Post submitted by Lex Rofes of Jackson, Mississippi

If there were a list of the best cities to be a young activist, it would probably include places like Washington D.C, San Francisco, Boston. Large metropolitan centers with liberal populations. Jackson, Mississippi would likely not appear on such a list.

But a few of us here in Mississippi’s capital are hoping to buck that trend. We’re hoping to do our part to promote positive change in the Magnolia State, and so we were quite excited to learn that HRC’s Project One America campaign was focused specifically on taking steps towards full equality for LGBT people in Arkansas, Alabama, and our own state of Mississippi.

Our group came from a variety of backgrounds. We had some native Mississippians and some out-of-state transplants. We came from a variety of religious backgrounds. But we all find ourselves living in Jackson – a place that we love, but which needs, like many other cities all around our country, some real progress in terms of LGBT equality.

At our meeting this week, we looked back at recent events in our state. We decried the passage of SB 2681, a bill opening the door to discrimination against LGBT people by businesses around the state. We applauded the many cities around Mississippi to pass non-discrimination ordinances.

But most of our meeting was not about the past. It was devoted to looking forward. Discussing what each one of us could do be a part of improving a climate that can be incredibly hostile to non-heterosexuals. So we brainstormed. We talked about education, and whether there might be ways that we could work with our state’s youngest citizens, ensuring that they see individuals of all sexualities as equal. We talked about our mayor, who has, disturbingly, not indicated public support for full LGBT equality. We talked about our own religious institutions, and how they might be able to voice why belief in God need not signify belief in inequality.

We talked. A lot. And that’s good. We’re thankful to HRC for spearheading this initiative that made our discussion possible. But we’re not finished. We’re not treating our conversation as an achievement in and of itself, but as a starting point for far more concrete actions. We are fortunate that HRC has prioritized our region, but it has taken a risk. For anyone out there reading this in Mississippi, Arkansas, or Alabama, it’s time to get our hands dirty.

HRC and organizations like it are putting their faith in us, and we have to prove to them that the South’s activists are up to the task. I’ll be out there, at whatever campaign evens are organized, ready to work. I hope you will too.

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