When the late Nina Simone penned “Mississippi Goddamn,” the state rightfully was under the country’s microscopic because of its staunch and deadly opposition to desegregation, the Civil Rights Movement, and its supporters. The song was released in 1964 in response to the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Baptist Church where six young Black girls were killed, and the assassination of Medgar Evers that same year.
Mississippi stepped into the nation’s spotlight in 1955 with the kidnapping and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. The accused murderers were acquitted of the crime but would later confess and provide a detailed account of the murder to a national magazine.
Three Civil Rights workers were found murdered in Mississippi during Freedom Summer in 1964. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were in the state to register Black voters when 20 Ku Klux Klansmen tortured, lynched and then buried the men in a dam.
The city ofﬁcials in each of the counties that these atrocities occurred deliberately obstructed justice, withheld pertinent information, and assisted in the perpetrators’ escape from justice. Last year, after massive rainfall created a major flood that caused an already problematic water system to fail, Jackson, Miss. suffered a severe water crisis that forced residents to drink and use bottled water. Even though the state has appointed a new manager to oversee the beleaguered water system who claims that the water is now consumable, Jackson residents report that the water has “chronic odor and discoloration” coming out of the tap.
It is unfortunate that Mississippi is once again in the news, and this time, Black America will be tasked with seeking the justice that has become elusive to Black Mississippians. In May, Aderrien Murry, an 11-yearold, was shot in the chest after dialing 911 regarding a potential episode of domestic violence. Murry was instructed to call 911 by his mother when her former boyfriend showed up unannounced at their residence in the early hours of the morning. Upon arriving at the residence, the police ordered everyone out of the house. As young Aderrien exited his bedroom, a police ofﬁcer shot him in the chest. The family has since ﬁled a $5 million lawsuit against the Indianola Police Department. The ofﬁcer was suspended without pay with the investigation pending.
Rasheem Carter, 25, who reported to Taylorsville, Miss. police that he had been threatened by a group of White men multiple times, was found months later decapitated and dismembered in the woods after being reported missing by his mother. County ofﬁcials of Taylorsville initially stated that Carter was killed by “wild animals” and that “foul play was not suspected.” After more body parts were found, ofﬁcials now believe Carter was murdered. The Mississippi Coroner’s Ofﬁce has not released Carter’s remains to the family.
After resting in the Hinds County Penal Farm pauper’s grave for ﬁve months, the body of Dexter Wade, 37, was exhumed last week. His mother, Bettersten Wade, led an exhaustive search for her son after she reported him missing March 14. While police pretended to not know of the whereabouts of her son, the truth is that an off-duty Jackson Police Department ofﬁcer hit Wade while he was walking near the interstate. However, that is not the complete story. Jackson police claimed that Wade did not have any information that identiﬁed who he was or where he lived. Upon further examination, the decedent had identiﬁcation in his pocket, and via autopsy performed by an independent medical examiner, Wade’s leg was amputated. Ofﬁcials in Jackson reportedly call this incident nothing more than “a lack of communication” on the part of the missing persons department and the coroner’s ofﬁce. Yet there still are unanswered questions in this case that no one in an ofﬁcial capacity in Jackson readily wants to tackle … or ofﬁcials are hiding from the family and the public.
Something is going on in Mississippi, and after a 50-plus year hiatus, it is time to turn our attention back to this state. With a violent, racist and bloody modern history, Mississippi’s slip is starting to show, again. The simplistic comments of “miscommunication” and “no foul play” ring authentically as code for “We don’t care because the individual is a N-word.” Mississippi has a dark history of cover-ups, lynching and murdering, and then hiding the evidence under the protective eye of local law enforcement.
Aderrien Murry, Rasheem Carter, and Dexter Wade are the latest victims of a seemingly dubious Mississippi law enforcement system. Who can really trust anything Mississippi ofﬁcials say? Now that the light is being unceremoniously shown on the state, we cannot allow justice to be thwarted. We must once again turn the heat up on Mississippi, and any other place in America that practices racism evidenced in the way its Black citizens are being treated.
There is no way that it was a “miscommunication” that Dexter Wade’s body was exhumed at a time not agreed upon by his mother, Bettersten. What a total violation of morality and ethics to bury a body without notiﬁcation of death to the family, and then the exhumation of said body hours before the scheduled presence of family? Was this a “miscommunication” too, or just a Mississippi style cover-up? What kind of police department would declare that a wild animal is to blame for a decapitated head and the dismemberment and disposal of body parts? Had the victims been white Mississippians, would the local Mississippi police departments have reacted in the same lackadaisical, careless attitude?
In answering that question, it is in our best interest to lift our voices and speak for those who can no longer speak, and support the families who are seeking justice for their loved ones.
This is our very own Nina Simone moment.