The Freedom to Stay: Remembering Marco McMillian

As fellow LGBTQ Southerners working for justice, SONG feels profound sorrow for the lost life of Marco McMillian, a young leader taken before his time, and for the grief his family and friends are suffering through. We celebrate the life, courage, and commitment of a small-town man who left home to expand his education and experience–and who later returned to give back to his community. Marco McMillian was a person who developed leadership in a Black fraternity and who left his home town in order to pursue his education and learn more about politics. He came back home  to Clarksdale Mississippi to try and make positive social change in his community by running for mayor, running on a platform directly addressing problems in the community that involved police accountability and resourcing community organizations.

While we recognize that there are many holes and gaps in the details of his murder, we, at SONG, know a few things to be true about the nature and context of the killing of this young man:

  • It is a terrible murder, standing now prominently in a society that is increasingly marked by murder and violence against people of color, LGBTQ people and all oppressed communities.
  • Any time a gay person is murdered, we are called to question whether there was prejudice and hatred involved because we live in a society in which there are so many political and religious groups which promote homophobia, discrimination and hatred.
  • We know that McMillian lived in a Southern and rural context of intense historic oppression against LGBTQ people and Black people. We know that Southern society directs hostility towards any Black person that challenges police systems in any form.
  • We know that his town is a place of deep traditions of African-American music and culture. It’s also a place struggling with intense poverty and violence—the likes of which no people in our country or our world should be (nor need to be) suffering under
  • Mississippi, similar to the rest of the south, is a place where racism and homophobia run deep in institutions such as schools, the criminal justice system, religious groups and others. This affects each child of our communities from their birth to their death—in Mississippi and many other Southern states, these deaths often come too soon

SONG works every day to change the social and political conditions that reinforce discrimination and hatred. We do not believe increased criminalization and incarceration end violence in our communities–we believe that we are changed through the interconnection of our lives and our work to bring sustainable, positive realities for everyone. We believe that all people–and specifically in this context, all LGBTQ people–deserve the freedom to stay in their hometowns with dignity, the freedom to move across counties and levees and states and countries without fear, and the freedom to return home to the South to make it a place of dignity and justice for all. In the memory of Marco Mcmillian and so many others, we will get up tomorrow and continue that work.