Fly the state flag. Change the flag. The next seven days, issues such as the state flag, and race relations will be debated in Biloxi. Three different meetings bring together elected leaders from around the state, around the region, and around the country. And at each meeting, discussions about the flag will likely take center stage.
Starting Monday, the Mississippi Municipal League holds its annual summer conference in Biloxi. Several cities have chosen to remove the flag from municipal buildings. Before that meeting begins, the Mississippi Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials welcomes the National Policy Alliance to South Mississippi for three days of talks about how to get more engagement from the people these groups represent.
"We're talking about policy issues around education, economics, justice. Many different aspects of black life in this country and trying to come up with solutions that are going to improve the condition of African Americans in the United States," said conference coordinator Deborah Delgado.
Next weekend, the Southern Legislative Conference comes to Biloxi. And a majority of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus have said they’ll boycott that meeting to make their voices heard about the contentious flag issue. That group opposes the confederate battle emblem on the state flag, and its members want it removed.
The chairwoman of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus is Gulfport’s Sonya Williams-Barnes.
"The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus refuses to turn its back on the millions of people who are forced to live and function under the oppressive symbol of our state flag," the Gulfport representative said in a recent statement to the media.
The black caucus has 51 members. House speaker Philip Gunn recently said he’s gotten commitments from 13 members who will attend next weekend’s conference.
Mississippi’s black caucus was created in 1986 to represent the interests of African American elected officials in the State of Mississippi. Its website says the organization’s goals include increasing African American participation on the Mississippi Municipal League Board of Directors and committees to ensure that policy and program recommendations reflect African American concerns and benefit their communities.