Elizabeth Warren sought to draw attention to her ambitious housing plan, and the federal government’s failure to combat poverty in the Mississippi Delta, during a pair of stops en route to tonight’s town hall in Jackson.
Following an Sunday event in Memphis, Warren on Monday first stopped in Cleveland, Mississippi, where she walked with state Sen. Willie Simmons from the home of Civil Rights leader Amzie Moore up a street marked by deserted lots and decaying small family homes – including one that had been burned out and abandoned, but never knocked down – on their way to his restaurant, “The Senator’s Place.”
“The federal government ought to be a better partner for communities like Cleveland,” Warren said as she spoke to 46-year-old Kenyarda Graham, who sat on a plastic crate across the street from his mother’s house, where he’d been born and raised.
Graham said he recognized Warren, but didn’t know she was running for president.
“Right now feeling how I am, I feel like I’m losing weight,” he told her, describing the community’s struggles with poverty and addiction. “I know I’m not healthy.”
Kenyarda Graham speaks to Elizabeth Warren in the Mississippi Delta on Monday, March 18, 2019.
Trailed by reporters and cameras, Warren embraced residents and onlookers, talking up her plan for major new investments in similar neighborhoods. The tableau at points recalled Robert F. Kennedy’s visit 1967 visit to the Delta region, which was racked by poverty and starvation – a trip encouraged and led by activist Marian Wright, a young NAACP attorney who as Marian Wright Edelman (she married close Kennedy aide Peter Edelman) would go on to found the Children’s Defense Fund. Kennedy’s trip shone a spotlight on hunger in the region, over the objection segregationist elected officia
Addressing reporters on the street, Warren tied her housing plan – which is derived from her American Housing and Economic Mobility Act legislation — to other proposals, like expanding health care and infrastructure spending.
“I know there’s a lot that goes into making a community work and one of the things I’ve been talking about with (state Sen. Simmons) is money for rehabilitating housing, money to build new houses,” Warren said on Monday. “I see a lot of gaps and spaces, but we’ve also put money in this bill to help out making a community work.”
Robert Sanders, a city alderman in Ward 2, dropped back from the throng of reporters as the tour concluded and made its way into Simmons’ popular restaurant, which had been featured on the late Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.” Sanders said he was glad that Warren visited the Delta and not, as other candidates had in the past, stuck only to larger cities like Jackson.
He also made the point that issues facing the families in the neighborhood aren’t a creation of the Trump era.
Public investments “that could be vital here is being placed in other areas, but not specifically the Mississippi Delta,” Sanders said. “But there was need before Donald Trump took office, as well. We just need to make sure we’re prioritized.”