The option to say “no”
At a young age, Beneta Burt learns a lesson about real freedom
Beneta Burt grew up in a rural part of Oxford, Miss. and often wondered why the other children in her black neighborhood never made it to school on time. After witnessing an intense conversation between her father and a white cotton farmer, she found out why.
Since the cotton picking season usually fell during the first months of school, most black families, who lived on rented property, had to pick the landowner’s cotton to keep a roof over their heads. Beneta’s father told her, “If I didn’t own this property, for the next three months you guys would be picking cotton,” Beneta said. “I tell you it was just mind boggling…Our neighbor’s kids lived on somebody else’s property and just didn’t have the option of saying ‘no.’”
From that experience, Beneta has built a career dedicated to confronting racial equity. She currently serves as the executive director for the Mississippi Road Map for Health Equity. She takes this challenge head on because as she says, “I believe in a world where we don’t have to dwell on the issue of racial equity, we don’t even have to think about it.”