Area group hopes to bridge racial lines

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Participants of a local initiative intended to break down racial barriers and build relationships met Tuesday evening for a first meeting.

Organizers and participants are hopeful for the future success of a Brookhaven branch of the statewide organization Mission Mississippi.

“I think it’s going to be the beginning of a new breath of air into Lincoln County,” said the Rev. Burnell Robinson, pastor of Crump Chapel Church on Zetus Road.

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Tuesday’s meeting at the Lincoln County Library followed an information session in March where local residents learned about Mission Mississippi from its president, Neddie Winters.

Winters was present Tuesday night to help facilitate the first meeting, but a local steering committee is helming the Brookhaven branch.

About 25 people attended Tuesday and were divided into smaller groups to enable conversation, relationship building, and what Winters called the backbone of Mission Mississippi – prayer.

Following prayer, the small groups seated around tables were encouraged to talk and get to know each other.

“You can grow up across the street from each other and not know each other,” Winters said.

He told people not to discuss their titles or accomplishments and move beyond superficial facts.

Instead, participants were encouraged to speak about their background, family and childhoods. Winters suggested that topics of discussion for the one-hour meeting include how race was discussed at home.

However, Winters warned the room to start slow and go light for the first meeting.

“Tonight is not the time to get into heavy stuff,” he said.

But, in order to achieve its long-term goals, the group will have to deal with the “heavy stuff” organizers said.

“Change always comes with some type of resistance, breaking down some of those walls of the ways things have always been,” Robinson said after the meeting.

But if the resistance can be constructively overcome, that’s when increased unity can become a reality, Robinson believes.

“If we can break down some of those barriers that’s going to be the first step to helping us all grow,” he said.

Looking toward the future, Robinson and Phyllis Spearman, who initiated the formation of the group, both would like to see more participants.

“We need more people to come to be a part and have an open mind and an open heart,” Robinson said.

Though Tuesday’s meeting featured a diverse crowd, Spearman would like to see more members of the black community participating.

“We welcome and invite them,” she said.