When Sedrick Smith was elected the first African-American mayor of Charleston, Miss., a small community on the hill-line that overlooks the impoverished Mississippi Delta, he had a vision of a city with citizens of both races more involved in the community.
For the first time in the city’s 176 year history, a 41-year-old mayor of Charleston, the youngest ever to serve the community, hosted a charity ball Saturday night that brought together 300 local residents, a mixture of whites and Africa-Americans. The $15 per person catered dinner and dance was held in the Charleston Middle School gymnasium
“We could have sold another 300 tickets if we had a larger place,” Mayor Smith said.
“I always wanted to do something of this nature” he added. “I’m just trying to get the community involved more than they have been — to share knowledge, to meet and greet. I want the community to feel a part of the city instead of just being the city,” Mayor Smith said, adding “this is not about me, it is about the people of this community.”
Initially, Mayor Smith thought about holding a marathon but his sister, Carolyn Johnson, an active community leader, came up with a new idea for the first year of the mayor’s administration.
“Our mother and father both died of cancer and everybody has been affected in one way or another by cancer so we decided to hold the ball with funds going to the American Cancer Society,” Mayor Smith said.
The charity ball and a Rally For The Cure of Cancer scheduled for April 12 will raise funds to support the Cancer Society’s research and assistance to Charleston area citizens.
Masters of ceremonies for the event were John Allison, an artist, and son of world renowned jazz musician, Mose Allison, and community leader Charles Johnson. Program participants included Glendora Miss. Mayor Johnny B. Thomas, Rev. Derrick Williams Sr., LaJoyce Stewart and Glenna Callender, executive director of the Charleston Arts and Revitalization Effort (CARE).
Mayor Smith said Charleston has benefited from good community leadership, especially through CARE, which has involved strong leaders from both races. “What I want to instill in Charleston is that there are many things we can do together, to bring people together. Our people are so eager to do more, I get great ideas every week. And everybody wants to do it right now,” Mayor Smith said.
“It is really a beautiful thing to see people so involved,” he added
Cal Trout, a local leader and farmer, recently contributed an article (https://hottytoddy.com/index.
“Charleston is unique in that it is one of two county seats in Tallahatchie County, which is most famous for producing a jury that acquitted Emmett Till’s killers. But, decades prior to the infamy that trial brought, Charleston was home to the world’s largest lumber mill, Lamb Fish Lumber Company. At the turn of the 20th century it was one of the largest, most progressive cities in North Mississippi. This dichotomy makes for an interesting contemporary dynamic, as vestiges of its cosmopolitan early days exist right alongside a sometimes-unfortunate manifestation of historical racial strife,” Trout wrote.
“(Mayor Smith) comes across as an almost inexplicably post-racial politician. But one who also understands the lingering effects historical injuries have on those he serves,” Trout added.
The Saturday’s gala was unique in the history of Charleston for several reasons, not the least of which was the attendance at the ball of Mississippi mayors from Grenada, Beulah, Rosedale, Shelby and Glendora.
In opening remarks, Glenna Callender said “We are here for three major reasons. We are here to honor Sedrick Smith, the first black major and youngest mayor in the history of Charleston. We are here tonight to ‘Rally for a Cure’ for the dreaded disease, cancer; to raise money for research and to help community cancer patients. Some of you in this room are survivors, we honor you.
“But we are also here to honor and celebrate community, the coming together to help each other, to improve community relationships for the benefit of Charleston,” Callender said.
Mayor Smith has been married for nearly 10 years to Kim Bullock-Smith.
Courtesy of HottyToddy.com contributing writers