Is Natchez willing to make stone soup?

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, October 18, 2017

One of the founders of Natchez United recently shared with me his thoughts regarding a story that he remembered from his youth – Stone Soup by Jon Muth. I was not familiar with the book, so he pulled it up on YouTube to show it to me (  As we watched the video, I immediately saw why it had come to his mind, as the story may be a direct reflection of what the group is trying to accomplish.

In the story, a group of villagers had become so focused on themselves and their own needs that they had become hardened and unwilling to share. They hid their food and valuables so that no one would try to take them. When visitors came to town, they began to attempt to entice the community to work together to “make stone soup” that everyone could enjoy. As good stories do, the ending told of the delicious soup that was made from every member of the community bringing their donation to be used in making the soup and the banquet that they had with everyone at the table enjoying the results of their collaboration.

Sadly, it seems that across this country, people have been divided by the personal agendas of a few who would seek to win their agenda at the expense of many others. The unity of what was once the American way — that united citizens through whatever tragedy the world may have created — seems to be at times merely a distant memory. That is what is so encouraging about the group Natchez United, a group of four concerned young professionals in Natchez, who have drawn on their mentors to bring unity that will result in stronger education and a stronger economy. As one of their mentors, Jay Stewart, continues to remind us, “It is all about the kids — we’ve got to keep our focus on them!”

Email newsletter signup

I was encouraged as I read an article in The Natchez Democrat that reflected Supervisor Ricky Gray’s comments at a recent supervisors’ meeting, I could not help but see that he seemed to hold a similar philosophy when he made remarks regarding the fact that “it takes a village,” that we must think “win-win,” and that he was praying for Natchez to come together. Everything that he said seemed to echo what Natchez United has been saying now for almost three months — what Stone Soup is all about!

While there may be some involved who have personal agendas that are intertwined, it appears that the Natchez-Adams County School District is primarily a group of educators who have been doing everything that they knew how to do to provide an education for the children of Natchez. The challenge is that they, like most communities across the country, have been trying to make an aged-out Eurocentric model of instruction connect with a group of twenty-first century students. This model has worked for fewer and fewer American students every year; however, it is all that most educators know to do.

So it’s time for major changes — for education across the country and for Natchez as a whole! But as Mr. Gray said, unless it is win-win, it will contribute to the problem rather than the solution. Like the story tells us, everyone needs to bring what they can contribute to making Natchez Stone Soup!

Natchez United invites you to join us for our weekly events:

  • 7 p.m. on Mondays — Community Prayers for Natchez
  • 7 p.m. on Tuesdays — Community Meeting to Support Natchez
  • 7 p.m. on Thursdays — Open Mic Night to Engage Natchez at the Natchez Grand porch

And like our Facebook Group & Page for Updates on our efforts!
Dr. Marvin Jeter is an educational consultant and member of Natchez United.