Youth Coalition to celebrate Freedom Summer anniversary

Youth Coalition to celebrate Freedom Summer anniversary


The Neshoba Youth Coalition is planning to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Philadelphia Coalition.

The youth are celebrating a legacy of unity and progress in conjunction with Freedom Summer remembrances.

The event is open to the public and will take place at the Ellis Theatre on June 15 at 6 p.m.

The Youth Coalition, comprised of 7th to 12th-grade students, was established in 2009 by Leroy Clemons, a co-founder of The Philadelphia Coalition. 

Clemons said the students have been learning to collaborate and build relationships. 

For 10 months, they’ve been working together and forming connections with each other, he said.

“This program is put together by them,” Clemons said. 

“They will be introducing the speakers, entertaining and greeting guests. 

“This is their opportunity to showcase what they’ve learned this year.”

The program will demonstrate the knowledge and skills the students have gained throughout the school year, he said.

Clemons has been speaking to the students on the history of The Philadelphia Coalition that led the call for justice in the 1964 civil rights murders here.

“We learn about what happened, but more importantly, I want them to understand why it happened,” Clemons said. “We spend the majority of our time talking about making good choices, choosing differently, and being leaders and role models for others.”

Some students said that while they were a bit nervous, they are really excited to be presenting the program, performing a skit, and meeting members of the Philadelphia Coalition.

“We want to celebrate, acknowledge, and learn more about it,” said Kaylin Jones. “It shows the growth that has come over time.”

Ariana Permenter added, “We can also show them that even though we weren’t there, we still understand.”

U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson is the keynote speaker. 

Ronald Silver, a civil rights educator and retired assistant U.S. attorney, will reflect on the lives, sacrifice and legacy of the three young men who were murdered here by the Ku Klus Klan in a conspiracy that involved law enforcement, Jame Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. 

“This gathering is more than just an event. It’s a testament to our community's enduring strength and unity,” Clemons said. “We remember Freedom Summer of 1964, not just as a pivotal chapter in the civil rights movement, but as a time when courageous individuals came together to uplift and empower, leaving a legacy that still resonates today.”

In this spirit, the Youth Coalition and attendees will celebrate two decades of the Philadelphia Coalition’s unwavering commitment to social justice and community harmony, Clemons said. Their efforts have fostered an environment of inclusivity and understanding, aiming to make the community a place where every voice is heard and valued, he said.

The students have been inspired.

“Being part of the Neshoba Youth Coalition has inspired me to do more to change things and make everything positive in the community,” said Chernajza McBeath.

Hailei Spencer added, “It makes me want to be a leader and teach more people about their past because some people don’t know what happened. I get really excited when I get to teach others who don’t know anything about it.”

As a special feature, a community choir will also perform. 

If you are interested in participating in the choir, please contact Clemons at

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