By Mari Lampkin, Mississippi First Summer Intern 2022 

During the summer of 2022, Mississippi First hosted two communications interns. Each intern wrote a reflection about their experience. 

The summer I turned twelve, I went on a field trip with the Sunflower County Freedom Project. We were at a civil rights museum somewhere in Alabama or maybe Memphis. At the time, I was a big collector of button pins and was looking in the gift shop to add some pins to my collection. I remember seeing one with a quote from Gandhi that said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Twelve-year-old Mari thought that it was really deep, so I bought it. To this day, the quote still resonates with me. 

Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, there wasn’t much to do, and I’m pretty sure that hasn’t changed much in the last few years. However, with the help of my mother, El-Gurean Lampkin, I continued my education outside of school in the form of summer enrichment programs and socially engaging after-school programs like the Sunflower County Freedom Project. These programs allowed me the opportunity to learn how I can be the change I wish to see in Mississippi and my community.

This path led me to Mississippi First. Through one of my mentors (and current Mississippi First board chair), LeKesha Perry, I found an opportunity to apply my marketing background and love for bettering Mississippi at a nonprofit that has been the leading voice in primary education in Mississippi. The Mississippi First staff works tirelessly to help advocate for funding and write accountability policies to ensure a high-quality curriculum for Mississippi’s youth. Being in this environment taught me a lot about the hoops and hurdles that one must endure to make a state-level change. However, it has also taught me the importance of passion and dedication to achieving your goals. The staff here has truly inspired me not to be deterred if I do not see immediate progress. It is discipline and consistency that results in change. Therefore, I plan to apply the knowledge I’ve gained through my internship to work toward starting my own nonprofit organization. 

I would want my nonprofit organization to inspire others and help shape our community into a safer and more prosperous place. Through educational seminars, fundraising events, and mentorship programs, I want to give others the tools they might need to indulge in their passions and follow their dreams. I don’t want our youth discouraged by a lack of wealth, resources, or opportunities. I definitely believe we can break generational curses and create the opportunity our families were denied or not given a chance to obtain due to poverty, racism, and systemic oppression. 

I was truly blessed to be able to lead the life I live, but I know others are not as fortunate. Individual agency is irrelevant when you are born with a disadvantage in a society that discriminates against you. Whether it be the color that covers your body, your gender, what you decide to do with your Sundays, or what side of the tracks you grew up on, you can still be inspired to better yourself and in return better your community. In the end, we must all be the change we wish to see in Mississippi.

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