Remembering, Moving Forward

Scores of people turned out to remember the life and legacy of Meridian native, James Earl Chaney. He was murdered in 1964, along with New Yorkers Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, for taking an active role in the civil rights movement.

They were killed while investigating a fire at a black Neshoba County church. Chaney is buried at Okatibbee Baptist Church Cemetery, the side of a special memorial service Monday.

Aside from reflecting on the past, those who knew Chaney also stressed looking ahead to the future.

"It's time that we stop coming just to look at Chaney's grave, but it's time that we come to go out and stretch forth, do something for this situation," said the Rev. Charles Johnson of Meridian, a civil rights activist who worked with the slain trio. "We have to act!"

"Three years from now the Voting Rights Act is up for renewal," said Ben Chaney, James Chaney's brother. "It's important that we do not let the Voting Rights Act slip because we have no idea what could happen in the future."

Perhaps what reflects the spirit of the day most is the inscription on Chaney's grave which reads: "There are those who are alive, yet will never live. There are those who are dead, yet will live forever.

It's a tribute to James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

Ben Chaney also announced Monday that he will sponsor a three day community forum in Meridian in 2005.

"To discuss the truth. To clear out all the baggage," said Chaney. "All the dirt from up under the carpet so that we can get some reconciliation and people can come together and plan for all the future."

Chaney said the forum will likely be in January, in conjunction with the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.