Mississippi Journey Attracts A Diverse Audience on Race Dialogue

 

Conversation is a key to understanding. Recently three individuals

invited the public for a dialogue on race relations, understanding and

community building.

 

The conversation centered on the life experiences each had in the

Magnolia state of Mississippi. “Mississippi Journey: Three Life

Experiences,” was held June 14 at First Congregational United Church

of Christ in Phoenix. The introspective program featured three

Arizonans connected to one state, from very different cultural and

ethnic backgrounds, Rev. James Pennington – senior pastor at First

Congregational United Church of Christ, Lisa Chow – artistic director

of Desert Dance Theatre and president of the Arizona Dance Coalition,

and Floyd Alvin Galloway – Owner of AGE2 Management Services, host of

the Alvin Galloway Show and Arizona Informant Contributor.

 

Mississippi is a state of many paradoxes, conflicts and puzzles, but

also through its struggles molded people of strength and character.

Rev. Pennington, Chow and Galloway, talked about their vastly

different life experiences surrounding their upbringing in Mississippi

including: ethnic culture, religion, socio-economics, philosophies and

politics and other influences that shaped their lives to become who

they are today.

 

Rev. James B. Pennington, who is gay, was born and raised in

Booneville, MS into a racist John Birch Society family. He moved with

family to the South Side of Chicago when he was 11 years old. He grew

up as a “Mississippi Sissy” which was challenging and helped him to be

more resilient and confident of where his life’s journey has taken

him. His family, looked him upon as an outcast not only because of his

sexual orientation, but mostly because he refused to follow in the

family’s racist overtones. Connected to the downtown Phoenix community

focused on his social justice work in immigration and marriage

equality.

 

Lisa R. Chow was born and raised in Greenville, MS by Chinese

immigrant grocery store/restaurant owners. She grew up living three

different lives, 1) with traditional Chinese values, 2) in public and

private school that was predominately Caucasian, then 3) worked in the

family business that was in a predominately African American

neighborhood. Having a number of Black friends she was looked upon as

somewhat of an outcast in her family, because of her associations as

was Rev. Pennington.

 

Floyd Alvin Galloway, originally from Rockford, Il, would migrate

annually to his parents’ native Mississippi home. He spent numerous

summer months in the sweltering heat of discrimination and America’s

racial class system. The racial and political climate was as thick as

the humidity in the Mississippi Delta area during the 60’s civil

rights movement. He noted the challenges of coming from a free and

open society in his hometown and going south to a closed segregated

community had its consequences some of which could have been deadly

looking at Mississippi’s racist murderous history.

 

The evening also shed more light on a Chinese American community in

the Mississippi Delta through Washington D.C. filmmaker and special

guest, Samantha Cheng – executive producer of Heritage Series, and her

documentary Honor and Duty: The Mississippi Delta Chinese. The film

shows how Chinese families built an enduring kinship and friendship

through small town markets and grocery stores in the segregated South.

Some of Chow’s family members were featured in the film. Rev.

Pennington and Galloway were like most people, were unaware of the

Chinese-American community in the delta region of the state until they

met Chow.

 

This project was made possible by a grant from Arizona Humanities with

assistance from a number of sponsors. “We were extremely pleased with

the turnout and participation of the audience,” said Galloway. “We had

110 people sign up and over 160 people showed up. We could have went

on for a while with the lively question and answer period.”

 

“We hope people realize we are all human, we are all part of the

community and we should all feel welcomed as community members and

contributors,” expressed Galloway. They are looking to sponsor more

programs in the future to highlight diversity and community

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