USM encouraging students to serve their communities

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - USM is kicking off a new program to honor the memory of a local civil rights leader. Tuesday, the Gulf Park campus hosted a lecture to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Biloxi wade-in led by the late Dr. Gilbert Mason.

History professor Dr. Pat Smith talked about May 14th, 1959. On that day, Dr. Mason took family and friends to the beach in Biloxi, even though blacks were forbidden to use the beach back then. The wade-in was considered the first public challenge of segregation laws in Mississippi.

USM is offering seven service-learning courses to encourage students to follow the Dr. Mason's example by using the skills they learned in the classroom to serve their community.

"Gilbert Mason did things like this and had a dramatic effect on the community in the 60s and 70s and 80s. And what better way to commemorate the wade-ins, which you could take as something tragic and sad, what better way to commemorate them than to commemorate them with service to the community," Dr. Pat Smith said.

Some of the community projects include creating maps of historic sites in the Turkey Creek community, surveying the African-American experience, and holding a health fair in Bay St. Louis.