Jason Shelton


If you have been in Tupelo much you are aware that being a five time All-America City is a source of great pride in our city. Tupelo is often referred to as Mississippi’s All-America City and the fact that we are the deep South’s only five time winner of the prestigious national award is used in marketing, economic development, and other efforts to promote the city.

What I do not feel is talked about enough, however, is why Tupelo is a five time winner of the highest accolade that a city can receive by the National Civic League. Each year the organization sets criteria for that year’s award and the competing cities must explain their efforts to achieve success in whatever particular area is outlined.

At least twice, when we won for the first time in 1967 and our most recent win in 2015, some aspect of racial reconciliation was a factor in Tupelo’s being named as an award winner. Tupelo has a long history of being intentional in seeking diversity and racial harmony. In 1967, the committee noted that the strife and discord seen throughout the South after Brown v. Board of Education was absent in Tupelo, where the city leaders peacefully integrated the public schools without incident. Unlike other cities at the time, private segregation academies did not pop up in Tupelo or the surrounding area.

Even when Tupelo had separate schools, we were one of the few communities that did not have separate sports facilities, parks, and other public areas.

Throughout the decades, Tupelo has made an intentional effort through the bi-racial committee, community Thanksgiving, and now the Mayor’s Outreach Task Force to continue to make progress and distinguish ourselves here in Tupelo from areas which still cling to the past. Our city council, for the first time in the city’s history, has put financial support behind the outreach task force to make sure that our city is being intentional about reaching out to everyone in every part of Tupelo.

These efforts to be inclusive and unified make Tupelo a stronger community where everyone has an opportunity to thrive. I am very proud to be part of the effort to continue to promote inclusion in our All-America city.

Today, Tupelo has become an international city. Toyota, of course, is a Japanese automobile manufacturing company and a huge part of our local economy and community. Phillips Lighting is a Dutch company that has made Tupelo their home for decades and continues to grow. Grammar Industries, a German corporation, has their North America headquarters here in Tupelo. Medical providers here at the nation’s largest rural hospital are from all walks of life. Furniture made right here is shipped to our trading partners all over the world. We have a growing population that includes a growing Latino population. This diversity in our community should be celebrated and embraced by all of our citizens.

On Sunday, Sept. 22, the Tupelo Parks and Recreation Department will host the annual Celebration of Cultures at Ballard Park. The nations of Japan, Mexico, Ghana, Nigeria, Laos, Haiti, India, the Bahamas, and others will be represented. I hope that you will join the fun as we celebrate the diversity in our great city that makes us stronger as a community.

As mayor, I feel it is incumbent upon me to state publicly that racism, discrimination, and bigotry of any nature has no place in our All-America city.

JASON SHELTON is the mayor of Tupelo. Readers can contact him at jason.shelton@tupeloms.gov

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