‘Clean, Safe, Drinkable Water’: Jackson Town Hall Gives Update on Complaint Against State

JACKSON, Miss.—On Monday evening, New Hope Baptist Church’s sanctuary resembled a Sunday morning church service, but instead of gathering to hear scripture, citizens from across the capital city gathered for a town hall meeting on the Jackson water crisis. More than 100 people attended the meeting to discuss the NAACP’s Title VI Complaint against the State of Mississippi and how it disseminated federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson said the national organization filed the Title VI complaint against the State of the Mississippi for discriminatory practices against the City of Jackson. The goal of the complaint, he said, is to elevate the conversation and target the entity he says has caused the harm: the state government.

“What I’m saying is what happened in August was predictable,” Johnson told the crowd. “It was an intentionality by the state to starve the city of resources over a matter of decades. It is not a new occurrence. In fact, many of you participated in helping elect Harvey Johnson in 1997, and that’s when we began to see an acceleration by the state to starve the city of resources.”

Harvey Johnson Jr. was Jackson’s first Black mayor. Johnson has long been critical of attempts to lay the blame for the capital city’s water woes at the feet of its more recent Black leadership—after the change from white administrations starting with his election. In 2021, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann highlighted Johnson’s immediate predecessor Kane Ditto as the last leader who meaningfully invested in Jackson’s water system.

“You remember during Kane Ditto’s administration; he did repair work on water and sewer,” Hosemann told the Mississippi Free Press at the Stennis Capitol Press Forum. “So what happened since then?”

Johnson pushed back on Hosemann’s characterization to the Mississippi Free Press. “During my administration we spent over $200 million on water- and sewer-infrastructure improvements over 12 years,” Johnson said later that day. “I don’t know what the impetus is behind all of this misinformation. I hope it’s not demographics.”

On Oct. 17, 2022, U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson

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