Michael Aycox, Mississippi’s first openly gay congressional candidate, spoke to Southern Miss students about his campaign and his advice for students on Thursday, Nov. 15.
Aycox was invited to speak by the school’s chapter of the Future Black Law Students of America.
Anna Morgan, a senior history major, and Treyanna Warren, a senior criminal justice major, are co-presidents of FBLSA.
They both said they wanted to have Aycox speak for their organization because he is not well-known, and they wanted to invite someone different to the Southern Miss campus.
“Our organization was dormant these past couple of years, but now we’re more dedicated to building back up our image,” Morgan said. “A lot of people didn’t know about him. I didn’t until recently. We want to invite people that no one knows about. We’re trying to do something different with FBLSA.”
Aycox, who served in the Navy for four years and currently works in law enforcement, ran as a Democrat for Mississippi’s third congressional district seat but lost in the June primary.
After returning home to Mississippi from being stationed in Florida, Aycox said he realized how big the problems in Mississippi were. He said he was inspired to run for office after seeing the political division in the state.
“I was aware of Mississippi’s state politics and struggles, but they were not affecting me directly. So in a sense, I was oblivious to the true problems,” Aycox said. “However, when I returned home, that changed. Soon I realized that these issues were real problems and these problems had faces. Our campaign stemmed from a fight for equality. We realized the division and dissention found in the state and sought to bring about a unifying force.”
Toward the end of his speech, Aycox encouraged students to take action by getting involved and voting for candidates they believe in.
“You are the leaders not of tomorrow, but of today,” Aycox said. “The Bible says to let no one look down on you, for you’re you. I do not see inexperience; I see innovation. I see opportunity, zeal, passion and a future. You are the image of Mississippi. We must own this image and make it ours together.”
After his campaign ended, Aycox founded One Mississippi, a non-profit that is aimed at changing the public’s image of Mississippi.
“We have a lot of support from outside of Mississippi from people that are very interested in the success of Mississippi,” Aycox said. “We work collectively with other organizations, such as the HRC and the Southern Poverty Law Center to bring about change. The purpose is to advocate on behalf of all Mississippians.”
Junior English major Emily Lane said Aycox’s speech was “wonderful” and that he could bridge a gap between the political parties.
“He’s not really left or right in regard to political affiliation,” Lane said. “I was impressed because I vote Republican, but I think if he ran again I would vote for him.”