Special to the Jackson Advocate
There is a major struggle for change occurring within the City of Clinton’s boundaries. According to the 2020 Census, Clinton is almost 40% Black, and the city’s population continues to change in demographics. As such, the drawing of new boundaries is necessary for better representation of all demographic groups across the city.
The Clinton NAACP wants to ensure that all Clintonians have equal representation under the law. However, at the Mayor and City Board of Aldermen Meeting on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, Mayor Phil Fisher attempted to finalize the redistricting process by adopting one of three maps that were on display during the meeting. But, there were at least two problems with Mayor Fisher’s attempt. One, there has been little to no participation in the creation of the new ward lines by the entirety of the city, namely African Americans. Two, the proposed maps were not widely available to the public to be examined.
They were not posted on the City of Clinton’s website nor were they published in the local paper, The Clinton Courier. Mayor Fisher claimed that the maps “were on display for public viewing in the back of Clinton’s Visitor Center.” Again, there are two problems with that claim. One, how were they “on public display” if they were in the back and not everyone knew that they were there? Where was the public announcement informing all of the city residents that they were located there? Two, if they were in the back, how would anyone know to ask to see them?
Based on the lack of inclusion and transparency in this process, the Clinton NAACP attended the meeting to give statements and present an alternate map. Presentations were made by poet and short story writer C. Liegh McInnis, Clinton NAACP Branch President Monica McInnis, and Attorney Amir Badat of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. As part of their presentation, C. McInnis stated that “Clinton is 40% Black; yet, 40% or 2.8 of the city council have never been Black.” He then added, “Clinton has no problem with its state championship football team being sixty to seventy percent Black, but they don’t want the city leadership to reflect that ratio…Accordingly, the Clinton boys and girls basketball team can be eighty percent Black. But, again, the same parents who raise those very competent athletic and academically progressive children are not respected enough to aid in the city’s political direction.”
Following C. McInnis, M. McInnis, who is also a political mapmaker, explained that “the three proposed maps do nothing to reflect the growth in demographics that Clinton has experienced over the past ten years. There is only one minority ward in a 28,100 population; we need to show progress for our city that diversity is welcome in Clinton.” She then presented an alternative map that better reflects the current city’s demographics. Finally, Attorney Badat explained that by “rushing to select one of the three proposed maps without input from all of the city residents – while not considering an alternative map generated from citizens – might violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act” and may open the city to unnecessary, lengthy, and costly litigation.
Several other Afro-Mississippians were in attendance supporting the fight for justice, including Sen. Hillman Frazier, Attorney Ottawa Carter, and some of the Clinton NAACP members. The branch asked the mayor and board to delay the approval of a map for two months to give the citizens and the branch time to see and analyze all the maps. After the presentations, which can be viewed on the City of Clinton’s Facebook page, Alderman James Lott, the only Black on the board, made a motion to delay the adoption, citing that “there should be no rush to adopt a map since the next election is in 2025.” His motion was seconded, and the Board voted six to zero with one abstaining to delay the process.
The map presented by the Clinton NAACP accurately reflects the current makeup of the city. The hope is that they can work with the mayor and aldermen to develop a map that enables full participation from all of Clinton’s citizens. The next approved city map will be in effect for the next ten years and will determine the amount of participation and justice all of Clinton’s citizens will receive. However, if Mayor Fisher and most of the city’s Aldermen have their way, they will continue to deny its Black citizens fair participation in the entire democratic process, including determining school curriculum, the procedures around voting, and granting access for companies to do business in Clinton, which are all basic rights for each citizen. Although the Clinton NAACP had this small victory, there is a long battle ahead of us.
As most know, evil never sleeps because “we fight not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Now is the time for all Afro-Clintonians and anyone who loves fairness, equality, and justice to join this fight to ensure that democracy doesn’t become an ancient artifact.