Learning From the Past to Create Better Futures: How East Mississippi Celebrated Black History Month

“If you don’t know what the struggle was, if you don’t know what you came from, you really don’t know what you have,” says Eddie Pugh, resident of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, MS.

In February, the facility celebrated Black History Month by creating a walk-through museum in the recreation area. Staff and residents worked together to create displays for the entire facility to enjoy.

Case Manager Debbie Dawson headed up the project. “We wanted people to take the time to spend more time to read, to study, and [do] research on Black History because there’s a lot,” she says.

Resident Derrick Young was also involved in organizing the event.

“Know your history,” says Derrick. “Know your past, so you can live in your present. And that way you can shape your future. Because if you don’t know your history, anybody else can paint the history for you. So, know your history. Know thyself.”

Derrick Thomas
Derrick Thomas looks at museum artwork with Warden Jackson.

Derrick used his talents and skills to create one of the many displays.

“Oh, I love it,” he states. “I love the opportunity to be able to express art and to be able to put a little history and be able to teach at the same time. So, it’s a blessing. You know, gives us an outlet for the people that are doing the artwork and for the people that are viewing it, because it’s real therapeutic.”

Warden Donald Jackson saw great value in the museum project.

“My goal as a warden is for them to become a better citizen when they get out,” he explains. “And I think by incorporating Black History Month or any other major holiday and getting an education, I think that’s a great thing. We all win.”

Warden Jackson
Warden Donald Jackson.

“The display of art in an environment where society says people are thrown away, you see brilliant artists,” Eddie says. “You are allowed to see a part of someone that the world has hidden away. But through programs like this, it allows someone to feel like it’s okay. It’s going to be all right.”

Treylin Sojourner, another facility resident, says, “It’s amazing seeing the different artworks [and learning about the] different individuals that have stood up for what was right. It’s amazing how we can come together and talk about it and just have a great conversation about that individual.”

“These types of programs [are about] seeing things differently,” says Eddie.

East Mississippi Black History Month Still
A resident looks at museum artwork.

“It’s perspective,” he continues. “You know, some people never learn some of these things. Some people didn’t know the talents that you see displayed and they came back with something so beautiful. And now, they’re part of what you see.”