

Stacy Graning is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3539 or via e-mail, stacy.graning@natchezdemocrat.com.