Biloxi Main Street recognizes collective history and hometown heroes with mural dedication

Many gathered on the corner of Division and Main Street to celebrate the rich history of East Biloxi and recognize hometown heroes with a mural dedication ceremony.

An eye-catching double-sided mural showcasing the well-respected entrepreneur and Civic activist Inez Thomas, and the wade-in movement, which was a series of protests during Civil Rights era, sits on the building of what was once Inez Café. Inez Café was a staple in the community which served as a restaurant and entertainment venue for many well-known artists. Community advocate John Kemp said, “About a year-and-a-half ago, we started looking for buildings and we couldn’t nail it down so we were very honored that Ms. Inez Thomas and her family allowed us to use their building.”

The mural was the brainchild of Kemp, who wanted to spark life back into the community. With the help of Biloxi NAACP, Steps Coalition, and painter Demetrius Gayden, the mural came to life. Steps Coalition Executive Director Johnathan Green said, “We thought it would be a great way to signal to the community that we are really committed to redevelopment in this area.”

The wade-in movement is pictured on the side of the building which represents the three wade-in protests that took place between 1959 and 1963 demanding desegregation of Biloxi’s public beaches. Ethel Rainey Clay, a participant in the marches, says she is grateful to have been a part of something so significant. “I lived it. I am almost 80-years-old and I am so blessed and so thankful to see a young man, Mr. Gayden, do a painting depicting some of our history on this wall.”

The mural painting represents the history of East Biloxi. It’s here to showcase those that impacted the community, but community members and organizations say this is just a start of what’s to come for the East Biloxi community. “Another grocery store would help out a lot, but one of the things is affordable housing.”

Community advocate Gordon Jackson said, “We want to see a complete vibrant community in all aspects, housing, healthy foods, all different types of things.”

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