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House Bill 1020: Mississippi Burning...

House Bill 1020: Mississippi Burning 2023

By: Zakiya Summers - February 19, 2023

State Rep. Zakiya Summers

State Rep. Zakiya Summers asks, “Why is it okay for the state to have an adverse relationship with its Capital City?”

Jackson has suddenly received a lot of so-called concern after many years of disinvestment and denial from the state of Mississippi. The concern now is under the guise of public safety because this is “Our Capital City.” Jackson is not just the Capital City. Jackson is my home, and my roots run deep in Jackson.

My grandfather was William Bill Summers. Bill Summers owned the Summers Hotel, which used to be on Pearl Street near Jackson State University. The Summers Hotel was a safe haven for black motorists because traveling while black in the 40s, 50s, and 60s was extremely dangerous. The Summers Hotel was one of two hotels in Jackson where black people could stay. Granddaddy later added the Subway Lounge to provide entertainment to guests and the public at large. You may have heard about it or have even been there.

I don’t know if granddaddy would be surprised that in 2023 it is still dangerous for black people to travel or that mothers, like me, and fathers must have a very different and necessary conversation with our black sons about compliance with police so that you can make it home alive. I do believe that he would be proud that I’m living out my ancestors’ dreams.

HB 1020 is an effort at a state takeover of the Capital City. Not only is it complete with flaws, but it is also unconstitutional, taking away the rights of citizens in the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) to elect members of the judiciary. In addition, it goes against the intent of the creation of the CCID in the first place. It is taxation without representation.

This is not a new thing for the state of Mississippi. This is an old maneuver out of a historical playbook framed in the name of cutting crime. From an attempted airport takeover to an attempted public school district takeover to a deliberate plan to starve Jackson leadership of resources and take control of our assets. Why must we find ourselves here again?

The state would benefit and should focus its energy on curing and righting the wrongs it is responsible for. 

Mississippi has the highest prison population in the world. Clearly, criminalizing and over policing our community is not the answer. Mississippi has the highest child poverty rate and infant and maternal mortality rate in the country. Mississippi is 50th on quality of life and life expectancy and at the bottom for health care, too.

With all of these things in mind, how is it that Mississippi is using time, energy, and resources to devise a plan to negatively target the city of Jackson but can’t develop a plan to ensure that all Mississippians have access to healthcare, early education, the ballot box, and all of the things needed to improve the quality of life for our citizens?

Why does the state refuse to work with city leaders to support the proposals we advocate for? Why is it okay for the state to have an adverse relationship with its Capital City? What other state in these United States that treats its Capital City this way?

Meanwhile, corporations get tax cuts, marginalized communities continue to be targeted, and partisan politics continue to keep us separated and divided. 

I am dissatisfied and you, the citizens of this state, should be, too. Instead of the leadership working alongside us, leadership is working against us – looking to create a city within a city. It is a dangerous precedent.

What’s next and who’s next? It’s ridiculous and shameful. And Mississippi will continue to burn until it does right by all of her people.

There is an opportunity to change course and not recreate a punitive puzzle that perpetuates pain and promotes power and profit. House Bill 1020 must die. The state can use taxpayers’ dollars to support the systems of governing we already have in place instead of diverting them to an island within the city of Jackson that creates a separate but unequal system.

We need political will to create a space of collaboration that brings Jackson legislators to the table in order to work towards meaningful solutions. We must protect democracy at all costs.

About the Author(s)
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Zakiya Summers

Zakiya Summers represents House District 68 in the Mississippi House of Representatives, representing Hinds and Rankin Counties. In the State House, she sits on the following committees: Public Education, Elections and Apportionment, Public Health and Human Services, County Affairs, and Workforce Development. Zakiya also serves as the Public Information Officer for the House Democratic Caucus and Vice-Chair of the Technology/Public Relations Committee of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus. She is the former Director of Communications and Advocacy for the ACLU of Mississippi. Prior to the ACLU, she served as Events and Communications Director for One Voice.