Meridian has a rich civil rights history, and Meridian resident Mable Oatis is making sure it isn’t forgotten. She is one among five honorees who received the 2017 National Civil Rights and Social Justice Award.
“It was a wonderful experience. I was shocked because I did not think that the little bit that I’ve been doing would merit such a national honor,” said Oatis.
The awards ceremony was yesterday at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. It was the commemorative service for the three civil rights workers who were killed near the church by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964.
“They heard that the church had been firebombed. They went up there to check it. By the time they did, they never came back,” said Oatis.
She was nominated for the award due to her contributions to the Wechsler School. Built in 1896, it’s the last remaining historical structure significant to the black community.
Oatis that preserving the Wechsler School is one way to keep Meridian’s civil rights legacy alive.
“The situation is grave for black kids here in Meridian. If we don’t begin to work harder, 50 years from now, you will be standing here now asking questions. We’ll be in the same shape that we were 50 years ago.”
The Wechsler Foundation is raising money to reopen its doors.
“We will have computer classes and afternoon tutorials. We used to end up putting on plays every year. All of that is a way to help kids feel more positive about themselves, but more so to prepare for the future,” said Oatis.