Riding the Mule Train Legacy

Mule Train

Kayla Hunter, HBHE and Urban Planning Student

Image: Bob Daugherty/AP , https://www.npr.org/2018/05/13/610097454/how-a-mule-train-from-marks-miss-kicked-off-mlks-poor-people-campaign

Learning about rural health issues and problems faced in the community of Clarksdale, Mississippi would easily influence one to paint a sorrowful picture of Clarksdale. But the story of the Mule Train made me feel and think differently. After witnessing the hunger and poverty stricken community of Marks, Mississippi in the 1960s, MLK ignited the Poor People’s Campaign that would send poor Black sharecroppers on a walking journey from Marks to Washington D.C on mules and wagons. Even after his assassination, the people of Marks took the reins and led the Train to Washington. My image of this community shifted from sorrow and pity to one of resilience and strength. Unfortunately, the health problems in the Delta did not end after the advocates returned from Washington D.C. in the 1960s’. There is still much work to be done.

The Marks Project is a community partnership that aims to improve quality of life for residents by addressing education, economic development and recreation. While there my colleagues and I will be supporting the Marks Project and University of Mississippi student efforts to increase grant funding for improved water infrastructure. We will join efforts in data collection through household water quality surveys and testing for lead contamination. I am very excited yet anxious about entering Mississippi to support the Marks Project. Excited to gain skills in health communication and strengthen skills in surveying, data analysis and water testing. I am also excited about what I will learn from working with rural communities as an urban planning student. I am anxious about the super short timeline and the possibility of not delivering a product that is up to standards of the Marks Project or the University of Mississippi. Regardless of what happens, I welcome any and all lessons that come out of the challenges that may be encountered. To carry on the legacy of community-engaged activism and advocacy is a great reward that I look forward to experiencing.

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