Fighting to Live: A Symposium on Race and Sustainability


The reality and specter of race continue to plague America. From slavery, to Jim Crow, to even today, simple efforts at subsidence by people of color and the poor were met with terrifying and debilitating, overt, as well as subtle attacks. Such is the reality still today for many poor and persons of color in this United States. The American South, however, faces particular challenges to sustainable living that have proved daunting. Basic access to food, education, health and housing still elude many in the Southern region.

Mississippi is documented with the worst conditions in these areas. As a result, activists, scholars, health providers in the regions have been struggling to innovate and create opportunities that could help enable sustainable life for the many disadvantaged groups in Mississippi. The University of Mississippi is committed to helping in that effort.

Consequently, activists, scholars, food, health, education and justice experts will convene at the University of Mississippi School of Law from April 1-3, 2015 for the second Sustainability Conference. In this second installment of the conference, the participants and community will examine the data collected on sustainability efforts in MS and other parts of the country to determine loci and means of future actions and efforts.

The symposium will open with a trip to the Delta on Wednesday morning with students and conference participants providing legal and other support to members of the community.

The theme of this year’s opening dinner is “The Sustainability Movement Past and Present: Passing and Carrying the Torch”. The opening dinner, on Wednesday, April 1, features key civil rights leader Dr. Bernard Lafayette, along with rising figure Atty, Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

  1. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, is one of our civil rights giants, a core leader of the civil rights movement with Dr.King in Nashville, TN in 1960 and in Selma, AL in 1965 as well as a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC);
  2. Attorney Chokwe Antar Lumumba, is a civil rights activist and rising figure in the fight for sustainability

Other Panelists in the news: Rita Bender. Pres. Obama awards freedom medal to Mississippi Burning trio. Atty. Rita Bender accepts award for husband Michael Schwerner:

This year’s conference is in partnership with the Center for Population Studies, the William Winter Institute For Racial Reconciliation, the Mississippi Center for Justice, the Center for Racial Inclusion, the Mississippi Sustainable Ag. Network and the Wallace Center Winrock International. See below for a more detailed schedule.

$25.00 registration fee for participants

$0.00 for students

Fellowships to waive the registration fee will be available to individuals who contact Professor Alexandre by email at with a letter listing the reason for the waiver.

Attorneys can earn up to 6 1/2 CLE credits when attending this year’s race and sustainability conference.


Download PDF Program

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Trip to the Delta

7:a.m. – 4:00 p.m

[Bus and cars will depart from the University of Mississippi School of Law’s Parking Lot]
[We will depart from Cleveland, MS to return to Oxford, MS at 4:00 p.m.]

Visits in Mound Bayou – 9 a.m.-11:15 p.m.

Lunch at the Delta Health Center (703 Martin Luther King Rd, Md. Bayou, MS 38762) – 11:15-12:30pm

Trip to the DSU Center for Community and Economic Development (1417 College Street, Cleveland, MS) – 12:30-12:45pm


1:00 p.m.—2:30 p.m.–Panel I: A Celebration of Mound Bayou’s legacy 

Dorothy Scarborough—Director, Mississippians Engaging a Greener Agriculture (MEGA)
Victoria Jackson—Project Coordinator, Delta Music Institute Mobile Lab Margo
Christians Brooks—Exec. Director, Taborian Urgent Care Center
Roberto Gallardo—Director, Intelligent Community Institute/ Assoc. Extension Professor, MSU
Linda Stringfellow—Director, AmeriCorps*VISTA/Cntr for Economic Dvlpmnt
Chiquikta Fountain—Parent Coach/Delta Region, Parents for Public Schools
Vaish Shastry—Exec. Director, Sunflower Cnty Freedom Project
Katrina Sims—History PhD Candidate, U of M, Taborian Hospital & the Knights & Daughters of the Tabor

2:30—4:00 p.m.—Panel II: Challenges and opportunities for Collaboration 

Demarc A. Hickson PHD, MPH—COO, My Brother’s Keeper
John Fairman—Delta Health Center
Jody Holland—Prof,/Univ. of Mississippi, Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network/MS Food Policy Counsel
Victoria Jackson—Delta Music Institute Mobile Lab
Amy Campbell—Director, Hlth Law Clinic, U. of Memphis Law School
Courtney Choi—Attorney, MS Cntr for Justice
Aurelia Jones-Taylor–CEO, Aaron E. Henry Comm. Health Services Cntr/Lead Partner, New Pathways to Health Initiative & the Right! NICU & Breastfeeding Project
Desta Heff—Delta Directions
Robert Gates, Tri-County Cooperative

4:00 p.m. Departure back to Oxford, MS

Opening Dinner

View Flyer

6:30 P.M. – 8:30 p.m.: The Atrium, University of Mississippi School of Law

Opening address: The Sustainability Movement Past and Present: Passing and Carrying the Torch

Dr. Bernard Lafayette–Co-founder, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Chokwe Antar Lumumba— Attorney & Civil Rights Activist, Lumumba & Freelon Assocs.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Registration Continues all Day – 8:00 a.m.—7:15 p.m., Room 1115

7:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m.: Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:00 a.m.– 8:30 a.m.: Welcoming Remarks
 by Daniel Doyle (Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network)

Richard Gershon, Dean & Professor of Law, UM School of Law
Michèle Alexandre
, Associate Professor of Law, University of Mississippi School of Law, Oxford, MS
John Green, Center for Population Studies
Susan Glisson, Director, William Winter Institute

8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Opening Speaker: Fighting for Sustainability and Justice in the Context of Education 

Bill and Rita Bender – Civil Rights Attorneys, Activists, & Educators

9.30 a.m.—10:30 a.m. – Educational Challenges as a Hurdle to Sustainability in Mississippi

Mike Sayer – Southern Echo

10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. – Networking Break

10:45 a.m. – 12:00 a.m. – Teaching the Next Generation: The struggle for Food and Education – (Professor Michèle Alexandre, Moderator)

James Tolleson – FoodCorps, Greenwood, MS
Sunny Young – Good Food For Oxford Schools
Dorothy Scarborough – Director, MEGA
Venesia Wilson – Piney Woods School
Faya Rose Toure – Attorney, Civil Rights activist, founder of the annual commemoration of the Bloody Sunday March in Selma, Al, Founder of the Civil Rights Museum, Selma, AL

12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m., Luncheon Speakers – Intersection of the Justice System and the Struggle for Sustainability – (Kindaka Sanders, Moderator)

Ainka Sanders Jackson – Assistant Public Defender, Juvenile Division/Metro Guardian Ad Litem
Daniel Roberts – Legislative Coordinator, National Governors Association
Kyra McDonald—Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow

1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.: Roundtable One: Economic Realities and Sustainability – Farmers markets, Grant programs and poor and disadvantaged communities – (Daniel Doyle,  Moderator)

John Green – University of Mississippi, Director for the Center for Population Studies, (Results and questions from data on efforts at Sustainability in Mississippi)
Victoria Jackson—Project Coordinator, Delta Music Institute
Kindaka Sanders – Sorepo records and Assistant Professor, TSU law
Barbara Combs – Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Southern Studies
Marie Cope – University of Mississippi
Catarina Passidomo – Assistant Professor, Southern Studies/Southern Foodways

2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.: Models for Sustainable Rural Sectors – (Professor. John Green, Moderator)

Linda Stringfellow—Director, AmeriCorps*VISTA/Cntr for Economic Dvlpmnt
Gilbert Thompson – 
Natural Resource Director, MS Band of Choctaw
Hollis Watkins – Food rights as civil rights
Daniel Doyle – Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network
Daniel Teague and Ben Burkett – MS Association of Cooperatives
Wendell Paris – Community Gardens in Jackson, MS
Calvin Head – Director, Milestone Cooperative
Lorena Lewis-Quioz – Health Department

3:45 p.m.—4:00 p.m. Networking Break

4:00 p.m. –5:00 p.m.: Student Roundtable – (Professor. Antonia Eliason, Moderator)

Taylor Baronich – Struggles to survive in the context of housing
Whitney Griffin—UM School of Law
Jacob Ladnier—UM School of Law
Jillian Cowart University of Mississippi
Kendall McDonald – Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network/Intern
Katrina Sims – PHD Candidate, Taborian Hospital & Knights & Daughters of the Tabor

5:00 p.m.—7:00 p.m.: Health disparities and Access to Health as major threats to Sustainability – (Professor. Mike Hoffheimer, moderator)

Amy Campbell – University of Memphis Health Law Center
Demarc A Hickson PHD, MPH – Chief operating officer of My Brother’s Keeper
Monica Wharton – Regional Medical Center V.P./General Counsel
Aurelia Jones-Taylor – CEO of the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Services Center/Lead Partner, New Pathways to Health Initiative and the Right! from the Start NICU and Breastfeeding Project
John Fairman – Delta Health Center
Desta Heff – Delta Directions

7:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m.: Closing Remarks and Reception – Law School Atrium

Conference Partners

Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network
The Winter Institute
Mississippi Center for Justice
The University of Mississippi School of Law
The University of Mississippi Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement

For any questions, please contact Professor Michele Alexandre by email at or by phone at 662-915-6858.