City votes to fund portion of Parchman Ordeal monument

Published 1:01 am Friday, February 23, 2018


NATCHEZ — Natchez aldermen dedicated approximately $38,000 Wednesday to pay for one-third of a monument to memorialize the Parchman Ordeal.

The funding for the structure, which organizers have named the “Proud to Take a Stand” monument, will come from funds the city received from Magnolia Bluffs Casino late last week.

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Natchez City Clerk Megan Edmonds said the check from the casino read just more than $405,000 as part of an annual payment based off a percentage of the casino’s revenue.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said the aldermen’s portion would complement equal contributions from Adams County Supervisors and the Mississippi Legislature, though neither of those two entities has approved such a contribution.The board of aldermen voted unanimously to contribute the funds for the monument, which schematics show as a 6-foot-tall, 12-foot-long granite structure containing the more than 150 names of civil rights advocates unjustly imprisoned in 1965 at the state penitentiary in Parchman.

Both city leaders and organizers have recognized the monument as a step toward reconciliation.

Despite a 5-0 vote (Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard did not attend the meeting), a brief discussion preceded the approval for funding the project prompted by Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Irving.

Irving stressed that she did not oppose funding the monument, but also that she hoped the board would not form a habit of using the additional casino monies frivolously when the city has many other issues to address.

“We have streets that need to be repaired. We have sidewalk (problems). We have drainage problems that need to be addressed within our community,” Irving said to Grennell. “I’m not in opposition of what you’re saying, but I don’t want us to have to rely on the extra money for us to use for things of this nature.

“We need to consider the residents; they’re the taxpayers.”

Grennell responded that the board could decide not to fund the monument if it wished, though he stated his clear support contributing to the project. Grennell has also said his father was among the demonstrators imprisoned during the ordeal.

“I’m just trying to get this monument to commemorate and memorialize the individuals who were wrongfully arrested by this city, by the County of Adams and by the state of Mississippi,” Grennell said. “That’s fine. We’ll just simply tell them that we will put that off, as we’ve put it off since 1965.”

Irving responded that she was not implying the board should put off the project.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis moved that the board approved the funding, but also said Irving’s point was “well-taken” and that the city should now determine how to allocate the remaining casino funds.

Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier acknowledged the need to fix the city’s streets, but he said the time has come to atone for the “grave injustices” done unto those involved in the Parchman ordeal.

“It’s money, but it’s just a drop in the bucket for what transpired in the City of Natchez,” Frazier said.

Organizers have proposed placing the monument at the corner of Canal and Jefferson streets near the Natchez City Auditorium and converting the grounds into a plaza to surround the marker.