Time to work with renewed hope

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 22, 2017

Doug Jones (Democrat) defeated Roy S. Moore (Republican) in a bitterly fought special U.S. Senate election in Alabama on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. This defeat was one of the most unlikely upsets in recent election history. I must admit that I had no hope of Doug Jones winning the special U.S. Senate election in Alabama. As a young boy born and raised in Mississippi and living in Mississippi until my late 20s, I had lost faith and hope of being able to break barriers. I must say that the victory for Senator-elect Doug Jones has given me a renewed hope for my home state of Mississippi and the South.

Change is always discussed and planned during an election year. It allows us an opportunity to lay out our views and values on the table to ensure our voices are heard in the democratic process. The people of Alabama rejected status quo and refused to play politics. They reclaimed their seat at the political table of power by sending a more progressive candidate to Washington, D.C. While the rest of the country is erupting in action by using the power of the vote to elect more progressive elected officials, it seems that apathy has gripped a large portion of the state of Mississippi. Where Mississippians once led at the forefront of the movement for change, it looks as if we have now become content and reliant upon others.

In my journey for change, I must admit that I had become weary and tired and the journey seemed hopeless at times. When we see injustices in our communities, we need to step up and speak truth to power. We can no longer rely on others to keep speaking and doing the work of the community. It is all of our responsibility to use our circles of influence to initiate change within our community. We must see the plight of Mississippi as “our” responsibility.

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This is a historic time, and we must join the rest of the world in progress.

We have the highest poverty rate in the entire country. Our educational systems are failing. Mississippi is the only state in America flying the Confederate flag as its official state flag. Mississippi’s HB 1523 bill discriminates against the LGBTQ community. There is still no justice for Emmett Till, a 16-year-old African American male kidnapped and murdered in 1955. There is still a dire need for racial reconciliation.

It’s time to ask ourselves: Why is this? Why does it take Mississippi so long to move more progressively? The blame for this, as well as other issues, rest squarely on the shoulders of every Mississippian and citizen in the Deep South. Mississippi’s educational system is suffering because of a lack of funding. Many Mississippi school systems are at risk for a state takeover. Many corporations are now even refusing to do business in the state — all because of the decisions made by politicians whom you elected or enabled to be elected by sitting home and not voting. We must call for our political leaders to create initiatives and programs aimed at improving our communities, creating jobs and enabling our children to receive a quality education. If the political leaders can’t guarantee any of these things, then we must “Vote Them Out.” It is time for all Mississippians to accept change and stand with the rest of the world. The only way we can fix these problems that we face is not to be afraid to buck the norms and make bold, radical decisions in our voting booths.

We can’t depend on those who are not residents of Mississippi to lead the state forward. They can help, but for the state to make progress it needs, we must take the reins. We can’t lead from behind. Mississippians have to be the face of the change and the standard-bearers for progress.

I’m asking Mississippians at all levels to get involved. It doesn’t matter if you’re a coach or a mentor, Mississippi needs your help. If you are in a position of leadership within the faith-based community, we need you. It is time to move forward with action. It starts with getting people registered to vote and engaged in their community. We must be willing to spread the message of progress and community.
Duvalier Malone, a Mississippi native, is a Washington, D.C.-based motivational speaker, political consultant and community activist.