Dear friends and neighbors:

Forty years ago, three communities, white, black, and Choctaw, lived in Neshoba County separated by fear, ignorance, and bigotry.
Although all of us were Neshoba Countians, Mississippians, and Americans, living together in a relatively small geographic region, we lived apart in our separate communities seeking protection and self-preservation among our own kind. Mainly what we knew of one another was to be wary. Being a small community many of us did interact and often positively, but mutual respect, honor, and acceptance were indeed not commonalities shared between us.

Being forced apart, we were often denied the opportunity to learn from one another’s differences and to gain from each other’s strengths. Forty years ago, three young men who ignored the walls of separation between our communities were sacrificed to the fears and hatreds that long simmered throughout our country. Forever since, Neshoba County has been associated with an act of infamy.
However, those three that we lost, live among us today.

While it is right to mourn them, we honor them more when we celebrate their lives for the positive changes they provided to all of us.

Today white, black, and Choctaw still live together in Neshoba County. We also work together, transact business together, learn together, worship together and play together.
While we have not eliminated fear, ignorance, or bigotry, we have surpassed those constraints and are prospering together.
While we continue to maintain our separate communities, we do so now not to, but because we choose to in order to preserve our unique cultural identities.

Now, forty years later, we come together with ease, and as equals not just to remember the trauma of the past, but more importantly, to admire our present, and plan our future together. All of our communities have changed for the better, we have an economy that is flourishing, our people are working and prospering with the Tribe alone providing more than 9,000 jobs. When we work together and support one another, good things happen.
On behalf of The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, I commend Philadelphia Coalition for its efforts to celebrate our unity.

Phillip Martin
Tribal Chief