JONESTOWN — George Taylor, a 2018 Coahoma Early College High School graduate, had concerns about social issues in his hometown Jonestown and put together a community forum at the Sister Kay Building on Wednesday, Nov. 27.
Folders were placed on each chair and statistics about different issues including health, anxiety, teenage suicide and sexual abuse were included. Some of those statistics such as how teenage suicide may be the second leading cause of death for all age groups were read as ice breakers. Door prizes were also given away during the discussion.
“Everything that’s talked about needs to be addressed for people to know,” Taylor said.
Taylor is a computer science major at Tougaloo College after transferring from Coahoma Community College. He plans to come back home, start his own business and formally announced his candidacy for mayor of Jonestown in the 2021 election. Kenny Lester is currently in his first term as mayor.
“People need to have inner peace with themselves,” said Taylor discussing one of the purposes of the forum. “People nowadays are injuring themselves with things that are going on in their lives. Inter peace and self control needs to be talked about.”
Jonestown police chief Rico Smith was one of the speakers. He was a music major in college and served three years in the United States Army.
“Sometimes, as young adults, we already have in our minds what we’re going to do,” Smith said. “Sometimes life events change that because, if you have a belief like I have a belief, you already have a purpose. I never wanted to be a police (officer).”
After finishing his time in the military, Smith was a correction officer at Parchman Mississippi State Penitentiary and found his calling.
“It’s an easy job because you’ve got to have a love for people,” Smith said.
Smith talked about positive effective leadership.
“The thing that you young guys got to know and, if you don’t know, you’ve got to get to know is yourself,” Smith said.
Smith said there will be challenges in life, but doing the right thing for the right reason will pay off. He said his leadership is based on actions, not because he is the police chief.
“It’s supposed to be about serving people and protecting people,” Smith said. “Sometimes serving you might mean giving you a ticket. Sometimes it might mean letting you go. Sometimes it might mean talking to you. Sometimes it might mean telling you you’re under arrest, let’s go to jail.”
The Rev. Bennie Brown, also a member of the Coahoma Community College school board and Jonestown resident, talked about the importance of having faith in yourself.
“You’re able to accomplish anything that you want to accomplish,” Brown said. “You can go from a place like Jonestown, Mississippi, which is probably per capita income at the very bottom. Education, it sits at the bottom, but you can go to the top. We’ve proven that by young people that have worked their way to the top.”
Brown said his father had a third grade education, but was a barber, carpenter and entrepreneur and did many other things to make a living.
“He raised 14 children and he never allowed us to bring the word can’t into our vocabulary,” Brown said. “I can’t do this. I can’t do that.”
Brown said his mother had an eighth grade education, but also gave her children so much love.
Reggan Mason, partnership specialist for Atlanta Regional Census Center, is housed in Clarksdale where she serves Tunica, Coahoma, Quitman, DeSoto and Tallahatchie counties.
She brought awareness of the next census April 1, 2020. Censuses are done every 10 years. A count of people in each household with names, dates of birth and race are needed.
“When the government asks us to do that, it depends on money, federal dollars,” Mason said. “Over $675 million are set aside annually for each state.”
The count determines how much funding each area gets.
“We’re not asking for personal information,” Mason said.
Beginning March 2020, Mason said invitation letters will be sent to homes to get ready for the census count. The information can be submitted online, by phone or on paper.
More information on the census may be found at https://2020census.gov/en and contact numbers and emails may be found at https://2020census.gov/en/contact-us.html.