BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Bishop James L. Black of Biloxi was active in the Boy Scouts, and served in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine.
Preaching the word of God for more than 40 years, the Biloxi resident is also a longtime leader of the African American community.
"It's my calling, not just to vocalize the word of God, but to act it out," said Bishop Black, "Live it out, you know."
Bishop Black has been active and outspoken in the community for decades.
"Coming up, we had mostly two parent homes and we had a stabilized community. I think the biggest challenge now is for young people to understand their responsibilities and be accountable for their lives and the things that they do," Black said.
He was a teenager during a watershed moment on the beach, when a wade-in protest was met with violent confrontation.
"My most vivid memory probably centers around the hostility and the anger and hatred if you will that was manifested among those who were the oppressors if you will," Black recalled. "It did change a lot. It gave us confidence. We were certain we were right, that we had the right to access that beach and those waters if you will."
Bishop Black has long been recognized as an activist and civic leader. His image is among the faces of leaders on display at a Black History exhibit at the Biloxi library.
"I think race relations are very good here. They've always been better in this part of the state than the northern part of the state if you will. But of course, it's not perfect. There's a lot yet to be dealt with. But in everyday normal things, I think we've gotten a whole lot better," Black said.
He is passionate about environmental and economic justice; and testified before the head of the EPA during a hearing on the Coast.
"Making sure that people have equality in terms of health issues and in terms of economic issues," added Black. "We've been able to help develop businesses and that sort of thing to improve people's lives."
Despite the significant challenges they will face, Bishop Black is encouraged by the youth of today and hopeful of a brighter tomorrow.
"It is my hope that we can truly arrive at a time in our lives and a time in our history here that everybody will be treated fairly and equally," said Black.