Friday, March 4, 2011

Marianna, Arkansas Prepares For The “Our Story” Youth Leadership Conference

by Marquis Cooper, Sr., author/educator

There is an insatiable heartfelt desire to reach out to our youth in order to eliminate the seedlings that breed negativity and to replace them with cultivated seeds for positive changes.  For years, the city of Marianna has been overshadowed with negative stories, negative media coverage, and negative images which caused many people to over look all the great things for which the town is responsible. 20 years later individuals still harp on the story of the Chamber brothers and talk about how they put Marianna on the map. The sad misfortune is even though these men have repaid their debt to society, many people still chose to view Marianna through the eyes of a story that occured in the late 80's.

Unfortunately, the recent stories of Curtis Vance and Maurice Clemmons only added fuel to the fire, and once again cast a dark shadow over Marianna. All of the aforementioned stories received national attention which provided an image to the world that only thugs, murderers, drug dealers, and criminals were being produced in our hometown.

It was with these images that ignited the "Our Story" Youth Leadership Conference. We felt something needed to be done to show people across the state and the nation, that despite the negative image that Marianna has received in the past, a new era of those that are concerned about the community have now arisen.

On March 12th of 2010, the Alumni of Lee County School District held our 1st Annual "Our Story" Youth Leadership Conference.  The mission of "Our Story" is for past graduates to come back and dedicate an entire day to the students, educators, and parents in the community.  On this day we motivated, inspired, and encouraged over 1,000 students, 75 educators, and many parents by sharing our individual stories of struggle, endurance, and success. We had graduates from the class of 1990-2001 to come back and share in this awesome event. Since that time, we have had thank you letters, emails, telephone calls, and face-to-face conversations with many of the students, parents, and educators who shared that the conference was a great help.

On March 11, 2011 the Alumni of Lee County School District will return for the 2nd Annual "Our Story" Youth Leadership Conference.  This year classes from 1967-2010 are currently onboard with hopes that more will join in the next few weeks.  Our hope is that we will continue to inspire and encourage the youth of our local communities to become rejuvenated and empowered to lead productive and progressive lives. I believe now is the time to change the image of Marianna to prove that even though terrible things happen in small communities, good seeds are constantly being produced in the place many of us will forever call home. It is my desire that others will join the "Our Story" movement so we may begin to clear the image of the past in order to move forward in the future.

If you would like to donate to the conference you can mail your payment to P.O. Box 30392, Little Rock, AR 72260. Make sure all checks/ money orders are made payable to "Our Story". If you need more info please call 901-786-2322 or email us at

"If you leave and grow, you can come back and plant."- Marquis Cooper, Sr

1 comment:

  1. Marquis, this is so wonderful!!! I am so proud to be associated with this group and after performing in Europe and Japan and around this country, I am looking forward to performing next year before my home crowd for the "Our Story Conference." "Continue to tell our story." Much love, BWhite aka, Tina Turner