As a daughter of the south, Susan Glisson wants to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
"Nobody today created racism,” says Susan. “It's a process that's evolved over the last 500 years." But everybody today can help eradicate it.
Susan was born and raised in Georgia but is now at work in Mississippi as Executive Director of The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation which is dedicated to ending discrimination across the board.
The Winter Institute envisions a world where the inequities of the past no longer dictate the possibilities of the future; where there is equal access to opportunity for all; where social justice is upheld and honored-- not only for Mississippians, but for all people.
“The message,” Susan says, “is that love is greater than hate and that we refuse to go back to any old regime of bigotry.”
The Winter Institute works in communities and classrooms, in Mississippi and beyond, spotlighting Americans’ shared history and helping young people become engaged citizens.
One of The Winter Institute’s most sought after programs is the Summer Youth Institute, begun in 2010. At SYI, rising high school sophomores and juniors spend 9 days learning about civil rights, advocacy, critical thinking and relationship building from an international staff.
The SYI experience teaches participants new ways of talking about diversity and change, and much more. SYIers take several field trips around Mississippi to learn about the rich Civil Rights history of the state and the people and places that make that history so rich and instructive.
Students are often surprised to discover that many of the key players in shaping Civil Rights in the south were very close to their own age.
SYI educates approximately 30 young Mississippi citizens each year, chosen from a pool of some 300 promising applicants. They learn to exercise their voices and their leadership potential and turn their commitment to social change into action. At the conclusion of SYI, students return home as local activists who inspire their schools and hometowns with projects they design and develop to serve their communities.
“Social change begins from the bottom up, says Susan, “with everyday people joining together to make a change.”
Based on that conviction, she believes that racism can be eliminated in her lifetime.
“I don’t think it’s easy,” she admits. “It takes hard work. But it can happen. I’m seeing it happen in Mississippi every day.”