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Delta leaders come together in Selma

By Oniska Blevins | The Selma Times-Journal

Traveling across the Mississippi River Delta Region and engaging in dialogue is something the members of the Delta Leadership Institute are familiar with. The organization’s Session IV: Enhancing Community Capacity three-day session was April 25-27 in Selma.

During the session, the group visited different historical sites in the city and heard from prominent community leaders on different topics each day.

Delta Leadership Institute director Spencer Lucker said the organization’s visit to Selma was apart of its yearly six sessions where they travel to different states and speak with community leaders.

“We take them all over our region [to] the seven states along the Mississippi River,” he said.

He said there are now nearly 500 members across the eight-state region.

The three-day session in Selma was centered on enhancing community competitiveness, one of Delta Regional Authority’s three regional development plan goals.

Lucker said part of the focus of community competitiveness is determining how to utilize assets within the community to make the area more appealing to business investments and possible new residents.

As a part of their agenda for the day, ArtsRevive held a reception for the group at its Carneal Building Wednesday evening. The group also be engaged in dialogue about what having organizations like ArtsRevive means to Selma and how it relates to economic and community development.

“It’s an opportunity for us to connect the current fellows in the class with the alumni of the program,” Lucker said.

Lucker believes it is important for the current fellows to speak with alumni about possible plans for the future.

“One of the greatest strengths of the institute is the network that we create of alumni who can learn from eachother,” he said. “Learn what’s working and what is not in their communities.”

Black Belt Community Foundation president Felicia Lucky, Mayor Darrio Melton and Ward 2 Councilwoman Susan Youngblood are all alumni of the program.

Youngblood said the group looks at what makes a community unique, and they try and think of ways the city can build on that.

“Of course, in Selma a big focus is on civil rights,” Youngblood said. “When people think of Selma they think of Civil War and civil rights.”

Around 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge was blocked off by police officers per Mayor Melton’s orders so the group could take a photo on the bridge.

Later that morning, the group visited the Interpretive Center as well as toured and had lunch at the Old Depot. Youngblood said places like the Old Depot Museum tell a complete story of the city’s history.

“That’s the place that has the most comprehensive history of Selma,” she said.

Although the group is visiting all of the historic places and having some dialogue about Selma’s history, Youngblood said the group’s sole purpose is community development.

Deputy Judge Executive for Marshall County, Kentucky and Delta Leadership Institute Brad Warning said joining the organization has been beneficial and some of the ideas shared at the sessions can be used elsewhere as well.

“I’d like to take some of those ideas and try to apply it to my community,” Warning said.

Blackbelt Outreach Manager for Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Delta Leadership Institute member Kennard Randolph looked forward to learning a lot this session.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how we can better leverage resources and how economic development can play a pivotal role in increasing revenue,” he said.