Community & Economic Development


The brain child of One Voice Executive Director Derrick Johnson and Congressman Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Black Leadership Institute (MBLI) was born of a need to ensure that the legacy of progress for African Americans and other traditionally silenced communities was not lost to future generations. Acting on this imperative, Johnson established MBLI to support elected officials, community organizers, educators, and other while in turn providing the state with high quality leaders. The result created the state’s premier leadership training and policy center for African Americans.

MBLI is a community of scholars, elected officials, business leaders, and community organizers that work together to share ideas and solutions in addition to providing support, information, and access to other local emerging professionals and political leaders working toward progressive change.

MBLI members commit to a nine-month long series of sessions during which they will study a curriculum that exposes them to a wide range of topics taught by experts on the local, state, and national levels. Exploring solutions on everything from civic engagement to state history, governance to networking, MBLI members leave the program as informed, socially conscious leaders and public servants ready to improve the quality of life for African Americans and other disenfranchised communities.

MBLI takes place over nine monthly weekend sessions beginning in August starting typically on a Friday afternoons and running all day Saturday. Lodging and meals are provided. Participation in each of the monthly gatherings is mandatory and participants must receive permission from their employer to attend all of the sessions in their entirety. The program includes a community service component, required readings, field trips, and interactive sessions with local and national experts, on topics such as local history, ethical decisions-making, governance, policy, law, politics, technology, and building successful collaborations. One Voice is currently accepting applications. If you would like to be considered for membership or if you know an emerging leader who would be an ideal candidate for the institute, please complete the application below by June 10, 2016.

At the core of our work is the emergence of strong, progressive community leadership. The growth and development of an impactful base of leaders is crucial to the transformation of the South. Our focus is to provide training and technical assistance to individual leaders and groups based on a clear understanding of history and commitment toward progressive growth and empowerment.

Empowering communities, with the support of policy makers, is the central theme of the Mississippi Black Leadership Summit. What began as a roundtable discussion with a small group of elected and appointed officials in 2008 has evolved into the only policy conference in Mississippi where stater and local elected officials meet with community leaders to discuss current issues that plague vulnerable and marginalized communities. Stakeholders include the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus and other elected officials, educators, religious leaders, and community advocates. Each summit features leaders in the fields of community development and policy reform who have produced innovative programs leading to transformational change.

Participants are exposed to new ways to impact policy, are able to pitch ideas to elected officials, and are primed to gain knowledge about collaborative efforts that affect positive change. MBLS has achieved overwhelming success and has become the model for the development of the Louisiana Leadership Summit.


Electric Co-operative Leadership Institute

To further empower electric cooperative communities, One Voice is conducting a campaign that focuses on providing information to cooperative owner-members. Education of the cooperative membership regarding rights, roles, and responsibilities is essential if members are to understand the current practices of their cooperative boards. Through this sharing of information, owner-members will be able to better direct policy decisions affecting their community’s economic security and growth.

With the prevalence of antiquated water systems, underserved communities struggle to find access to clean drinking water. One Voice is researching the availability of federal and state funds that can be used to improve water systems and monitoring the distribution of these funds.

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