Till weekend commemoration closes with 1000 Men event  

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Dr. Cornel West was in Jackson all weekend offering his expertise in living and loving out loud. He was guest speaker at the 1000 Black Men Standing for Unity and Justice Aug. 26. (Advocate photo: Joshua Martin)

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” A notion written by Shakespeare over 400 years ago still has application today. 

Sixty-eight years after the lynching of Emmett Till and precisely 60 years after the 1963 March on Washington, the tide of fortune portends a wave of a change that tends to favor the long-suffering Black people of Mississippi.

Six white Rankin County law enforcement officers – a  self-confessed “goon squad” – all  have been arrested and pled guilty for the savage torture and abuse of Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, two Black men who both survived the ordeal.

Attorney Malik Shabazz, co-counsel for the two victims,  explains this miraculous event very early into Sunday’s program. 

“Never before in the history of the state of Mississippi has any white police officer ever been to jail for harming a Black person.” Shabazz said. “And they have killed thousands.” 

The four-day Emmett Till Anniversary Weekend in Mississippi reached its high point Sunday with the program “1000 Black Men Standing for Unity and Justice.” It was held at the Jackson Convention Complex and lasted for over four hours. 

More than 250 anxious visitors, male and female, from many areas of the country, came to Jackson to imbibe this spirit of  a new dispensation headlined by philosopher Cornell West, the keynote speaker. West is also a professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary.

“White Supremacy will never have the last word,” West said. “Never.” 

West said he was not here on a presidential campaign, although he has announced his candidacy on the Green Party Ticket in the 2024 presidential election.

“I’m here as a servant of the people,” he said. “We’re trying to tell truth and a condition of truth is always to allow suffering to speak. I’m here to pursue justice.

“Mississippi has always been Ground Zero in the struggle for freedom,” West said.  “Too many Black leaders are on the gravy train rather than the Love Train,” he said. 

The day’s program was organized primarily by the Local Organizing Committee of Mississippi under the leadership of Kareem Muhammad and New Black Panther Party Representative Sherrell Potts. The support staff was mostly Muslims, male and female, and the security was provided primarily by the New Black Panther Party, an organization that was given a major boost in popularity by the late Khaled Muhammad. West and other guests of different beliefs said they embraced the Muslims as warmly as they did Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and all other faiths that held to higher principles. 

West said he wouldn’t exist without Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Minister Louis Farrakhan, and their spiritual father, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. 

“I’m a free Black man,” West said. “And I don’t answer to anyone as to who I love.”

In praising his co-counsel, Attorney Trent Walker, a native of Rankin County, Shabazz said, “He grew up in Rankin to help bring down Rankin County. You never know when your hour to rise has come.” 

“The court system locked you away for a long time and you couldn’t fight back,” Shabazz said.  ’When you saw the ‘goon squad’ – Hunter  Elward, Christian Dedmon, Joshua Hartfield, Daniel Opdyke, Jefferey Middleton, and Brett McAlpin – also  known as the Death Squad from Rankin County, it was a first for history,” he said.


The call for strong men and for strong women to give birth to and nurture  those strong men was a litany that recurred throughout the evening, in keeping with the theme of 1000 Men Standing Tall.

Only five women were included in a long list of presenters from the stage, and three of those were in only short ceremonial roles, Maati Jone Primm in the libation ceremony, another woman led the prayers, and another led in the singing of “The Black National Anthem.” 

Attorney and community activist Rukia Lumumba was the first guest speaker, welcoming the attendees and giving an account of her nurture under her father, the late Chokwe Lumumba, who died in 2014 while serving as mayor of Jackson. She is the sister of current Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

“You have come here because you deeply love the people,” she said. “You want to create a better day, a better time in our lives where we’re all living better, where we can all experience the better living conditions that we deserve. And I mean we need better government, better systems. We need better conditions. And so, you all are here because you believe in that.

“Harriet Tubman taught us how to dream big, how to be big dreamers even in the midst of our own oppression. Had Harriet Tubman not had a vision of being free, we would not be free to this day. But she not only had a vision, she had action. She took action toward that vision. So, all of us have a vision of a day we will all be treated with equality, when we’ll all live in a safe community, and that means safe for ourselves and safe for our institutions or from institutions the government has built to harm us.

“Leadership takes courage. It takes a bold leader to come here today and talk about the things we talk about. It takes a bold leader to be in Lexington, in Holmes County, MS. It takes bold leadership to be in Rankin County and deal with the horrific conditions that Black people, that people of color, that poor people have been subjected to for years by law enforcement that does not care about them.”

“We have to be the developers of (the) new community,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what work you’re in.”


Shabazz paid tribute to Malcolm X  and his determination to achieve Black liberation by any means necessary. He mentioned Stokely Carmichael, a/k/a Kwame Toure, and his willingness to give up his life in the state of Mississippi, and while in Lowndes County, Alabama, helped found the original Black Panther Party. He praised organizer Cardell Wright of Lexington, on stage with him, who revised the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party as part of the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer.

“We are not outsiders,” Shabazz said, pointing out that his own relatives and the relatives of many others attending the Jackson rally are offspring and kin to many Mississippi families. “We grew up on these dirt roads.” His family roots are in Pike County, he said.  

“We are the right men for the job,” Shabazz said. “You’ve got to be  hard; you got to be tough; you got to be relentless.  In the early days, Eddie Parker and Michael Jenkins were all alone.  Some days, Eddie is overwhelmed with emotion. And Michael Jenkins, though shot in the mouth by Hunter Elward,  said, ‘The police killed me. I just didn’t die.’”

Parker said from the stage that he was not in this ongoing fight just for himself. “I did it for you,” he said, pointing to the audience.  

“These Black men standing here today are a sign of right and that all Black men can rise,” Shabazz said.

West told of how the many crusaders for civil and human rights were inspired by one another.

“When Till’s mother took his body back to Chicago, displayed it to the world, and pledged to pursue justice for the rest of her life, the minister there,  Rev. Theo Roosevelt Lincoln Howard, a native of Mississippi, showed up November 27, 1955, in Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, a guest of the new minister there, the 26-year-old Martin Luther King. Sitting on the front row of that historic communion was Rosa Parks, who made her fateful decision four days later to sit fast in her seat on the Montgomery city bus,” West said.

“Mississippi, once again, is the turning point in the pivotal moment of Black freedom. In 2023, something is happening in Mississippi. Something is happening in Rankin County. Something is happening in Lexington,” he added. “And when Mississippi awakens and straightens its back up, all Black folk are going somewhere.”


Priscilla Sterling Till, the cousin of Emmett Till, was the next to the last speaker, in the sometimes emotion-rousing four-hour program. President of the Emmett Till Justice for Families Foundation, she offered a dose of the political reality in Mississippi. As a candidate for the U. S. Senate from Mississippi in 2026, she is determined to displace incumbent Cindy Hyde Smith, who was first elected to state office as a Democrat but quickly jumped to the Republican party. 

“Cindy Hyde Smith’s husband’s family was involved in the murder of Jesse Wright, the civil rights and voting rights crusader in Brookhaven,” she said.  “And Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s daddy remodeled the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan’s home. But yet we have her as attorney general.”

Three white men, Noah Smith, Mack Smith, and Charles Falvey, were arrested for the murder of Wright in 1955, but the grand jury failed to return indictments.

Phil Bryant, former governor, lieutenant governor and state auditor, is a relative of Roy Bryant, one of the two murderers of Emmett Till. But Phil Bryant will not respond to any questions about this relationship. 

“We have a problem in Mississippi of Black people being afraid and not speaking up,” Till said. “The KKK is alive and well right  here in the state of Mississippi. And the governor is not paying attention to it.

“We are in a silent war,” she said.  “A white woman in Jackson in my workplace told me she would hang me with her hood on.”  

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Till weekend commemoration closes with 1000 Men event  

By Earnest McBride
September 5, 2023