Grassroots Leadership Training Weekend
This past weekend (June 8 & 9th), MIRA cosponsored a grassroots leadership training event along with NDLON (National Day Laborer Organizing Network), SEIRN (Southeast Immigrant Rights Network), and the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights. Around 30 leaders from within immigrant communities across central and southeastern Mississippi were present for this training, which was presented in both Spanish and English. Friday evening events focused on the common struggle that is shared by African Americans and Latinos here in the state, and emphasized the importance of working together to achieve common goals. Mississippi State Representative Percy Watson opened the evening with greetings and a discussion about the cultural exchange that his children (both fluent Spanish-speakers) enjoy as they travel abroad. Representatives from the Hattiesburg chapter of the NAACP, President Clarence Magee and Membership Chair Carrie Magee, spoke about the challenges their communities face regarding voting rights and voter registration.
A special hands-on activity Friday evening, conducted by lead MIRA organizer Kathy Sykes, invited attendees to join in creating a Timeline to chronicle their personal journeys to Mississippi. MIRA prepared an elongated banner style paper containing significant dates from Mississippi history (discovery & founding, emancipation, civil rights, etc). Participants then marked pivotal events in their lives, or the life of their home state or country, that pushed them to emigrate or relocate to Mississippi.
Saturday was a full day of intensive training focused on equipping immigrant leaders to become a “point person” for their communities – ready to respond to issues and direct neighbors and friends in times of crisis. Leaders learned techniques for planning and conducting meetings, and how to effectively target issues and achieve a “win” in the community.
Attendees also learned how to help their community members prepare for the possibility of being deported. Just as people often don’t know what to do (with belongings, pets, vehicles, housing) in the event of a natural disaster, many immigrants don’t have a deportation plan. Being unprepared for a major event like this often has tragic results, such losing custody of children. The grassroots leaders from this weekend’s event are now returning to their communities and helping their neighbors create plans that specify childcare and what to do with personal property.