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George Chuck Patterson June 12 - 18, 2013 W 20 hen talking to George Chuck Patterson about serving young people in Jackson, you can see the passion on his face and hear it in his voice. Originally from Mobile, Ala., Patterson graduated from Tougaloo College in 2003 and attended graduate school at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. “I had no intentions of coming back to Jackson, but God said otherwise, and I ended up back February 2005 as the coordinator for student activity and leadership development at Tougaloo College,” Patterson says. Patterson says that when it comes to his work, “it’s not a job to me; mainly because I do it all day and night.” The 31-year-old says that his job as director of campus life and community outreach is to bring those two areas together. “If I can connect (the) campus to community and community to corporation, everybody has everything that they need,” Patterson says. When not fueling the cycle of young adults transitioning into college and out into the workforce, Patterson keeps his hands full with various youth programs, including the annual Mississippi Youth Hip Hop Summit. “Right now, I’m getting prepared for the Young Women Leadership Institute, held at Tougaloo,” Patterson says. The all-female event brings 100 African American women from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia to go through various educational trainings and workshops. “I usually do a workshop about what young women should expect out of the young men they encounter and then, I also usually have one of my younger DJs come in and do a dance in the talent show,” Patterson says. Working with the Children’s Defense Fund, Patterson also participated as a trainer for the annual Young Advocates Leadership Training program. “Last summer, in Cincinnati, Ohio, we facilitated the national training for, like, 1,500 young people from all across the nation,” he says. The entrepreneurial Patterson also works as a disc jockey and graphic designer for a variety of professionals and events, whether private, public or for charity. He is at the center of Mississippi Greek Weekend, which is in its sixth year of operations and benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Cure Sickle Cell Foundation. The four-day-long event’s mission is to “unify members of Greek Organizations throughout the state of Mississippi, regardless of school affiliation, race, color or creed,” according to its Facebook page ( – Darnell Jackson JESSICA KING COURTESY ALBERT SYKES IURPSDJH COURTESY GEORGE CHUCK PATTERSON *8<6:( / 9( P.J. Lee “O ut of deep sadness, there can come something good,” says P.J. Lee, reflecting on his unplanned change in vocation. Lee, 36, is the son-in-law of the late Hal White of Hal & Mal’s in downtown Jackson. When White suddenly passed away in March, Lee, a lawyer by trade, planned to help out the staff and family at the restaurant for a couple of weeks after he received a call from the kitchen that nobody knew White’s shrimp creole recipe. Two years ago, shrimp creole was the first recipe White allowed Lee to cook in the restaurant. Once in the kitchen, Lee says, “I started to hear conversations I’ve had (through the years) with Hal; it’s like he’s telling me what to do. We did two things together—play golf and cook—and I didn’t realize until now that I was learning all these things he did at the restaurant.” In addition to finding it rewarding to see the staff and Hal & Mal’s supporters rally together the past few months, Lee realized a passion for “part of my everyday that was missing.” Having people he trusts be honest with him as he gives himself a crash course in Kitchen 101 made it possible for Lee to not only step into the role, but also to enjoy it. Lee credits a supportive culinary community built on the shoulders of Hal, as well as his late friend Craig Noone, who founded Parlor Market. “Thanks to those two guys we lost too soon, there’s a whole community here that understands, yes, we’re in competition for business, but we’re also all in this together as a city,” Lee says. In his spare time, Lee spends time with wife, Brandi, and their 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Rivers. He says becoming a dad “made me much less uptight about things and changed my perspective of what makes a good day versus a bad day.” As he joins the culinary and downtown community he loves, Lee plans to turn out more inspired soups from the kitchen during his “indefinite sabbatical” from the practice of law as he and the Hal & Mal’s crew continue to “Keep Calm and Hal On.” His hard work and determination to keep Hal’s name alive allowed him to win best chef at Jackson Free Press’ Chef Week in May. – Julie Skipper Albert Sykes H ailing from the same neighborhood where Medgar Evers lived and died, 29-year-old Albert Sykes recalls his early exposure to storytelling as a way of learning about the past and politics. Even in his youth, Sykes regularly watched news on TV with his grandmother. In kindergarten, he was the only one to raise his hand when the teacher asked about the new U.S. president. Sykes, a father of three boys, did not have a steadily present father or other positive male role models—not until early adolescence, that is. Then came famed civil rights veteran Bob Moses and his sons, Omo and Taba, and the Algebra Project/Math Lab. With their interactive teaching techniques, including field trips, the Moses made learning fun and, through this, showed the students that they cared. The three men inspired Sykes. He and fellow Advanced Placement participants changed from “knuckleheads” at Brinkley Middle School, Sykes says, to “folks that felt responsible for each other.” Eventually, they collaborated on efforts to create the Young People’s Project for Math Literacy and Social Change, where he serves as director of policy and advocacy. While balancing curriculum development with fundraising, Sykes continuously chips away at Mississippi’s sticky progression from slavery and sharecropping to freedom and equal education for everyone. His focal points are education reform, zero-tolerance policies and the school-to-prison pipeline. In conjunction with many organizations, including the NAACP, Parents for Public Schools, and the Institute for Democratic Education in America, Sykes advocates for policies such as Quality Education is a Constitutional Right. Sykes is helping design a young people’s advocacy activity book, which highlights stories of activists ranging from Harriet Tubman to more current campaigns facilitated by social media, concerning issues such as bullying. “Kids can see (that) efforts to create change never stopped happening,” Sykes says. “It’s less about bringing out mass amounts of folks; it’s more about bringing in a concentrated amount of folks that’s really dedicated to doing the work.” At the same time, Sykes says that success cannot be contained, nor is it always traditional. One way or the other, and despite his own hardships, Sykes strives to pass on the torch of intellectual development and access to it. To learn more about the Young People’s Project, go to or call 601-987-0015. – Charlotte Blom

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