Our youth leading way past racial divides

Published 5:47 pm Sunday, May 22, 2022

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Something wonderful happened in Natchez on May 19 – and the great thing about it is that it happened without a lot of fanfare, because it just felt natural. All three Natchez high schools, Natchez High, Cathedral and Adams Christian, participated in the longest Graduating Senior Motorcade in the history of our city, culminating in a fantastic Senior Appreciation Day at Duncan Park, again with graduates from all three schools present. It was amazing!

The simple truth is this: our youth are setting a great example of unity, moving past racial divides, and this is taking hold in Natchez. It’s been evident most recently in the Mayor’s Youth Council, where representatives from all three schools, under the leadership of Youth Council Chairman Bert Hughes, have been working many weekends on various community projects.

Recognizing this, when Mr. Eric Jackson, Principal of Natchez High School called me and suggested that we invite all three high schools to participate in the motorcade and picnic event at Duncan Park, I embraced the idea. And we ran with it! Some said it wouldn’t work, but the success of the event proved the pundits wrong. Our Community Liaison Neifa Hardy got busy. Mr. Jackson and teams from all of the schools got busy as well. Our police, firefighters, and other agencies got involved to help. And a beautiful day of celebration was the result.

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I will never forget the mile long procession of cars, jeeps and trucks! I will never forget the smiling faces of seniors, enjoying a beautiful day in May. And I will never forget the many parents, teachers, and administrators who pitched in to grill hamburgers and hotdogs and provide delicious sides, sweets, and cold drinks. One of the volunteers helping told me with tears in her eyes that this was the first time she had ever seen all three area schools “mix,” and all I could think was, it’s past time. And what a great time to see this happen in Natchez now. We are truly blessed.

This experience underscores why I abhor the divisive rhetoric and politics of the past. Our youth are our future, and we can either infect them with positive and progressive reinforcement, working to achieve the new day that is dawning in Natchez, or we can infect with a continuance of division and disunity.

The future of our community will be directly impacted by our words and actions – all because our children are listening, and they are watching. It is important that we speak hope, progress, unity and peace to the youth who are our future. And it is important that our actions mirror our words, making strides in every area of our city so that we as a community can be a model of hope, progress, unity and peace.

As I said in my inaugural address almost two years ago, Unity is the keyword in Community and Opportunity, and we can have neither Community nor Opportunity without Unity. Thank you Seniors for setting such a fine example for the rest of us! Clearly, you have inspired us all to think in broader ways – because Natchez Deserves More!


Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.