Buttigieg tours Mississippi civil rights site and says transportation is key to equity in the US | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Buttigieg tours Mississippi civil rights site and says transportation is key to equity in the US

Reena Evers-Everette, left, daughter of assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers, left, welcomes U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, second from right, Mississippi Transportation Commissioner for the Central District Willie Simmons, second from left, and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., right, to the home of her father, assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Friday toured the home of assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Mississippi's capital city, saying afterward that transportation is important to securing equity and justice in the United States.

“Disparities in access to transportation affect everything else — education, economic opportunity, quality of life, safety,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg spent Thursday and Friday in Mississippi, his first trip to the state, to promote projects that are receiving money from a 2021 federal infrastructure act. One is a planned $20 million improvement to Medgar Evers Boulevard in Jackson, which is a stretch of U.S. Highway 49.

Evers' daughter, Reena Evers-Everette, talked to Buttigieg about growing up in the modest one-story home that her family moved into in 1956 — about how she and her older brother would put on clean white socks and slide on the hardwood floors after their mother, Myrlie, waxed them.

It's the same home where Myrlie Evers talked to her husband, the Mississippi NAACP leader, about the work he was doing to register Black voters and to challenge state's strictly segregated society.

Medgar Evers had just arrived home in the early hours of June 12, 1963, when a white supremacist fatally shot him, hours after President John F. Kennedy delivered a televised speech about civil rights.

After touring the Evers home, Buttigieg talked about the recent anniversary of the assassination. He also noted that Friday marked 60 years since Ku Klux Klansmen ambushed and killed three civil rights workers — Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman — in Neshoba County, Mississippi, as they were investigating the burning of a Black church.

“As we bear the moral weight of our inheritance, it feels a little bit strange to be talking about street lights and ports and highway funding and some of the other day-to-day transportation needs that we are here to do something about," Buttigieg said.

Yet, he said equitable transportation has always been “one of the most important battlegrounds of the struggle for racial and economic justice and civil rights in this country.”

Buttigieg said Evers called for a boycott of gas stations that wouldn't allow Black customers to use their restrooms, and Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who toured sites in his Mississippi district with Buttigieg, said the majority-Black city of Jackson has been “left out of so many funding opportunities” for years, while money to expand roads has gone to more affluent suburbs. He called the $20 million a “down payment” toward future funding.

“This down payment will fix some of the problems associated with years of neglect — potholes, businesses that have closed because there's no traffic," Thompson said.

Thompson is the only Democrat representing Mississippi in Congress and is the only member of the state's U.S. House delegation who voted for the infrastructure bill. Buttigieg also said Mississippi Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker voted for the bill.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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