GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - He is known to many as a Mississippi civil rights hero, but James Meredith compares himself to Moses. Meredith spoke at the Jackson County Campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Tuesday as part of Black History Month. His message focused on faith, family, and our children's future.
"God tells me that the Mississippi black church can rebuild the black race and solve all of our problems," James Meredith told a crowd of about 250 students, faculty, and community members.
Faith dominated the message Meredith delivered at the Jackson County campus of MGCCC. The Mississippi civil rights icon even called himself a prophet of the 21st century.
"I am a prophet, like Moses, that God promised to raise up from time to time to deliver God's message to his chosen people," said Meredith.
Meredith pointed to what he believes is hurting black families.
"The problem of black public education is the total breakdown of moral character in the black community," said Meredith.
Meredith encouraged black churches to become a powerful force in guiding today's youth. He also urged black elders and mothers to become leaders and teach God's law to children before they turn five.
"Every black church in Mississippi should take responsibility for each child born within two miles of every church. The future of Mississippi depends upon what the elders of the black race do and what they do not do. Get the mothers of the church to become godmothers for all the babies and all the little children five years and younger, to make sure they're trained up properly," said Meredith.
"My mom is a godmom. What he said, it's interesting because it's not like that anymore. Some people are not into churches and stuff like that, so he really made a good statement, a valid statement," said MGCCC Sophomore Kianna Lewis.
Several students said the message should apply to all races.
"I totally agree with him saying that God is speaking through him and to the hearts of the black church and churches in general and Christians and people in general," said MGCCC Freshman Kyle Waltman.
Meredith didn't focus on his past, how he risked his life in 1962 to become the first African-American student to attend Ole Miss. Several students did ask him questions about the struggles he faced. One lady asked Meredith how he dealt with the possibility of being shot during those turbulent times.
He replied, "I thought I couldn't die, just that simple."
"That's very encouraging too, to let everyone know that no matter what you have, goals or plans in life, to just keep pushing for it. You can make it. I really appreciate him coming. He inspired me a lot," said MGCCC Sophomore Laterrica Moore.
"He makes me want to be a better person. He's really an inspiring man. He stood up for what he believed in and he was the first one to go out there. No one had done what he had done before," said Waltman.
On Wednesday, Meredith will speak at the Perkinston Campus at Malone Hall Auditorium at 2 p.m. On Thursday, he will speak at the Jefferson Davis Campus Fine Arts Auditorium at 11 a.m.