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Meet Our Staff

Patrick Weems

Patrick Weems

Executive Director

A community builder, social entrepreneur and philanthropy leader, Patrick is setting a path toward restorative justice and racial healing. With more than 10 years of experience in racial justice and restorative justice work, Patrick is leading transformational change that will last through the generations. He co-founded the Summer Youth Institute, an experiential learning youth program for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. He also co-founded and serves as director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, which uses art and storytelling to share the Emmett Till tragedy, facilitate racial healing and point us toward a new future. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, he holds a master’s degree from the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. He was recently awarded a prestigious Fellowship from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and is a Monument Lab Fellow.

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Benjamin Saulsberry

Public Engagement and Museum Education Director

Benjamin Saulsberry, is a native of West Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. He grew up surrounded by social justice activism, which he credits for his deep care and concern for his community today. Ben joined the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in 2016 and has spoken on race, racism, and racial reconciliation across the country on behalf of the Center, including at Harvard Law in 2017 and the University of Detroit at Mercy in 2019. He attended Mississippi Valley State University and the University of Mississippi for graduate work in music.

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Elliot Long

Operations Director

Elliot Long has served as an organizer and community worker with refugee and immigrant populations in Maine, low-income youth in rural Appalachian Ohio, and with graduate assistants and adjunct faculty involved in unionizing efforts. He previously worked as a project coordinator for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. He holds a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Mississippi and is a doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary arts at Ohio University.

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Jermarlius "Jay" Rushing

Youth Coordinator

Jermarlius “Jay” Rushing is a native of the Mississippi Delta. He is a 2013 graduate of East Side High School, a former combat engineer in the Mississippi Army National Guard, and a community organizer. Jay holds a bachelor's degree in history with minors in political science and Africana studies from Mississippi Valley State University. He has served as both a participant and mentor for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation’s Summer Youth Institute.

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Venita Halbert

Community Engagement Coordinator

Venita Halbert, originally from Chicago, IL, has lived in Tallahatchie County for the past two decades. She graduated from Mississippi Valley State University in 2018 with a bachelors in business administration. Her highest hope is to bring jobs and opportunities to Tallahatchie County for all people. She is eager to make a positive difference in the community!