September 24, 2023

Ryshonda Beechem, mayor of Pelahatchie, Mississippi, and her attorney, Thomas Bellinder, want the public to know that she is being unfairly targeted for revealing unethical and illegal use of the town’s police seizure fund. (Photo special to BWNC)

Ryshonda Beechem, the first African-American mayor of Pelahatchie, Mississippi, just wants to do her job – righteously govern on behalf of her constituents. However, the town’s Board of Alderman not only continues to levy a series of microaggressions and superfluous obstacles against Beechem, but also their antics are seriously impeding her mayoral duties while directly impacting her personal life.

Not only was Beechem’s salary reduced by 75 percent in 2018, but the board’s unethical business practices, exposed by the mayor, have resulted in Beechem being held personally responsible in repaying over $80,000 in misused funds. Beechem’s unfair and biased treatment is not only a blatant display of disrespect for her authority and civility, but it shows a brazen disregard for the Pelahatchie community.

The 39-year-old mayor and her counsel are calling on Mississippi residents and news media to 1) help hold Pelahatchie’s elected officials to the standard of conduct that reflects a respect for the law, 2) call out faux journalism peddled by the likes of Rankin County News and 3) support the mayor’s legal efforts to fight an unjust system. Will you answer the charge?

Born and raised in Pelahatchie, a small town located in predominately white Rankin County, Beechem said her days as an adolescent were memorable. “I was always helping our elderly at the town drug stores and grocery stores. I would go pick up groceries for them or their medication,” she said. “I was a leader and active in church by participating in choir, usher and all youth programs.”

Beechem attended and graduated from Pelahatchie High School, where her academic involvement included being student body president and yearbook editor. She is also proud to share that she is the product of the Pelahatchie Head Start, a program she staunchly supports.

Beechem would eventually make history when she beat out two white women candidates for the mayoral post in June 2017.

“The reason I ran for mayor is that there was an opportunity where I could give back to the very community that raised me,” said Beechem via an email exchange. “It’s time for progress, and I wanted to be able to advance our town by helping provide community development and economic growth.”

Beechem’s win was a small victory for African-Americans whose political achievements have a history in this country since Reconstruction of backlash or being undermined. Former U.S. President Barack Obama and Stacy Abrams, Democratic nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, are examples of the contention that people of color and women of color encounter when stepping into majority white male arenas. However, it is not an exact science when determining if the impediments Beechem faces are a result of her skin color or her gender. The five-member Board of Aldermen is made up of men and women both black and white.

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