I am a proud, sixth-technology, born-and-elevated Mississippian. I have traveled all-around the entire world singing tunes, and even though I hold my hat in Tennessee, I notify folks I’m from Mississippi. And for all the pleasure I feel as a Mississippian, I also sense a twinge of stress and anxiety when the phrase Mississippi leaves my lips.
For as far back again as I can tell, there have been two Mississippis.
The Mississippi I know and really like sounds like Charley Pride’s voice, Marty Stuart’s Telecaster, and B.B. King’s Lucille. It tastes like gravity-defying meringue and cathead biscuits. It intoxicates you with the hospitality and design and style of Willie Seaberry on a scorching, Merigold juke joint Thursday night.
My Mississippi sends a tingle up your spine at the sight of damaged chains in excess of a witch’s grave in Yazoo, then sends you rolling onto the ground with laughter at a youthful boy named Willie’s fox terrier driving a automobile all-around the town square. My Mississippi is the tranquil willpower of a 3-12 months-old woman in a potato sack gown named Oprah who, by-God was likely to master how to read through and by-God would someday change the planet.
My Mississippi possesses the fantastic, inventive spirits of Jesmyn Ward, Donna Tartt, and Eudora Welty. It sings of the ghosts of Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and Howlin’ Wolf. It exhibits the braveness of Medgar Evers, Vernon Dahmer, James E. Chaney, Marian Wright Edelman, James Meredith, the Reverend Will D. Campbell, and plenty of many others who pioneered the Civil Legal rights Movement of the 1960s.
But there is a different Mississippi. And there’s no way all over it. Mississippi’s difficult tale must involve the dim chapters of Byron De La Beckwith, Edgar Ray Killen, and the Ku Klux Klan. It must not depart out the Indian Elimination Act of 1830 and the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Mississippi are not able to erase the tragedy of Emmett Till, nor can it gloss about slavery, Black Codes, Convict Leasing, and Jim Crow.
For far way too very long, Mississippi’s point out flag, notably the leading still left-hand corner of Mississippi’s condition flag, has identified one Mississippi devoid of representing the other. And the deep wounds of our past will by no means recover until we very first clean up the wound. Myrlie Evers claimed so substantially herself. And she would know.
But currently, my heart is full of hope. Quite soon, we will have a new banner to stand for ALL Mississippians. And I am deeply grateful for each and each individual human being who aided to make it take place.
Of course, we are shortly to fly a new Mississippi flag. And this is a wonderful milestone. We shall rejoice, Delta fashion. I’m talkin’ whooping and hollering and foot stomping till the cows appear household.
But we have to also, in the text of that excellent Mississippian Pops Staples, retain on marching up Freedom Highway. Since the perform is not but finished.
I created up my thoughts. And I won’t switch around. For this is the moment, and the clock is ticking.
A person Mississippi… Two Mississippi…