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Ted Henifin and Chokwe A. Lumumba speaking
A federal judge appointed Ted Henifin (pictured) in November to oversee operations of the water system in the City of Jackson in November. Photo by Nick Judin

Mississippi Legislative Power Grabs and Takeover Attempts

I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunities for young people in Mississippi. At every turn, I’ve confronted the brain drain that continues year after year with graduates walking out of our good, relatively cheap public universities and driving off to another state with more opportunities, better health care, and more tolerance for gay folks and others who don’t fall within the confines of “normalcy.” 

Rarely do I hear Mississippi elders talking about their kids going to Chicago or Los Angeles. Instead, it’s Atlanta, Dallas, Nashville, Raleigh or Houston. I’d love to find a Mississippi academic researching current-day migration patterns. I suspect they find that our fleeing young people help other southern states create more inclusive and diverse communities, public schools and strong health-care systems.

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I suspect our young people, no matter how they traditionally vote or if they think of themselves as progressive or conservative, look at the hypocrisy of our elected officials who say they are pro-life but are doing little to fix a crumbling health-care system while insisting that anything critical of Mississippi history and the people who created this mess shouldn’t be taught in public school.  

I’d love to survey the last few decades of our executive-branch leadership to see how many of their kids, nephews and nieces are still in Mississippi. I’d wager that many are gone and aren’t coming back. I’d ask the elder Mississippians if this is OK, but based on what’s happening, I’m sure they’d say it was just fine with them. Otherwise, why keep doing things that run them off?

Maybe that’s the point. They know young people want something better for our state and won’t support policies and laws that keep us in 50th place in just about everything that matters.  

How do we elders say the Mississippi Legislature is not a public body with a straight face, as we’ve seen on the heels of a Mississippi Ethics Commission vote deciding that was the case. The recently deceased Senate Bill 2667 would have altered Mississippi Code and required that any meeting with a legislative quorum would have been subject to the Open Meetings Act.  It’s interesting to note that no one on the Ethics Commissions looks like me. I continue to be flummoxed by how the Blackest state in the union can’t find a Black person to serve in essential roles like this one.  

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As I was writing this, Nick Judin dropped an urgent story, thanks to our partnership with ProPublica, warning that the State is angling to take over federal funds designated for Jackson’s water-infrastructure repair despite the fact we have a federally appointed manager in charge of the facility. This comes on the heels of House Bill 1020, which would allow the Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice to appoint two judges, and the Mississippi attorney general to appoint four prosecutors to oversee what the bill calls the Capitol district, which just may be part of a concerted power grab over our majority-Black capital city. 

All of this demonstrates why what we do at the Mississippi Free Press is so important. Because without a free press, you won’t know about attacks on democracy and the continued attempts to disempower everyday Mississippians.  

Keep reading and sharing and donate what you can to help us keep growing, adding more reporters and building healthy reporting collaboratives like our partnership with ProPublica and, soon, Report for America.  We can’t do this work without you.  

Keep the faith.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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