FINDING PEACE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF
Meet Melissa Earnest, an Ambassador for
The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation
Growing up in the Deep South in the 1980's, will expose you to a lot of things, especially the history of injustice. But, growing up just a few blocks from where Emmett Till was brutally beaten before he was murdered, can change your entire life.
We had the opportunity to speak with one of the Ambassadors of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, Melissa Earnest. She goes into detail to explain why she has fought so hard for justice for Emmett Till and how her upbringing encouraged her to find her own path to learning the truth. Growing up just a few miles from where Emmett was brutally murdered, she talks to BlackVybez about her fight to bring the last standing participant to justice....Take a read...
BVM: Tell us a little about yourself and where you grew up..
MELISSA EARNEST: I am 36 years old. My husband and I have been married for 17 years. We have four children together.
I am currently in college full time, working on my second Criminal Justice degree. I plan on going to law school afterward and my dream is to become a Civil Rights lawyer. I grew up three miles from the shed where 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally beaten before being murdered and dumped into the Tallahatchie River.
Emmett’s injustice has bothered me for the majority of my life and if it weren’t for my mother telling me about him at a young age, I would have probably not known about him. I am also an ambassador at the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation.”
BVM: What about your surroundings and as young woman growing up in the Deep South, triggered the pivot in your life that made you search for the truth?
MELISSA EARNEST: While not all white people are racist, I did witness a lot of racism when I was a child. I share some of those stories on my Facebook page. I think witnessing the direct hatred towards others is what fuels me to fight so hard. Some white people say I go overboard. You have to know where I have seen and heard to understand why I am trying to right the wrongs of my ancestors.
BVM: What about Emmett Till inspired you to push for justice in his case?
MELISSA EARNEST: I am from the same county as Carolyn [Bryant]- Sunflower County. I find it disgusting that 66 years later his family is still having to beg my home state for justice. By the continuation of this injustice, it is teaching people, that look like me, that it is okay to murder young Black boys and get away with it. And that is simply not okay.
BVM: What do you feel a conviction of Carolyn Bryant will accomplish at this point in time?
MELISSA EARNEST: I have dealt with many white sympathizers who continue to go on and on about her age and to let justice be served in eternity. I have a problem with this. If you read the 1955 court transcripts, you can see where she lied and stated that Emmett did not have a speech impediment. He did. He was stricken with polio at a young age and walked with a permanent limp and had a speech impediment. She also referred to this child as an [NWord] on the stand. Emmett’s mother, Mrs. Mamie still Mobley was not even allowed to hear or witness Carolyn testify. How is this fair? Carolyn’s story allegedly changed multiple times up until she took the stand. Justice needs to be served on earth because Emmett’s family deserves that. It is simply teaching white people that they can get away with crimes towards the Black community. Justice is long overdue.
BVM: How do you feel about reparations for Foundational Black Americans? Do you support it and if so, what do you feel reparations should look like for Foundational Black Americans?
MELISSA EARNEST: I 100% support reparations. I very ashamedly come from a very long line of ancestors that were enslavers. I wanted to learn as much as possible when going through my ancestry. As I continue to learn, I learned something that blew my mind. Once enslaved individuals were freed, former enslavers were able to claim them as “lost property” and receive anywhere between what would be $5,000-$6,000 in today’s time PER Freed enslaved person. Freed enslaved men, women, boys, and girls received NOTHING. I look at it like this- if you had a loved one die from medical malpractice, you would sue the doctor or medical facility responsible for their death, right? This is absolutely no different. The Black community has an absolute right to take back what is theirs and collect money for the suffering of their families. I would love to see reparations come out of taxes. I’ll gladly pay. I’d rather my money be lining the pockets of the Black community than to be lining the pockets of lying politicians.
BVM: How do you feel about White Privilege in America and those who turn the other cheek against what's going on?
MELISSA EARNEST: I feel that some white people are uneducated on how white privilege works or they pretend that it doesn’t exist. I don’t think I have ever seen a white person get pulled over by police and their first instinct is to put their hands up. That is white privilege.
BVM: Is the area that you grew up in a part of the changing times or do they still feel that change is not good?
MELISSA EARNEST: Mississippi, in general, has slowly progressed but there is much work to be done. I am so proud of my hometown of Drew. Drew has grown so much since the 1950s. Anytime I see photos of my hometown and events taking place, it consists of diverse backgrounds and people working together to make Drew beautiful. Things regarding Black history are included in the town. I love that. While bad things have happened in Drew in the past, I believe that it has made progress.
BVM: As a White person fighting for Black justice, how are you viewed by other White people? Have you experienced any criticism or backlash from your own family or friends? If so, how do you deal with that? Do you feel that progress has been made? Or, at least a step in the right direction as a result of your involvement?
MELISSA EARNEST: I’ve had some family and friends disown me. I have received hate messages. I received a message from a white man one time and he proceeded to call me a [NWord] lover” and he told me that my husband probably wouldn’t mind if I “was r*ped by [NWord]” He also stated that the Bible said that we are to “stick with our own kind.” I’ve been looking for that Bible verse for over 30 years and have yet to find it. However, I have had a few white people thank me for opening their eyes. Those are the white people that I am talking to.
BVM: As you have become more familiar with the true history, how does it make you feel as a person? Are you ashamed?
MELISSA EARNEST: A lot of times, some white people accuse me of having “white guilt.” That is simply not the case. I have what I like to call “white awareness.” As I look through my family tree, I am very ashamed. I can’t help what occurred in the past. However, I know that my actions now can help the present and the future. I am busy trying to right the wrongs.
BVM: In closing, what do you hope will change, as a result of your voice, fight, or position injustice?
MELISSA EARNEST: I try to bring awareness to any injustice that comes across my desk. I simply want people, who look like me, simply read, listen, observe, take it in, and do something. To realize that their grandparents' outlook on the Black community were wrong and racist.
As I continue to try to bring awareness to Emmett Till’s injustice, here in Mississippi, it is my hope and prayer that people, from all walks of life, will wake up, realize that Carolyn Bryant Donham is still alive and that she can still be indicted for her roll in Emmett’s kidnapping and murder. I kindly ask the public, who want justice for Emmett to please call District Attorney Dewayne Richardson’s office demanding justice for Emmett and that they also sign the Justice for Emmett Till petition, set up by the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. The only sound of defeat is silence.
We at BlackVybez Magazine would like to send a special thanks to Mrs. Earnest for allowing us the opportunity to connect with her and speak with her on her involvement in her community. We wish you continued success on your journey to the truth.