An early birthday party Friday night for Rims Barber, who turns 75 in November, will also recognize his civil-rights activism and how he and his wife Judy "speak truth to power." Tonight, however, he is speaking at Jackson State University about poverty. He intends to motivate some students into action.
He uses sandpaper as a metaphor for making change happen. "I am only a grain of sand," he said. "We all work together."
Common Cause Mississippi will honor the Barbers at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at its Membership Banquet at the University Club in downtown Jackson.
Rims Barber, a Presbyterian preacher from Iowa, first came to Mississippi for Freedom Summer in 1964, and he returned in 1965 as a community organizer for Delta Ministry. He would spend more than 45 years working to promote desegregation of public schools and other issues including voter enfranchisement, fair redistricting, improving public schools, access to health care and making government open and accountable. Early on, he decided he liked Mississippians.
"I fell in love with people who were out to change the world," he told the Jackson Free Press this morning. "And they did."
Barber said he found his sense of satisfaction and enjoyment here. He was project director of the Children's Defense Fund from 1977 to 1989. He has been chairman of the Mississippi Human Services Coalition since 1989. He still lives in Jackson, working with community groups and activists to impact public policy.
During the regular state Legislative session, Barber holds Monday Meetings. Advocates and lobbyists share information about bills and issues, and how to move a bill through the process.
Barber said Mississippi still has a lot of work to do.
"We still have hangovers from racial past that aren't eliminated yet," he said. "There are newer prejudices against immigrants and homosexuals, for example." Barber was a founding member of Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, an advocacy group.
Judy Barber came to Mississippi in 1971. She worked as Social Services director for the state Department of Health from 1980 to 1996, and is currently a health advocate for the Human Services Coalition. She wrote more than 20 grants, papers and publications, and more than 15 national and state organizations have recognized her service. She was Social Worker of the Year in 1993.
Governor William Winter, Oleta Fitzgerald of the Children's Defense Fund and Bob Smith will speak at the Common Cause Mississippi event tomorrow. Reservations are required for the $40 banquet.
For information, call 601-969-0302 or write [e-mail missing].