Tougaloo College Announces the Launch of the Bennie G. Thompson Delta Leadership Initiative



-Joint partnership with Alcorn State University aims to address economic development in the Mississippi Delta region - 

Tougaloo, Miss., December 14, 2020 - The Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice at Tougaloo College, in partnership with the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Center at Alcorn State University, has announced the launch of a comprehensive grassroots leadership development initiative aimed to address economic development in the Mississippi Delta.  The Bennie G. Thompson Delta Leadership Initiative is designed to accelerate the development of socially disadvantaged black and indigenous grassroots community leaders living in Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District. Named for Congressman and Tougaloo College alumnus Bennie G. Thompson, the initiative will focus on identifying and developing early-stage grassroots and community-led work with innovative and promising sustainable solutions in areas, including sustainable food systems training, social enterprise development models, and workforce transportation.“While serving Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District, I have witnessed the incalculable damage done to black and brown communities due to a lack of leadership and sustainable, deliberate community and economic development, said Bennie G. Thompson, congressman of Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District. “With this new initiative, we will continue to empower community leaders to engage in practices guided by courage and common sense; specifically, to increase the net worth of the Mississippi Delta.” 

Julian D. Miller, Esq., director of the Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice and assistant professor of political science at Tougaloo College adds that “we must make bold, innovative investments if we are to deliver viable, systemic solutions for social problems affecting future generations in the Mississippi Delta.” This initiative is the first of its kind for Alcorn State University. “The SDFR Policy Research Center, a national center located in Lorman, MS with a strategic focus in the 18 states with 1890 land grant universities, is excited to be a part of this pilot program - the first of its kind in nearly two decades. This is a first for the Policy Center as we typically focus on quantitative data in our research,” said Eloris Speight, director of the Policy Center. However, we are confident that this pilot program allows us the unique opportunity to assess the needs of socially disadvantaged people in rural America in a different way. It gives us insight on potential policy recommendations that could provide long-lasting positive impact on those we serve.”

Through the partnership with industry leaders, the Bennie G. Thompson Delta Leadership Initiative is providing critical mentorship, advising, and networking resources to give direct support to selected participants. In addition, up to $15,000 in equity-free grants will be disbursed to five selected cohorts. The Bennie G. Thompson Delta Leadership Initiative highlights the diversity and strengths of Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District through a series of five seminars over the course of seven months. Three seminars are held throughout the state, focusing on the various agricultural commodities of the regions. One seminar will take place in Washington, D.C.“Now more than ever, institutions like Tougaloo College play a critical role in helping solve some of our city’s toughest problems. 

In keeping with Tougaloo's mission of being socially responsible, the Bennie G. Thompson Delta Leadership Initiative will produce a cadre of impactful leaders committed to transforming the economic, social, political, and cultural landscape of communities in the Mississippi Delta, one of the most impoverished regions in the state,” said Carmen J. Walters, Ph.D., president of Tougaloo College. "Through the program, current and aspiring leaders will be engaged, empowered, and equipped with critical skills to develop innovative solutions to meet sustainable development challenges in communities where they live and serve. We are proud to be a part of the solution of affecting positive community change and grateful for Congressman Bennie G. Thompson’s continued commitment to improving Mississippi.”Applications for the Bennie G. Thompson Delta Leadership Initiative are now available. Community leaders and entrepreneurs with real solutions that can help create a more just and equitable rural economy in the Mississippi Delta are encouraged to apply. The applications are open year-round; however, cohort selections will begin December 20, 2020.  Selected participants will be announced January 2021.  

For more information on the Bennie G. Thompson Leadership Development Initiative or the Reuben V. Anderson Social Justice Institute, please contact Mr. Julian D. Miller, Esq. at or Ms. Silbrina Wright, program specialist at   

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