The Institute has served as a truth teller, bridge builder, facilitator, convener, interpreter, and resource for best practices. The process has always been inclusive, participatory and collaborative.
Where appropriate, the Institute has linked the local community with outside public policy analysts and experts, other educational institutions, faith-based organizations and churches, civic groups, research sources, public and private leaders, and other organizations with needed expertise or skills. However, the focus has always been on helping the local community find its own solution to the immediate challenge, and in that process, develop local leadership, strategies and tools to sustain reconciliation through different issues over the long haul. The ultimate goal has always been a more enlightened, cooperative, respectful, and civil civic culture.
Jackson: Lanier High School. In 2002, WWIRR secured a grant from the First Amendment Center for Lanier High School. The First Amendment School Project is transforming Lanier, an all–black, inner–city high school, into a laboratory of democracy. Through the practice of First Amendment principles, as in the creation of a school newspaper and a school constitution, students will learn the importance of engaged and informed citizenship through the application of the freedoms protected in the First Amendment. In turn, the transformation of the school will serve as a catalyst for community renewal and reconciliation. Jackson, Mississippi
McComb: McComb Legacies, a racial reconciliation initiative developed in partnership with the McComb, Mississippi, Mayor’s Office. In 2004, the Institute began serving the city of McComb as it sought to reexamine the experience of the 1964 Freedom Summer. Forming a new biracial community group, the Institute helped begin an oral history project and began working with the McComb City school district to explore curriculum development on civil rights history. In January 2005, the Institute director moderated a panel discussion for a Martin Luther King Jr. day commemoration and showed a 9–minute film of McComb's civil rights history based on interviews conducted by the Institute. The event launched an intensive commitment to a curriculum development project which the school district—joined by experts from the Washington, DC–based Teaching for Change—became the first in the state to implement. In June 2006, WWIRR and the McComb School District hosted the second annual Civil Rights Education Summit. McComb, Mississippi (Download a PDF file of the McComb Driving Tour brochure. This document requires the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.)
Senate Bill 2718: The Winter Institute spearheaded the passage of Senate Bill 2718, (link downloads PDF document) which was passed during the 2006 Legislative Session. The legislation created the Mississippi Civil Rights Education Commission, which is charged with implementing civil rights and human rights education as part of the state's K-12 curriculum.
University of Mississippi: Documentary film on the Freedom Riders, free to educators.
Drew: Lil' Red Rosenwald School restoration. In spring 2001, WWIRR, in partnership with Delta State University, secured a Mississippi Department of Archives and History Grant for the Holly Grove Community Development Corporation for the restoration of the Drew, Mississippi, Rosenwald School for use as a community center. Reflecting the historic Rosenwald model of black and white partnerships for community building, the "Lil' Red" project is spurring community revitalization and reconciliation in this Delta community. In addition, the Institute has initiated arts education programs for young people to help support this initiative.
Greenwood: In November of 2007, a retired judge from Greenwood asked the Winter Institute for assistance in forming a group to address issues of division in the Greenwood community based on race. Initial conversations identified four areas of concern: economic equity, education, interracial dialogue and trust, internal/external image of Greenwood. The community initiated a public relations campaign in October 2008, through bumper stickers that say “Take personal responsibility for an inclusive Greenwood.” A steering committee is planning a community-wide event to take place in 2009. More information may be found at www.greenwoodinclusive.org. Additionally, a community effort is underway to help repair an area of town called Baptist Town. For more information on that project, visit www.rebuildbaptisttown.org.
Jackson: In March of 2008, congregants from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral asked the Winter Institute to help facilitate dialogue about the legacy of race in the Jackson Episcopal community. The resultant group—which includes parishioners from St. Mark’s, St. Christopher, St. Alexis, and St. Andrew’s Cathedral as well as non–Episcopals from the Jackson area—eventually broadened the conversation about race to focus on “[reflection] and [dialogue] on dreams for a vibrant downtown Jackson community.” Through this process, a few common themes emerged as areas for further study and action: economic justice, neighborhood organizing, media activism, young people/education, reaching out to the not like–minded, and anti–racism training.
Mississippi Gulf Coast: In September 2005, Institute staff visited the storm-ravaged Mississippi Gulf Coast. In this initial visit, the staff met members of the Turkey Creek community in North Gulfport, which was founded by freed slaves in 1866. Since that initial visit, the Institute has helped Turkey Creek Community Initiatives (TCCI), a local non-profit, reach out to other grassroots organizations to help create a coastal coalition of organizations called Steps, devoted to a healthy, socially just, sustainable recovery. More specifically, the Institute serves TCCI through community outreach and grantwriting.
Click here to download the Winter issue of the Steps Coalition newsletter. This 6–page newsletter is a pdf file, which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.
Oxford/Lafayette County: Oxford–Lafayette Amos Network. In fall 1999, WWIRR began working in the local community to help identify issues of concern and to help build local alliances to address those concerns. The result is AMOS, a faith–based coalition of almost twenty congregations working together for systemic social and economic change by training local leaders and identifying and resolving community issues influenced by race. The Amos Network has made significant gains in developing affordable housing, promoting excellence in local public schools, and helping the working poor manage debt. Over the last several years, AMOS helped create an affordable housing initiative with representatives from the city of Oxford, Lafayette County and the University of Mississippi, known as LOU-Home, which provides training for potential homeowners and has placed families in homes in the area.
Philadelphia/Neshoba County: Philadelphia Coalition. In 1964, Philadelphia in Neshoba County was wracked by violence as three civil rights workers volunteering in Freedom Summer were murdered. On the 40th anniversary of the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, the multiracial Philadelphia Coalition called for justice in their deaths and commemorated their sacrifice with a memorial service. The group also helped create a civil rights tour and brochure, began an oral history project, and began planning local curriculum development.
In January 2005, the state of Mississippi brought the first murder charges in the case and on June 21, 2005, an integrated jury convicted the defendant of manslaughter in the case. The coalition is now committed to an educational initiative to understand the state’s dark history so that it can never be repeated. In June 2005, the coalition and the Institute cohosted the Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner Living Memorial Civil Rights Education Summit. 106 teachers attended the 3–day conference and launched a statewide educational network.
Rome: Rome Community Development Organization. In spring 2000, WWIRR helped the RCDO to implement a grant for construction of sewer system. By helping to build the infrastrucsture of the community, WWIRR has helped create a foundation for other community projects that include rebuilding a former drug haven into a youth community center, a youth arts programs, and an oral history project of the community's history. The Institute helped to initiate a children's library, collecting more than 600 books for ages K–12, and a summer reading program. In the summer of 2004, the Institute trained the youth in Rome to conduct oral histories of their community. The young people then visited the campus for a 2-day retreat of classes, web site development, and recreation. In June 2005, several young people from Rome, along with their parents, attended the civil rights education summit in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where they presented a workshop on Sunflower County civil rights history.
Tallahatchie County: The Tallahatchie Board of Supervisors created the Emmett Till Memorial Commission to honor the life and legacy of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old African American murdered in 1955. The biracial Commission seeks to create curriculum in the local schools as well as a civil rights trail to note significant sites in the county. The Institute is supporting the work of this group.