Sat04192014

Opinion

Marianna, Ark. looks to shake thuglife image

For years the city of Marianna has been overshadowed with negative stories, media coverage, and images, that cause many people to overlook all the great things the town is responsible for.
 
 Marquis Cooper Sr.

There is an insatiable heartfelt desire to reach out to our youth in order to eliminate the seedlings that breed negativity and to replace them with cultivated seeds for positive changes.  For years the city of Marianna has been overshadowed with negative stories, media coverage, and images, that cause many people to overlook all the great things the town is responsible for.

Twenty years later, individuals still harp on the story of the Chambers brothers (leaders of a Marianna to Detroit crack cocaine connection) and talk about how they put Marianna on the map. Even though these men have repaid their debt to society, many people still choose to view Marianna through the eyes of a story that occurred in the late 80’s.

The recent stories of Curtis Vance (convicted of killing KATV anchorwoman Anne Pressly) and Maurice Clemmons (killed by police who sought him for the shooting deaths of four police officers in Washington state) only added fuel to the fire.

The stories received national attention and provided an image to the world that only thugs, murderers, drug dealers and criminals were being produced in Marianna.

These images ignited the “Our Story” Youth Leadership Conference. We felt something needed to be done to show people across the state and the nation that a new era of those that are concerned about the community has  arisen.

On March 12 of 2010, the Alumni of Lee County School District held its 1st Annual “Our Story” Youth Leadership Conference. Past graduates dedicated an entire day to the students, educators and parents in the community. We motivated, inspired and encouraged over 1,000 students, 75 educators and many parents by sharing our stories of struggle, endurance and success. Graduates from the class of 1990-2001 shared in the event. Since that time, we have had thank you letters, emails, telephone calls, and face-to-face conversations with many of the students, parents and educators who deemed the conference a great help.

The 2nd Annual “Our Story” Youth Leadership Conference will be on March 11.  Classes from 1967-2010 are onboard, with hopes of morethat more.  Our goal is to continue to inspire and encourage the youth to become rejuvenated and empowered to lead productive and progressive lives.  

Now is the time to change the image of Marianna to prove that even though terrible things happen in small communities, good seeds are still being produced in the place many of us will forever call home.

(Marquis Cooper Sr. – a Marianna native – is a professional school counselor and author of “Sista let me tell ya, Bruh if you only knew, Real talk for Parents and Educators, From Me to You.” Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , call 901-786-8060 or visit www.listentothewhispers.org.)

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