The bronze bust, which is a gift to the city of Clarksdale and Coahoma County from the ICCR and the consulate general in Atlanta, is being installed as a tribute to the man who led India to Independence 75 years ago, and whose teachings have influenced many world leaders and intellectual thinkers, including Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, US Congressman John Lewis, co-founder of Apple Inc Steve Jobs, and several others.
The bust will be presented during a ceremony on October 8 by Indian consul general Dr Swati Kulkarni.
The ceremony has been planned for the week of Gandhiji’s birthday and during the celebratory 75th anniversary year of India’s Independence. The event is sponsored by the Crossroads Economic Partnership, a collaboration of the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Authority of Coahoma County; PeopleShores, a social enterprise; and Indiaspora, a non-profit organisation of global Indian diaspora leaders.
Clarksdale and Coahoma County, located in the heart of the Mississippi delta region, near the Mississippi River, is a region that has suffered depopulation and loss of jobs in recent decades. An influx of new industry, job opportunities and people, during the past four years, have begun to reverse the community’s fortunes.
Significantly, the Indian American community has played an important role in the progress.
Jon Levingston, executive director of the Crossroads Economic Partnership, said: “Having recruited PeopleShores to Clarksdale, which was founded by Indian American Murali Vullaganti, I have seen first-hand their commitment to training their employees not only with technical skills, but most importantly, essential life skills. Their care and thoughtfulness in providing employees new educational and job opportunities are helping to break the generational cycles of poverty that have gripped our region for decades.”
“There is also a fully staffed medical clinic in the PeopleShores building to address without charge the healthcare needs of those citizens who have no health insurance. Their leadership in this endeavour and their embodiment of the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi makes this gift even more meaningful and resonant for us,” he added.
Gandhiji’s bust, commissioned and supplied by the ICCR, under the aegis of the Ministry of External Affairs, was designed by the famous Indian sculptor Ram Sutar.
“Gandhiji is an extraordinary inspirational force across the world. His most important legacy is his technique of non-violent moral activism and his principles of courage, truth, and religious tolerance,” Consul General of India, Atlanta, Dr Kulkarni, said.
“His principles provided an impetus for Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, who followed his operational techniques. Mahatma Gandhi led India’s epic freedom struggle against colonialism and Dr Martin Luther King Jr. led America’s epic struggle against racism. Both Mahatma Gandhiji and Dr Martin Luther King Jr. will continue to inspire generations through their life and the values they stood for.”
Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy said, “We are humbled by this most generous gift. Gandhiji was among the most courageous and spiritual of men. He led his nation to freedom not with guns but with simplicity, determination, truth, and nonviolence. His efforts inspired the world, including the leaders of our own nation’s civil rights movement, such as Dr King and the late Congressman John Lewis.”
Coahoma County board of supervisors president, Johnny Newson observed, “Gandhiji was a transformational leader. He embodied the virtues of tolerance and respect. He showed the world that change can be made without violence and changed the course of a nation forever. We welcome and are grateful for the opportunity to strengthen our bonds of friendship with the Indian American community as well as our brothers and sisters in India.”
M R Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora, said the organisation was delighted to be engaged in the community-wide effort and hoped that the Indian diaspora can continue to serve as a force for good, as a bridge between countries, and as global ambassadors for Gandhiji’s message.
“Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings and principles continue to be a guiding light now as much as ever. This is especially relevant today when we are grappling with uncertainty in the face of a global pandemic, as well as a new social awakening in the US.”