Greenville, Mississippi (Washington County seat with population 34,000) lies in the Mississippi Delta, a 7,000 square mile alluvial floodplain located between the Mississippi and the Yazoo Rivers. The city is home to Nelson Street, “once the epicenter of African American business and entertainment in the Delta.” Greenville has a storied past that reflects the realities of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation. Gene Dattel’s New York Times article published in 2012 gives insight to the complexities of racial identity in more recent times, and the article included a photo of a chorus that is working to break down racial barriers.
The Greenville Community Harmony Chorus is comprised of a diverse group of singers from Greenville, Mississippi and the surrounding area. The chorus was formed in 1999 as a spinoff of the “Unity Lunch” started by then mayor, Paul Artman, to promote racial unity in the city. The monthly lunches were held “for people of all ethnicities to come together and discuss and promote important issues in Greenville.” (Delta Democrat-Times-12/4/2016) The chorus was started by four women as a spinoff of the lunch, and they continue to present an annual Christmas concert and to perform for other community events. While the legacy of the past lingers, the chorus creates a space for people to build relationships across racial identity.