Black Lives Matter: A Statement from Visit Jackson's President & CEO, Rickey Thigpen

June 3, 2020

The state of our country is in discord. We are experiencing civil unrest as a result of threatened civil rights. For some, this is the first time. For others, unfortunately, it is not.

Last year, the Visit Jackson Board of Directors adopted a diversity inclusion statement. This transformational move further positions our destination marketing organization as an industry leader. It challenges our practices as we engage our hospitality partners, visitors, constituents, and stakeholders. We at Visit Jackson will not tolerate the culture of disenfranchisement to any persons, and we will continue to aggressively uphold the principles of diversity, inclusion, and hospitality.

As an African American man that has the responsibility of leading Visit Jackson and has dedicated his entire professional career to an industry where I am, in practically every professional setting, always the minority, I understand the challenges of being black in America.

I have the honor to market and promote a southern city whose population is 81.4% African American, with African-American leadership. I also work in a state where the racial demographics are significantly opposite of the city of Jackson, where conservative white males dominate the majority of leadership and political positioning. The entire state has some of the most deplorable histories of racial injustice in the country. These variables sometimes create challenging microcosms to represent all interests amicably.

I work with Caucasians that have, during this challenging time, chosen to turn a blind eye, hoping, and waiting for all of this to go away. However, others have approached me with concerns and have been honest and bold enough to say, “I am sorry, I want to understand your experience, and I want to help transform our culture.” No matter what side you are on, ALL of us must do better.

I have been fortunate. I grew up with educators as parents; they attempted to shield and prepare their children for white privilege and prejudices. They demanded that we equip ourselves with a heightened education and culture as shields for racism. I must admit that their strategy has merit. I also acknowledge that there is NO shield for racism. And, it is something that you cannot be prepared for because you never know where or when it will rear its head.

Communication, respect, and the courage to understand is critical. Honest and inhabited dialogue is the only way that our nation will heal.

There is no back to normal if we are to recover from this “race-relations pandemic.”

We must incite intentional work encompassing patience, truth, honesty, and listening. Bare your Soul, your most intimate questions, fears, and concerns – without concerns of judgment – on both sides of the aisle. All of us must demand JUSTICE and not JustUS. We must model the way so that the next generation of Americans can live united.

As we continue to do our part to promote our capital city as the forward-thinking, progressive city that it is, we ask that every one of you continues to lift each other during these times of trial. After all, it is YOU, the people, with all of our combined experiences, backgrounds, and views that make us the City With Soul.

Yes, BLACK LIVES MATTER… but someday, we will be able to say ALL LIVES MATTER, and mean it!