All posts filed under: CIVIL RIGHTS

Let’s make Mississippi an ‘American Idol’

In light of the controversial events that have transpired because of Mississippi’s House Bill 1523 locally and nationally, with protests by notable Mississippians and some companies refusing to do business in the state, the yin and yang of the universe decided that on the last season of one of America’s top-rated television shows, two Mississippians were selected to showcase their artistic talent – one of the fine things Mississippi is very well known for – and a Mississippian won the contest. Within every place and every person, you can find both good and bad. For far too long, Mississippi has had a reputation of ranking last in many categories. It has become trite to recite the list. The state has the highest high school dropout rate, the highest teen pregnancy rate, the highest obesity rate, highest poverty rate, worst economy, and the lowest life expectancy in the country. Mississippi students have ranked last in school performance, and the state has one of the highest unemployment rates. We read these studies over and over again, and …

What it means to be ‘The Hospitality State’

Mississippi is historically known for a progressively delayed (and often stalled) civil rights legacy. In the minds of some throughout the U.S., the state’s name will be forever linked to the opposition and violence that occurred in Mississippi in the 1960s – opposition and violence that resulted when fellow Mississippians stood firm, demanding the basic, inalienable right of equality, affirming that all men (and women) are created equal and have the right to be treated as such. Mississippi is also historically known for many good things, some of which include generosity, a rich literary and artistic history, and the notion that we are “The Hospitality State.” In light of Governor Phil Bryant’s decision to sign House Bill 1523 (authored by Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton) – a bill that would allow Mississippi business and government workers to deny services to any citizen based on their religious beliefs – (essentially anyone they choose not to serve for any “religious” reason) – it might be wise to reexamine what it means to be “The Hospitality State.” Should hospitality …

Port Gibson

On my way to visit Natchez for the first time, I stopped in Port Gibson because I wanted to visit the Windsor Ruins, an antebellum mansion that burned leaving nothing behind except the Greek columns that were incorporated into its architecture. If you haven’t been there before, the Windsor Ruins are kind of like Mississippi’s own Stonehenge from the antebellum period. While there, I decided to drive around the town square. It seems as if Port Gibson is a dying city, and that’s a shame. I noticed an old art deco movie theater and a colorful civil rights mural painted on one of the walls near the courthouse or main part of town. I’m not sure who painted it, but I’d like to know.  If you do, e-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker. Save

Oprah shares screen with all-star cast and other Mississippians in ‘The Butler’

It’s been more than a decade since Kosciusko native Oprah Winfrey worked as an actress in a major motion picture, but she’s back as the wife of “The Butler” in a film about an African-American (actor Forest Whitaker) who witnesses notable events of the 20th century while working for years as a butler in the White House. The story was inspired by a Washington Post article about an African-American man who served as a butler to eight presidents in the White House for more than 30 years. IMDB.com reports that the “film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family.” Oprah isn’t the only Mississippian in this all-star cast. Keep a look out for rapper David Banner, of Jackson, who plays “Earl Gaines” in the film, and Mississippi-based actress Tarra Riggs has a role as “Sophie Wilson.” According to IMDB.com, Riggs landed her first film role as “Marlee” in “Ballast,” a movie shot in Mississippi, specifically …

Mississippi church event honors the life and legacy of Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers’ life and legacy are an important part of Mississippi’s historic struggle for equal rights. That is why four Jackson Episcopal churches are coming together to hold an annual “Liturgy of Racial Reconciliation Commemorating the Life and Legacy of Medgar Wiley Evers” at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 9, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral. Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of Medgar Evers, will be the guest speaker. The noted civil rights activist and former NAACP president currently lives on the campus of Alcorn State University, where she is a distinguished scholar-in-residence. She also serves as chairwoman of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute, with the mission of championing civil rights with a focus on history, education and reconciliation, especially among young people. Judy Barnes, a member of St. Alexis Episcopal Church in downtown Jackson, said the service was the idea of Bishop Duncan Gray III of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, who activated an anti-racism task force in 2010 and wanted to acknowledge several upcoming 50th anniversaries in Mississippi’s civil rights history. These include the Freedom Riders …

Will you be watching Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ set in Mississippi?

If Quentin Tarantino is ever cosmically punished, I’m pretty sure he will be forced to direct a heartwarming Disney movie for general audiences that is so squeaky clean it doesn’t even warrant a PG rating, but on Dec. 25, he offered theaters another story of violence and vengeance. It’s called “Django Unchained.” It’s about slavery. And it’s set in Chickasaw County, Miss., two years before the Civil War. (It was actually filmed in Jackson Hole, Wyo.) Django (Jamie Foxx), a freed slave, is trained as a bounty hunter who searches for his wife, who has been sold, and seeks vengeance against tormenting plantation owners. NPR ran a story about the film today that you can read or listen to here in which the director says he hopes Americans will find his violent film historically cathartic. I have not seen the movie yet, but I’m familiar with most, if not all, of Tarantino’s other films, so I know what to expect should I find myself wandering into a theater. In the online debate that follows the …

Anniversary calls for recommitment

As an eighth-grader at University High School in Oxford in 1962, Duncan Gray III was well aware of what was happening with the civil rights movement. On the evening of the riot at the University of Mississippi protesting James Meredith’s admission, Gray’s father, an Episcopal priest, went on campus to calm the swelling crowd and try to get students to go back to their dorms. “For his efforts, he was roughed up pretty good by the crowd,” Gray said. “The night and its aftermath are seared in my own consciousness.” Now 50 years later, the Right Rev. Duncan M. Gray III, who followed in his father’s spiritual footsteps, is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi and is helping lead a Walk for Redemption and Recommitment at Ole Miss. The event today will commemorate the riot. It will begin at the Gertrude Ford Center at 6:30 p.m., where then Lt. Gov. Paul B. Johnson Jr. first blocked James Meredith’s path to campus on Sept. 26, 1962, and pause at the front of the circle where …

Change was happening in Mississippi, and it couldn’t be stopped by teargas or bullets

Change was happening in Mississippi, and it couldn’t be stopped by teargas or bullets. That’s how Hattiesburg resident Bryant Myatt remembers the events surrounding the integration of the University of Mississippi. Myatt was a National Guardsman from Tupelo sent to the University of Mississippi in 1962, the day of the riot. “Everyone knew that (Gov. Ross) Barnett was going to fight it, and everyone knew it was a losing proposition,” he said. “The news coming out of Jackson had nothing to do with what was going on. I felt that integration was needed, and this attitude was not uncommon in my part of the state.” Logic dictated that integration was coming regardless of what the ‘Bubbas and Barnett’ thought, Myatt said. “We arrived around midnight on a Sunday and had already been cursed out before leaving Tupelo,” Myatt said. On Monday, things became quieter, but Tuesday, Army troops arrived in shiny Jeeps with .30 caliber machine guns mounted. “The trouble started all over,” he said. Natchez resident Don Estes, an Ole Miss sophomore in 1962 …

Ole Miss’ first African-American student body president talks about changing times

We just finished a package of stories about the 1962 Ole Miss riot by those who opposed integration and African-Ameircan James Meredith’s fight to attend school there. Here are some of the stories. Jacqueline Certion, a senior academic advisor at the University of Mississippi, noticed something special about Como native Kimbrely Dandridge while watching Dandridge run for freshman homecoming maid. “Kim has been driven since the day she set foot on this campus, Certion said. “Typically, if you run for homecoming, people know you, but the way she pulled together her support system. She did it on Facebook and really got out there and introduced herself to people who were clueless as to who Kim Dandridge was. After I saw her do this, I kept calling her the ‘first black Miss Ole Miss,’ but she became the first black female student body president.” Dandridge, a Senatobia High School student majoring in journalism, was elected freshmen maid. “After that, I was influenced to participate in other parts of the student government,” she said. “I went on …