To the Editor:
When I think of our community, the phrase that comes to mind is “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
It’s summer in Mississippi. Sunshine is plentiful. But when you take a closer look at Clarksdale, there are many dark corners in need of sunlight.
Let me say first that I believe that Clarksdale is great. This is a great place to live, to work and to raise a family. I have chosen this to be my home.
But I also believe that it can be even better.
When I look at the systems in Clarksdale, we don’t have pride in any of them. People want to be proud of our homegrown entities such as our education, our tourism, our local municipal power company and our government. To be sure, there are isolated bright spots in each of these areas. But on the whole, no one is fulfilling their responsibilities. Not the people whose job it is to see these systems flourish, and not those of us whose job it is, as citizens, to demonstrate and hold them accountable.
Our leaders — the people who hold positions of power — need to welcome transparency and accountability. Do we as citizens know who is serving in leadership positions and on boards? How and why are they chosen? What are their qualifications and responsibilities? Where do they actually live (not just call home)? Where do their kids go to school? What change have they made happen during their tenure?
I see over and over again a desire to see something better, just look as far as the Facebook groups dedicated to Clarksdale. However, many of the most vocal individuals do not go any further. Many will not get involved to make things better. There is a lack of civic engagement beyond one's close social circles. There are so many positions of power that aren’t held accountable – and then corruption, ineptitude occurs. We accept the status quo. Rather than getting involved, we hope that someone else will fix it.
I think a healthy change will only occur through our relationships. We need change, and it has to happen everywhere in our community. Those of us who aren’t in positions of power have to demand more of those who are. We need to show up and educate ourselves. We need to ask questions when things don’t make sense. We need to have those tough conversations with our friends and acquaintances who are in positions of power. We need to ask why.
It saddens me that we are more surprised when we see good things happen than we are when bad news is brought to light.
Ultimately, I want to see more people involved in our community to ensure transparency in our leadership. I want to see more people attend public board meetings, write letters to the editor, volunteer with local organizations (such as schools and non-profits), to pick up trash, to mow a lawn.
There needs to be a constant representation of Clarksdale’s voices so that our leadership knows we don’t want deals behind closed doors anymore. No more going to a board meeting and the board goes into executive session and you’re stuck waiting in the hallway for two hours. No more voicing concerns on a board agenda only to be told: “we will look into it.”
We want our elected positions to serve with integrity and fair representation. These are positions elected to serve the community, not the other way around.
The only way Clarksdale will ever become that city so many of us want it to be is if we all step up and make it that city.