A Letter from ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley-Collins:

At the Jazz Brunch, I told our guest that I was fortunate to lead a team of warriors who stand daily in defense of freedom. I likened this team to Soldiers who have sworn to protect and defend. I shared the fact that Soldiers are trained and equipped to be combat ready. I then distinguished this amazing team from Soldiers - you did not sign up for battle. And yet here you are on the fighting fields of freedom daily. I simply want to send this email to say thank you, to commend you and to encourage you.

I woke this morning, hot spotted myself eager to find out the election results - my heart sank. I know that on yesterday you heeded the call and all hands were on deck protecting the right to vote and so even more the results of elections may sting a bit. As a non-profit nonpartisan organization, we are committed to working both sides of the aisle, but there are some whose efforts align more closely with ours and so we are saddened by this outcome.

As Executive Director of the ACLU of MS, I recognize that our work just became more important. The work we do may have just become harder, but it is the right work to do. We must stand in the gap for vulnerable children, especially in schools that are ill equipped to provide education and therefore funnel them into prison. We must push the envelope on equal protections for all people. We must ensure criminal justice reforms make social and just sense, not just economic sense, which is the only reason mass incarceration reduction is now the mantra of conservatives. We must not stand by and feel defeated - there is work yet to be done.

So this morning, I ask that you breathe deeply, have a cup of coffee, and focus on what lies ahead. You may not ever see your names in the annals of history (or maybe we will), but know that the work you have chosen to do changes history for others. Don't feel defeated. Look at this as an opportunity for determination and say to yourselves and each other, "They may have won this fight, but we will win the war." You are warriors. Soldiers fight in defense of freedom. Warriors fight in defense of the exercise of freedom. Freedom without the ability to exercise it is futility.

I am encouraged knowing that each of you has committed himself/herself to making Mississippi better. Thank you for your bravery. I salute you.


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