Philadelphia’s first black mayor, James Young, will be the guest speaker at East Mississippi Community College’s Black History Month celebration.

January 25, 2018

Philadelphia Mayor James Young will be the guest speaker Feb. 25 at East Mississippi Community College’s Black History Month celebration on the college’s Scooba campus.

The event, which will be open to the public at no charge, will take place beginning at 7 p.m. in the Stennis Auditorium.

“We are honored to have Mayor Young as our guest speaker for Black History Month this year,” said LaPari Morant, EMCC assistant dean of student affairs and housing. “He is a local civil rights icon.”

Young, who was elected in 2009 as Philadelphia’s first black mayor, is in his third term in office. A Neshoba County native, he grew up on a family farm along with five siblings during the turbulent civil rights era.

In 1964, Neshoba County was thrust in the national spotlight with the murder of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner during what would become known as the Freedom Summer murders.

“I consider myself being born in some of the best of times and some of the worst of times,” Young said. “Some of the things that occurred during the 1950s and 1960s really put a negative spin on the state of Mississippi and elsewhere as well. But now we are living in a time when we can be part of the change and the future, a part of the peace, equality and opportunity. For that I am thankful.”

Young said the likely topic for his presentation at EMCC will be “change will come.”

“I have always said that sometimes we miss an opportunity to be a part of the change,” Young said. “I think change is now. I think the seasons for opportunity are as about as open as they are ever going to be. The educational system is open to all of us. Now it is left up to us to function within the change that is already taking place. I don’t think we have to wait any longer. I just think we have to participate.”

Young said he did not come from a well-to-do family and never imagined in his youth he would make it to where he is today.

“We didn’t know we were poor,” Young said. “We just always desired to have better.”

He earned his Emergency Medical Technician certification from Meridian Community College and training as a paramedic from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

In 1991, Young was elected to the Neshoba County Board of Supervisors where he served until 2008. Young is entering his 28th year as pastor at Calvary Apostolic Faith Church in Louisville.

Young said he loves his role as mayor of the city of Philadelphia.

“I did not do it by myself,” Young said. “There were a lot of things that lined up prior to me getting here, including the good reputation of my father and my mother.”

Young said it is important that youths today remember the struggles of the past “not to dredge up something to incite but to remind of us how frail we are and how important we are to each other moving forward.”

Most importantly, he would encourage students to take advantage of the educational and leadership opportunities that exist today.           

“I always say when opportunity comes you must be prepared mentally and physically to handle that,” Young said. “If you miss it, it is nobody’s fault but yours.”

EMCC’s Reflection Singers will also perform during the event.