By Talbert Toole
Nine Democratic candidates are vying to be elected Mississippi’s next governor with hopes to turn the state blue. One of the candidates, Velesha Williams, said to a small crowd at the University of Mississippi on Saturday that a black woman can win the governorship.
“Can a black woman win governor in Mississippi?” Williams asked the crowd. “I say ‘yes.'”
Williams’ campaign is positioned on two vital issues that Mississippi communities continuously face: healthcare and education.
Affordable healthcare for all is an issue democratic presidential hopefuls have been campaigning for this year. Williams is no different. She said all Mississippians should have access to affordable healthcare coverage, including Medicaid expansion.
“I believe every Mississippian is entitled to and deserves healthcare coverage, period,” she said.
Williams said as the leader of Mississippi and for someone who says they care for the citizens, it is immoral to deny thousands of Mississippians healthcare coverage.
When elected governor, Williams said she will serve all Mississippians.
“I won’t be playing partisan games,” she said. “I’m going to do what is in the best interest of Mississippians. That is who my loyalty will be to.”
Education is one of Williams’ top priorities, she said. She said the state must ensure the money that finances the state’s education system is actually received by teachers and students.
“Currently, that is not happening,” she said. “It is staying clogged up at the top. We are too administrative-heavy.”
Mississippi is ranked 50th in the nation for education (Attainment Rank: 49; Quality Rank: 50), according to a 2018 Forbes analysis.
According to the analysis, Mississippi also has the third-lowest percentage of high school diploma holders, behind Texas and California. It also has the lowest percentage of bachelor’s degree holders.
After her tenure with the military, Williams returned to the Jackson metro-area where she began teaching elementary education. While there, she said she had a first-hand account of underfunded facilities. She said the school she taught in should have been condemned, but students are currently still receiving an education in that exact building.
In addition to functional, maintained facilities, Williams also says students and teachers need adequate resources.
“The disparities that exist in this state when it comes to the resources… some kids don’t have books,” Williams said.
While some students in Mississippi do not have books, some students have the exact opposite — two sets of books or even computers issued by their respective school, she said.
“The resources that [the state] has needs to be equitable across the board,” she said.
Williams also noted the state’s infamous “Brain Drain.” For every person earning a four-year or higher degree at a Mississippi institution of higher learning, the state has a smaller number that actually enters into the state’s workforce, according to the Mississippi Brain Drain Commission.
“As long as we have failing schools, racial division, et cetera,” Williams said. “That’s why people leave.”
In order to become prosperous in education, the state has to change the way it has been operating, she said.
Recently, the University of Mississippi’s interim chancellor Larry Sparks gave his approval for the relocation of the Confederate statue which resides in the Lyceum-Circle. The decision came after student-led organizations advocated for its relocation.
Williams said she applauds the students for making the decision to relocate the statue from its current location to a “more suitable place”.
“I honor that decision,” she said. “I honor it because I think its right that folks listen.”
The rhetoric surrounding the statue, along with the state flag, are symbols that represent an ugly past the state holds, she said.
For more information on Velesha Williams’ race to the governor’s house, visit her campaign website.