For such a time as this
Published 8:00 am Sunday, June 19, 2022
When I first began my campaign for Mayor of Natchez in late 2019, little did I know what was about to happen in 2020: a national pandemic (Covid) coupled with a national outpouring of civil unrest (the George Floyd incident).
Out of the blue, we found ourselves in the midst of historically challenging times, and many would say, and did say, that it was really bad timing for someone just coming into political office.
I must admit that at first the challenge seemed daunting. But, knowing “I can do all
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things through Christ who strengthens me,” I immediately turned to my faith. I looked “unto the hills from whence cometh my help,” and challenge quickly turned into an opportunity. Before the words had even been spoken, I saw our “Natchez Renewal” on the horizon, and I now believe the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. In fact, every day, I become more and more grateful for the blessing of serving as your Mayor during “such a time as this.”
During the past two years, I have found the greatest challenge-turned-opportunity has been bringing Natchez together as one. As I’ve said so many times, Unity is the
keyword to two other keywords: Community and Opportunity. And without Unity we can have neither Community nor Opportunity.
As we have worked tirelessly to build a unified Natchez, to build upon the work of so many who have come before us, the results have been phenomenal. Recent events during the week of Juneteenth 2022 have borne this out – one of the highlights being our Unity Celebration Service at First Presbyterian where my former opponent in the Mayor’s race, Tony Fields, speaking to the audience, pointed to me and said, “If you want to see unity, just look at us.”
I truly believe that love conquers all, and I have been so encouraged by the evidence of love in Natchez. In the words of Christ Jesus, we are called “to love one another.” And as so eloquently spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
As we have welcomed countless new faces from all over the world, possibly over a
thousand new residents drawn here just in the last two years because of what they have experienced here, I never get tired of hearing how much people are drawn to our friendliness, our warmth and our hospitality. More and more, I am hearing how Natchez is becoming a new example to the rest of Mississippi, and to the world, of how a community once historically-divided can overcome its divisions and become one.
Building this unity however has not occurred by happenstance. It has been deliberate, and it is why we as a city, and we as citizens, have set out to make Natchez better for everyone, by recruiting investment, attracting new business and industry, restoring our parks, improving safety, solving crime, and by making sure the whole story of Natchez is told – and celebrated!
Whether it be Forks of the Road, the story of the US Colored Troops, or the Devil’s Punchbowl (a topic of much discussion lately), it is important that this history be told – and told properly.
And the fact that this is happening is a sign of true progress. And greater unity will be the ultimate result.
This is why last year, even before the Federal Government had declared the first
Juneteenth National Holiday, the City of Natchez had already committed to planning
and sponsoring a week-long series of Juneteenth events. Now in our second year of
doing this, building on the work of so many Natchezians who have actually been doing this for well over a quarter of a century, Juneteenth is quickly becoming a time for building unity even more.
Let us be grateful that we all have been called “for such at time as this.” And let us all
firmly resolve to live up to our highest and best callings. Because truly, Natchez deserves more.
Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.