TALKS ABOUT WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT
books, Mississippi Delta native and author Lewis Perdue finally set a
novel, Perfect Killer, in his home state and built a thriller wrapped around a Southern
"It was the book I had to wait for my Mama to die before I could
write." In his visits to Mississippi, Perdue realized that poverty was
nearly as bad as it was when he left and that the work of making
justice a reality was still far from done. He serves on the advisory
board of the Sunflower County Freedom Project and decided that he'd
dedicate -- tithe -- part of his income from the new book to SCFP. But
then, the desire to help soon expanded to encompass other groups as
Perdue's idea was that rather than simply contributing and asking
others to do so, that the best way to help was to create a series of
events that would continue from year to year and involve as many other
people as possible.
Perdue is tithing 5% of the royalties from Perfect Killer to The Sunflower County Sunflower County Freedom Project, 5% to The Mississippi Center for Justice and 5% to an as-yet unselected organization to benefit wounded veterans in the United States Armed Forces.
What is the Sunflower County Freedom Project? Founded in 1998, the SCFP is an independent, non-profit organization that aims to create a corps of academically capable, socially conscious, and mentally disciplined young leaders. Our mission is to provide intensive academic enrichment and leadership development to give young people in rural Mississippi the academic ability, social awareness, and life experience they need to make free, informed decisions about their lives. In addition to being named as a finalist for the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award in 2003 – one of only two organizations from the rural South so honored – the Freedom Project has been cited by the American Youth Policy Forum for our "wonderful" work in "encouraging youth to strive for excellence and be truly prepared for college."
Why do we need a Freedom Project? Although it sounds quaint and cheery, Sunflower County is not a great place to raise a child – our impoverished county suffers from a teen pregnancy rate 30 percent higher than the state average and a high school graduation rate of less than 60 percent. Children who do graduate generally are unprepared to enter college. In 2003, the average ACT score for Sunflower County students not enrolled in the SCFP, was 15 out of 36 (equivalent to less than 700 on the SAT), a score far too low for acceptance into a four-year college.
Who does the Freedom Project serve? The Freedom Project targets middle and high school students who attend public schools in Sunflower County, primarily in Sunflower (pop. 696) and Ruleville (pop. 3,200). More than 80 percent of our students qualify for the federal free lunch program, and the vast majority come from single-parent homes. We currently have more than 50 students in the program.
What programs does the Freedom Project offer? Following the same set of students from seventh grade through high school, we ensure that each of our students graduates from high school on time and enters a four-year college by providing intensive academic instruction, internships and experiential learning opportunities outside of Mississippi, and martial arts training. To be accepted into the Fellowship, both the student and his or her family must sign the "Commitment to LEAD," which specifies what will be expected of them as Fellows and outlines our philosophy of Love, Education, Action, and Discipline.
Have we achieved success? The
goal of the our program is to create a corps of academically capable,
socially conscious, and mentally disciplined leaders. Specifically, we
will: improve students’ academic performance, develop students’
leadership skills and confidence, and offer students more awareness of
and experience in the world beyond Mississippi. After a year of study
sessions and Saturday school, student grade point averages increase by
an average of 0.61 on a 4 point scale – a 15 percent increase. After the intensive, six-week summer program, student reading scores increase by an average of 1.1 grade levels.
Information coming soon
Mississippi Center for Justice is a Mississippi nonprofit corporation
designed to resurrect a capacity for statewide, systemic legal advocacy
on behalf of racially disadvantaged and low-income people and
The Center's legal advocacy intends to advance racial and economic justice in Mississippi. In
the 1960s and 1970s, nonprofit public interest law firms provided
critical legal support to Mississippi's civil rights movement.
the 1980s and 1990s, federal funding from the Legal Services
Corporation supported statewide advocacy for low-income people in such
areas as voting rights, housing, public benefits and consumer rights.
With the advent of the 21st century, however, Mississippi no longer had a concerted, statewide capacity for legal advocacy to combat continuing problems of discrimination and poverty. The board of directors of the Mississippi Center for Justice is committed to build an organization that meets this challenge.
WHAT DO WE ENVISION FOR BOOKS N' BLUES?
While planning is still continuing, we've settled on October 21 and 22, 2005 for the Delta Fundraiser. Events are tentatively set for Indianola, Greenwood and the SCFP center in Sunflower. Books 'n Blues will be a series of at least three fundraisers (Delta, Oxford, Jackson) featuring authors signing their books at venues with blues music. The other events would take place the week before and after those in the Mississippi Delta.
Available at event and donated by local chefs, wine shops, gourmet and grocery stores.