Was Marco Millian killed in Mississippi because he was black or gay?

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Was Marco Millian killed in Mississippi because he was black or gay?

Marco Millian was a trailblazer, and the pride of the Mississippi Delta. Just in his twenties Ebony magazine in 2004 hailed him as on the nation's 30 leaders under the age of 30. And in his thirties the Mississippi Business Journal hailed him as one of the "Top 40 Leaders under 40."

But at age 34 Millian's life was mysteriously cut short.

As an openly gay African American candidate running for the mayoral seat in Clarkdale, Mississippi, McMillian was quietly signaling that neither his race nor his sexual orientation would abort his aspirations. On McMillian’s campaign Facebook page is a photo of him posing with President Obama. His campaign motto: "Moving Clarksdale forward." 

If there were anyplace to challenge the intolerant conventions of Mississippi, Clarksdale, the Delta's gem—known as "a place where openness and hospitality transcend all barriers and visitors are embraced as family" and the birthplace of the blues—would be that place.

Police discovered Millian’s body near a levee just a 15 minute drive outside of Clarksdale. Mississippi's unforgettable sordid history of lynching immediately rose up when his family reported that Marco's body was beaten, dragged and "set afire." And the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till came roaring back, reminding me of Mississippi's native son William Faulkner who wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

Till was a 14-year of African American child from Chicago who was visiting relatives down in the Mississippi Delta. He was brutally murdered and tortured for allegedly flirting with a white woman. When his body was discovered it was reported that Till was severely beaten, nude, shot in the right ear, had an eye gouged out from its socket, and a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with a barbed wire before his body was dumped into Tallahatchie River.

While thoughts of racial hatred first erupted as the probable motive for Millian's murder, they were quickly erased when Millian's assailant, Lawrence Reed, 22, an African American male was found and apprehended in Millian's wrecked SUV.

Did Reed murder Millian or did he just steal his car? Or might there be another tale here, one of a “down low” tryst gone awry?

Being openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) is no