JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Long before part of West Jackson was even considered a part of the capital city, Mrs. Johnetta Jurden relentlessly advocated for the installation of modern-day plumbing, fire hydrants, and a community resource while participating in Jackson’s Civil Rights Movement.
“We had to do something else. I don’t know. It was always something somebody wanted done, and nobody would have a big enough mouth to ask if they asked for it,” said Jurden.
She was never afraid to ask for what her community needed despite the times.
“Me with my big mouth. I always the one out begging,” stated Jurden.
Moving to what was formerly known as Van Winkle, Mississippi, in the early 1960s, she was the pioneer in the modernization of the area. After one of the homes in the neighborhood burned down to the ground, she pressed the county and city leaders for the resources to support a fire truck.
“So, had I written up a petition, and I had all these little children, so, and some of them were large. And we take them to the corner, and they go down this street, and they go down this street till we got enough names on this petition to go to the council and get one of those things on every corner. What do you call them? The fire hydrants? Yeah. The fire hydrants on every corner,” explained Jurden.
The project took three years to complete but more still needed to be down.
During that era, part of West Jackson did not have pipes to support flushable toilets so Jurden directly contacted then-Mayor Dale Danks to see what could be done to improve the situation.
“Why did you want you are these lines down the street? And I said to him, ‘I’d like to flush my bathroom down the street like you do yours.’ And it was really a bad odor out here. You would tell people where you stay, and they would say, ‘Oh, I live in subdivision now, too,’ and they say, ‘How do you stay out there?’ You stay out there because you have a house out there. You got to stay out there,” said Jurden.
She lead the mayor and three city commissioners on a tour of their living conditions.
“So, when they came, Dale Danks said, ‘You can ride in my car, and I will ride with Mr. Sutton in the truck to see what you’re talking about.’ I said, ‘No, I’m going to ride with Mr. Sutton, and you ride in your own car.’ So, we went to these different houses, and the people let us in their backyards and look. And it was so much sewage for them to walk in until one of them got sick and went home,” stated Jurden.
She asked city leaders three times after the tour to get the connecting pipes installed. Outside of her neighborhood, she helped guide one of Jackson’s prominent city leaders Councilman Kenneth Stokes, along with honoring one of the civil rights movement vital leaders who happened to be her classmate at Alcorn State University.
“I say because it was not named after a person as it’s named after the street. I say it is a person named Medgar Evers we’d like to have the statue and they agree, and we got the statue,” said Johnetta.
During the Civil Rights Movement, she secretly helped feed the leaders and advocates, though now the gesture may sound small at the time she risked losing it all.
Now at the age of 92, Jurden noted that there is still more to be done and if she could she would.
“I have gotten to the age where I can’t get out there and do it. I would get out there and try to do something if I could, but I can’t.”
One of the most important things she has learned is it never hurts to ask.