Let Mo run!

Let Mo run!

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Maurice Williams started this petition to Biloxi's Democratic Executive Committee

I've gone by many names in my life; Maurice, Mo, Moloct, Mobama, but those names are simply words that reference me. They don't actually say who I am; I'm a leader and have been from kindergarten through college. It's been the most consistent part of my persona, and that's mostly due to the fact that it's inside my DNA.

My great grandfather John Henry Beck, has a story that far too often goes untold. Most people are familiar with the name because of the park in our ward dedicated in his honor, but few actually know what he did and who he affected. In the 50's and 60's, my great grand father owned businesses and worked day in and out. This gave him the resources to provide my family with a car, a commodity rarely found in predominately black neighborhoods at the time. Instead of showing off this lavish lifestyle perk he obtained for his family my great grandfather decided to use what he had to empower others. At the time due to Jim Crow time laws, people were required to register to vote in two separate locations. These locations were the courthouse in downtown Biloxi and the courthouse in downtown Gulfport, 15 miles apart. Even today this is a 27 minute drive. This put minorities unlike my great grand father and our family at a huge disadvantage because they were not able to drive. My great grandfather dedicated his car, time, and resources to driving people to both courthouses to register. If they could not afford to pay the poll taxes he would pay the taxes for them. He wasn't just power, he was able to empower. This trait of empowering others lingered down my bloodline and has bestowed itself in me.

Early last year I returned home from college due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When I returned home I began to get involved in the community again as I was before I left. I noticed that many of the most prevalent issues that existed throughout my life still existed. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina wrecked havoc among my community. In 2020, 15 years later, so little progress has been made towards rebuilding, an outsider would come into my ward and assume the Hurricane was three years ago. We still don't have a grocery store, there is only one gas station, the homeless and mentally ill flood our streets and clearly aren't receiving the assistance they desperately need to live a prosperous life. All these issues exist and are prevalent, however all of our issues don't stem from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A great amount of our issues stem from poor representation of our ward on the city level. If anyone would like to know what gerrymandering is, simply take a look at the Biloxi ward map. Of the 6 low income, assisted living communities in Biloxi, 5 of them are in our ward (ward 2). There are 7 wards in Biloxi. There was a street reconstruction project to repave the streets in my neighborhood that started when I was in high school (2013). That project still is not finished today. Our leadership representation is so poor, it's taking 8+ years to pave our streets; the cheapest government expense there is. Our ward struggles while the city as a whole manages to find the money and resources to approve a $1.2 BILLION entertainment project. We need someone with a spine willing to stand up and speak truth to power.

Returning home, knowing all of this, and knowing that I am able to empower others I decided that the buck stops here. The best way to create change is to be the change you seek. I decided I was going to do that by running for city council, however there was a slight issue that has become a larger issue resulting in a clash between Mississippi's Secretary of State and Attorney General, over me.

I grew up in ward 2 essentially my entire life. I was there up until Hurricane Katrina, I left with my younger brother for a year immediately afterwards, but soon returned because ward 2 is home. I legally resided there until 2018. While I was in college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, my mother moved from our childhood home and I was forced to register as a resident under my grandmother's address in ward 5. Upon returning to Mississippi and deciding I wanted run for city council I knew this may be an issue to do me no longer physically residing in the ward.

For clarity purposes I will establish a timeline of facts because it gets confusing.

August 1, 2020: I announced my intent to run for the ward 2 seat of Biloxi's city council.

Early September 2020: I reached out to city hall about residency requirements for running. I was informed by the clerk that they were unaware of the specifics and that they would reach out to the office of Secretary of State (SOS) of Mississippi, Michael Watson, to confirm them and reach back out to me.

September 22, 2020: They received an email from the SOS's office stating, "Yes, the two year residency only applies to the municipality as a whole, and not to the individual ward. The candidate must be a two-year resident of the municipality, but does not necessarily have to be a two-year registered voter. But if questioned, the candidate would need to prove he/she lived in the city for the two years prior to the election." This email did not say I had to live in the ward.

October 2020: With the information provided I ramped up my campaign and began to invest not only mine but others' time, money, and resources into the campaign. We established a website, purchased equipment to produce campaign merchandise on a mass scale for fundraising, delegated money for yard signs and advertisements, and spoke with countless community leaders about getting the word out to be the change we sought.

January 3, 2021: I officially filed to run for the ward 2 seat of Biloxi's city council.

January 21, 2021: The city clerk reached out to me to inform me that despite no one clarifying, I did have to be a resident of the ward in order to run for a seat that represented it; however, I did not have to live in the ward for two years, just the municipality as a whole. Seeing this as another obstacle that I could overcome, I did that exactly.

January 26, 2021: I signed a lease for a house on Main Street and established residency in ward 2 so I would be eligible to run.

February 3, 2021: The Attorney General (AG) for the state of Mississippi, Lynn Fitch, released an opinion two days before the qualifying deadline of February 5 in an attempt to redefine the residency requirements to run and make me ineligible. The SOS released a statement against the AG's opinion pointing to the obvious conflict an opinion like this presents. "We are all extremely concerned about the impact this will have on candidates who have spent their time, money and other resources on campaigns that will come to a screeching halt due to this opinion. The timing of this opinion, issued just days before the qualifying deadline is inexcusable."

February 4, 2021: The city of Biloxi informed all candidates that with the conflicting opinions of the two major departments of Mississippi's state government, they will defer all qualification requirements to the respective parties that candidates desire to represent. In most cities this would be a reasonable decision; however, in the city of Biloxi, the chair for the democratic party is the sister of the incumbent that I would have to run against in the primary. The decision has been placed in the hands of someone where there is a clear conflict of interest.

February 5, 2020: The day of the qualifying deadline, I reached out to the chair of the state of Mississippi's Democratic Party and expressed my concerns for an impartial and unbiased opinion due to this clear conflict of interest. He reached back out to me and we had a conversation where he assured me he would receive all the facts and reach back out to me later next week about my qualification. After that conversation I am slightly more optimistic about my chances of qualifying after jumping through so many hoops to get to this point, however the ball is no longer in my court.

After doing everything within my power to be the change that I seek and bring the progression my neighborhood so desperately needs, the establishment of higher powers still has stacked the odds against me. I'm asking you to sign this petition to display to the party that people know what is right and if it truly believes in free and fair elections, then they will allow someone who follows the rules with a genuine heart for progressive change to have just the opportunity to run.

Please sign this petition and show support. It's no longer just about me or this campaign. This has also become a bigger issue of abusing power within government structures on many levels.

Rosa sat. Martin dreamed. Barack led. Now we need to stand. It's our turn to stand, and if we don't, who will?

0 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
At 200 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!