June 6 - 12, 2012
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June 6 - June 12, 2012
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contents KENYA HUDSON
6 Deja Vu Among his two hundred plus pardons, Gov. Barbour gives two Melton proteges a clean slate. RL NAVE
Cover illustration by Ariss King
open up more space. Next, they renovated the downstairs area and the kitchen and then worked on the workout facility. The newly built school, located on the McDowell Road extension, is one large building dedicated to elementary and middle school students. “This was a fun project. The feedback from the children, hearing how much they enjoyed it—that was great,” Edwards says. Architecture is not about constructing just any kind of building. Edwards takes care to keep the client in mind as well as the environment. “(Design) has a psychological impact on people in the buildings,” Edwards says. “Good design makes you excited to be there On the other hand, I’m sure you’ve seen some design that wasn’t that great, and you didn’t want to go back. It plays a tremendous part in people’s experience in buildings.” Edwards is a member of the American Institute of Architects, which offers ongoing education for architects. She also is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited professional with the United States Green Building Council. Edwards lives in Jackson with her husband, Trent, and son, Corvin, who will be in the 6th grade in the fall. She has lived in Jackson for almost 14 years and doesn’t plan on going anywhere. “New architecture and renovations show how a city is growing,” Edwards says. “It excites people and (gets them to ask) ‘What else can we do?’” —LaShanda Phillips
29 Pop-Up Art Local photos, paintings, screenprints and sculptures, all “priced to move.”
COURTESY NICK’S RESTAURANT;VIRGINIA SCHREIBER
Melissa Edwards grew up surrounded by the influence of architecture through her two uncles who work in design. She did not know of any female architects who could serve as role models, however, but that didn’t stop her from entering the field. Edwards, 36, is a project architect at JBHM Architects in Jackson. In her role, she works on every aspect of clients’ projects from the planning stages to when the building is actually completed. “I get so involved with my projects. I go to see the project to see if its done the way the client wants,” she says. “It takes a lot of time … but it’s so worth it.” The Hazlehurst native attended Copiah Academy. During her freshman year at the University of Southern Mississippi, she decided to become an architect. She didn’t really consider the field until a family member pointed out how her talents, particularly her drawing ability, related to architecture. She then decided to look into it. “I took a few courses, and I loved it,” Edwards says. “I love the way architecture combines science and art. That appealed to me.” She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering technology in 1998. In Jackson, Edwards worked on the Jackson Country Club design in 2009 through 2010 and the Gladys Noel Bates Elementary and Thomas Cardozo Middle School in 2010. “(The country club) occurred in phases. It was a very exciting project,” she says. The company first re-did the golf pro shop to
Iron Chef Two local chefs clash in the kitchen, competing to be named Iron Chef Ferguson.
National and state Dems are ready to “get in the way” of legislation they don’t like. LAURA MEEK
4 ..............Editor’s Note 4 .................... Sorensen 6 ............................ Talk 10 .................. Business 12 ................... Editorial 12 .................. Kamikaze 12 ........................... Day 13 ................. Opinion 14 ............ Cover Story 19 .............. Diversions 22 ........................ Film 24 .................... 8 Days 26 ............. JFP Events 29 ...................... Music 31 ....... Music Listings 32 ..................... Sports 34 .............. Body/Soul 35 ................. Wellness 38 ....................... Food 41 ................ Astrology 41 .................... Puzzles 42 ... Girl About Town
Preaching to the Choir
R.L. Nave Reporter R.L. Nave grew up in St. Louis, graduated from Mizzou (the University of Missouri), and lived a bunch of other places before coming to Jackson. Contact him at 601-362-6121 ext. 12 or rlnave@jacksonfreepress. com. He wrote the cover story.
LaShanda Phillips Freelance writer LaShanda Phillips is a recent graduate of Jackson State University. She is the third oldest of seven children. She wrote the Jacksonian.
Sonya Lee Sonya Lee hails from Jackson, and she writes poetry and fiction. She enjoys parasailing, jet skiing and taking long walks on the beach while dreaming. She wrote a theater feature.
Valerie Wells Valerie Wells is a freelance journalist based in south Mississippi. She wrote the Media Eye column and an arts feature for this issue.
Josh Parshall Hailing from Columbia, Mo., Josh Parshall is an oral historian who has lived in Jackson since May 2009. He holds a master’s degree in folklore from the University of North Carolina. He wrote a beer feature.
Casey Purvis Casey Purvis is a Fondrenite who loves planting flowers and watching birds in her backyard. She is owned by Phoebe, a 9year-old Lhasa apso. She works as a nurse in one of the local hospitals in her spare time. She wrote a BodySoul feature.
Eric Bennett Graphic designer Eric Bennett is a native of Jackson and a current digital arts student at Millsaps College. His dream job is to do character designs for a major video game producer. He laid out many pages of this issue.
June 6 - 12, 2012
Advertising coordinator Monique Davis is a passionate promoter of all things Jackson. She is a cartoonist, is married to the smartest man on the planet and is a mother of six wonderful children. She can be bribed with red wine (Merlot).
by Ronni Mott, Managing Editor
Hopes and Dreams
ast Friday was the first of the weekly Jackson Free Press summer intern workshops. With more than a dozen people stuffed into our classroom around the long stretch of tables, Editor-in-Chief Donna Ladd led a spirited discussion centered around the hopes and dreams of a talented group of young people. What one thing would you change about the world if you could, Donna asked the group. The answers ranged from irreverent (“More ice cream!”) to expansive (“Open minds”). What struck me, as one-by-one, each intern spoke about his or her deepest wish for a better world, was the way the group rejected America’s current trend of divisiveness. Over and over again, themes of equality and openness came up. Make education equally available to all, one said, echoed by another’s wish to make art accessible to everyone regardless of social status. Acceptance of all people, said a third, and two said they want to open minds. One wants simply to tell the untold stories. Every summer, the JFP offices fairly vibrate with the energy and enthusiasm of young people eager to make their mark on the world. With the long, hot summer stretching ahead of them without high-school or college classes, restlessly unsatisfied by their current situation and eager to learn new skills, they bring with them an unfettered optimism that they are capable of changing the world they have inherited. The common vehicle they have chosen is to observe and write about it. They never fail to inspire me to be a better version of myself. Looking back over the dozens of interns we have coached and coddled and prodded to become better observers and writers, I don’t have any illusions that our job—nurturing, teaching and providing worthwhile subjects to keep them engaged and interested—is easy. It isn’t. My grown-up and hard-bitten cynicism about how the world “really” works makes for an often uneasy balance. But their presence brings me back to a time when my own fragile optimism was fresh and vital, not scarred by disappointments, the status quo and the realization that the world isn’t concerned much about what I want. Most of our interns have never lived in a world without the Internet and access to quick, easy answers. They are survivors of an educational system more concerned about test scores than the ability to reason and think critically. At a superficial level, some probably see their internship as little more than a potentially valuable addition to already hefty resumes of academic achievement; a check mark on the road toward better college careers and jobs and more money. In that, they’re right; this experience will figure into all of those things, hopefully for the better. What will perhaps surprise many is that they find rewarding challenges despite the fact that they won’t get a grade or walk across a stage to get their gold star of achievement at the end of their time here. Those who already
possess a way with words will get a lot of opportunity to make even seemingly mundane subjects engaging and interesting. If they already have confidence and people skills, we will challenge them to reach deeper and develop their empathy and understanding of what motivates others. If they have tasted working and making their way in this world, we’ll hold them to higher standards of professionalism.
They mean to make their mark, not to further divide, but to bring people together through knowledge. As their coaches, they will change and teach us as well. For my part, it is what makes it all worthwhile. They will challenge me to think beyond my knee-jerk reactions and have me struggling to reach each of them as individuals and not part of a ubiquitous source of content and fact-checking. I’m committed that no one slips through the cracks of this experience and each of them leaves us with their determination and enthusiasm for telling stories well tested and strengthened. Like many creative endeavors, we will teach them that writing isn’t some mysterious undertaking, but a process that they can count on for expressing their truths. During
last Friday’s workshop, they agreed on a group mission statement for the summer: “Creating awareness through greater community exposure.” I believe they understand that waking people up to reality takes work. Those untold stories will remain untold without someone digging them out. They’re up to the challenge, they said, by writing, understanding, changing—that’s how they’ll get the job done. What this group has in common with their peers is that they find it unacceptable to live in a divisive, violent world. Deep in their souls, they instinctively know that it’s up to them to find and lead the world to a better way. And across the board, they see that the way their forebears have split the world—us versus them, indiscriminately using up everything at their disposal—doesn’t solve anything. They hold in their hands the means to make lasting inroads to equality and greater understanding. They mean to make their mark, not to further divide, but to bring people together through knowledge. They are truth-seekers and truth-tellers. How can anyone not be inspired by that? Perhaps I’m putting too much on this particular group of go-getters. I’m not so sure. They have plenty of good humor and energy to put into their hero’s quest. Their deceptively simply motto—”The world is not ice cream, but it could be”—is as clear as glass and as deep as a well. This life isn’t easy—they know that—but suffering about it is a choice. Out of the mouths of babes, they melt and heal my heart. Their enthusiasm for change and eagerness to dig into all of the hard work that entails astounds me. This summer is shaping up to be a lot more than hot and humid. Be prepared to embrace a little greatness.
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news, culture & irreverence
Thursday, May 31 A small plane crashes into a pond near Macon, Miss., killing the pilot. ... A bill that would impose fines and prison terms on doctors who perform sex-selective abortions falls short of the needed two-thirds approval in the U.S. House of Representatives. Friday, June 1 An explosion at Mississippi Phosphates, a fertilizer manufacturer in Pascagoula, kills one employee, Jeremy Moore, and injures two others. ... Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester revokes George Zimmermanâ€™s bond, saying he misled the court about his available money, and orders him to return to jail. Zimmerman is charged with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Saturday, June 2 The Navy commissions the USS Mississippi, an attack submarine, in Pascagoula. â€Ś Warren County officials discover the bodies of Jermaine Walton and James East, both of Vicksburg, after their boat capsized on Lake Long. Sunday, June 3 The United Auto Workers, elected officials and Nissan employees meet to discuss forming a union at the Canton factory. â€Ś A plane crashes in Nigeria, killing more than 150 people.
June 6 - 12, 2012
Monday, June 4 Jury selection begins in the trial over a contested Ward 3 special election. â€Ś Ole Missâ€™ menâ€™s baseball team falls to Texas Christian University 7-4 in the College Station Regional.
Tuesday, June 5 Natchez residents vote for a mayor and two aldermen. â€Ś Wisconsin voters go to the polls to decide whether to recall Gov. Scott Walker. Get news updates at jfpdaily.com.
to get past petty politics and racial tensions to make progress. p 9
Melton Mentees Get Second Chance
he late Mayor Frank Melton may well be smiling from his grave over the good fortune bestowed by Gov. Haley Barbour and the city of Jackson to two of the troubled men he mentored over the years. Robert Earl Henderson Jr., 40, and Aaron Brown, 41, were just two of a long list of pardons that Barbour granted on his way out of office in January: Henderson for previous sentences for cocaine possession and receiving stolen property in the 1990s; Brown for murdering Kenneth Smith on Lynch Street in 1997, allowing him to walk out of prison a free man with a wiped slate. Both men were well known inside Meltonâ€™s circles: Henderson, also known as â€œToo Sweet,â€? credits Melton with saving him from a life of crime and was by the mayorâ€™s side throughout his 2009 federal trial for leading a group of police officers and children to destroy a Ridgeway Street duplex. Brown showed up in Meltonâ€™s life when he was only 12, sent to live in his home by Frank Bluntson, then the director of the Hinds County Youth Detention Center and now the city council president. In an odd twist of fate, Henderson is now working for Bluntson as a paid city intern, in a role the council president called â€œa field guy.â€? Bluntson, who defended Meltonâ€™s duplex demolition, said Henderson works 18 hours a week going out to visit city residents who call in about problemsâ€”such as city property
with overgrown weeds. â€œHe comes back and gets it solved,â€? Bluntson said of Henderson. â€œFolks get sick and tired (of the problems).â€? KENYA HUDSON
Wednesday, May 30 Seven county-level Mississippi Democrats announce they have switched to the Republican Party. â€Ś Pearl police, Homeland Security, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Clinton Police Departmentâ€™s bomb squad respond to a pipe bomb scare in Pearl. The device turned out to be gas tubes that had probably not been disposed of correctly.
says Jackson needs
The Weather Bureau began officially naming hurricanes in 1950. Hurricane names rotate on a six-year cycle, so 2012 repeats the 2006 names. In 2005, the Atlantic saw 28 named storms, forcing the National Hurricane Center to begin naming storms after Greek letters. Hurricane season in the Atlantic officially began June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30.
Rev. Robert Henderson Jr. (left) was at Mayor Frank Meltonâ€™s side throughout his 2009 trial.
The council president said he met Henderson when his long-time friend Melton ran for the mayorâ€™s office. â€œHe helped Frank in his campaign,â€? Bluntson explained Tuesday. â€œâ€Ś He did the same thing in Tyrone Lewisâ€™ campaign.â€? Lewis ran for sheriff twiceâ€”once
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by Donna Ladd
unsuccessfully in 2007 with support of then Mayor Melton and then successfully last year. During the first race, Henderson was listed as the contact for a fund raiser for Lewis at Meltonâ€™s home in north Jackson. On his pardon application, which the state Parole Board received Jan. 9, 2012, Henderson listed Lewis as his top reference. His other references were Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith and The Rev. F. L. Blount. Henderson listed his current employer as Socrates Garrett of Garrett Enterprises and owner of the Mississippi Link newspaper where Henderson published his pardon request notice in late December. State Sen. Alice Harden wrote the letter of recommendation in Hendersonâ€™s pardon file, calling him â€œwell respected in the faith communityâ€? and saying that he is â€œdependable, energetic and honest.â€? The parole board voted 3-2 against recommending Henderson for a pardon with only Chairman Shannon Warnock and board member Clarence Brown voting in favor. Barbour, however, felt differently and granted the pardon for Henderson, who now serves as an associate minister at the Greater Tree of Life Baptist Church in Jackson. Bluntson said Tuesday that he hired Henderson â€œfor the same reason (Frank Melton) hired Louis Armstrong â€Ś to give him a secPARDONED, see page 7
of Separation Tiger Woods to Kevin Bacon by Jacob Fuller
With his win Sunday at the Memorial Tournament, Tiger Woods tied Jack Nicklaus for the second most PGA Tour wins of all time, with 73. At the 1971 U.S. Open, Nicklaus lost a classic shoot-out to Lee Trevino, who later played alongside Adam Sandler in the movie â€œHappy Gilmore.â€? Sandlerâ€™s co-star in â€œAnger Managementâ€? was Jack Nicholson, who also starred in â€œThe Pledge,â€? directed by Sean Penn. Penn played alongside Kevin Bacon in 2003â€™s â€œMystic River.â€?
news, culture & irreverence
PARDONED, from page 6
ond chance. … Armstrong is one of the best employees in the city.” The feds convicted Armstrong, a former Jackson City Council president himself, of felony extortion and bribery in 1999. Melton raised local eyebrows when he brought Armstrong back to city government in 2005. Now Armstrong helps run the city’s “Second Chance” program. (See page 10.) Bluntson, who is running for mayor, said that Henderson’s 18 paid city hours “have nothing to do with my campaign.” He added that he and Henderson have not “gone back and discussed” his criminal past, that he relies on his late friend’s trust of Henderson and doesn’t need to look at things he’s done in the past: “Frank Melton told me how much he helped him. … Why not give a person a second chance to see how they do?” Henderson’s pardon file shows that he was indicted in the 1990s as a habitual offender and pled as non-habitual and was sentenced Dec. 5, 1997. He was released in 1999 and discharged from probation March 4, 2002. He reached out to the JFP in 2008, during the paper’s critical reporting of the mayor and his past, to tell us that Melton had helped him recover from his criminal past. He wrote in his parole application that he had worked with Melton “by helping organize and hire under-privileged, high-risk youth.” Reached at the same number two weeks ago, Henderson set an appointment last week at the Wendy’s on High Street to talk about Melton’s mentorship, but did not show up or return subsequent phone calls.
The record of Aaron Brown, also par- right now, should be retiring from the NFL, appropriate sexual contact, but those files were doned by Barbour (but not a trusty), is more but he’s in Parchman for the rest of his life. missing from JPD by the time police investidisturbing by comparison: Thanks to Barbo- [Aaron] is one of the smartest kids I’ve dealt gated Melton’s mentoring in the 1990s. ur, he walked free after serving 15 years of a with in my life. And Frank Bluntson is the one Melton often brought up Sheppard in inlife sentence for the murder of Kenneth Smith who brought me Aaron Brown, when Aaron terviews, hoping to clear his name. He told me at the Cool Breeze pool hall in in 2008 about Sheppard: “I beat Jackson. Neither the attorney his butt, put him in the car and general’s office, the Mississippi took him home, and his mama Department of Corrections or filed assault charges against me, the state Parole Board could supand the judge dismissed the chargply any records on Brown, other es appropriately so, and the kid than Barbour’s Executive Order goes out and gets himself killed.” No. 1274. None of the agencies Sheppard did not go right were consulted before Barbour out and get killed, however. Police pardoned Brown. reports put the assault charge in The order stated that Brown the mid-1980s; he was not killed was sentenced on Aug. 26, 1997, until Nov. 17, 1992. His murder for murder and was “previously at the Dairy Bar occurred when he sentenced for crimes of concealed was 18, the month after then JPD weapon and possession of conChief Jimmy Wilson launched a Rev. Robert Henderson Jr. helps Mayor Frank Melton into his car outside the federal courthouse downtown in 2009. trol substance in Hinds County related Youth Detention Center on Dec. 12, 1990.” He was 26 investigation that revealed the earwhen he was convicted, according to records was 12 years old,” Melton said. lier unresolved investigation of Melton’s relaacquired by the JFP. Melton was referring to the troubled tionship with Sheppard and others. Further research shows that Brown un- children and teens that Bluntson, as head of Another young man, Augusta Ball, was successfully appealed his murder conviction in the youth detention center, “sent” to him to convicted of killing Sheppard at the Dairy Bar, March 2000. According to the Court of Ap- mentor in his home—a controversial practice but had escaped to New Orleans before his appeals decision, Brown shot Smith to death “in that led the Jackson Police Department to in- prehension. Aaron Brown, the man Barbour the course of an argument” in the parking lot vestigate Melton’s dealings with young people pardoned in January for murdering Kenneth of the Cool Breeze. in the early 1990s especially because he was Smith, had helped him escape after Sheppard’s Smith’s girlfriend testified that Brown never a trained or certified foster parent, yet murder—before Melton retrieved Ball and got drew a 9-millimeter pistol from under his coat managed to fill his home with young men. him to confess.“The boy that took (Ball) to and shot Smith multiple times. One of those investigations centered New Orleans was Aaron Brown. He admitted In interviews with the Jackson Free around the murder of Robert Lamont Shep- it to me,” Melton said in 2008. Press from 2006 to 2008, Melton mentioned pard, who was 15 when youth court Judge Brown’s current whereabouts are Brown multiple times as one of the ones he C.A. Henley signed an order for him to live unknown, and he could not be reached failed, bemoaning the fact that he had ended with Melton. Several years earlier, between for comment for this story. up in prison. “Aaron is another kid I worked 1985 and 1987, when Sheppard was between See story at www.jfp.ms for links to previous with very closely. Aaron also is brilliant. Aaron, 11 and 13 years old, he accused Melton of in- stories mentioned. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
Last-Minute Decisions on Sex Ed “They jumped the gun on it and made an adoption, and the curriculum they actually chose ended up not being on ELIZABETH WAIBEL
chool districts across the state have only a few weeks left to decide on sex-education policies and curricula for next year, but many have yet to make their decisions, including Jackson Public Schools. The deadline for each school district in the state to adopt either an abstinenceplus or abstinence-only sex-education policy is the end of this month. Districts have until June 30 to report both their policy and curriculum choices to the Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Healthy Schools. JPS has not yet adopted a policy. The last school board meeting of the month is scheduled for June 19. Marshall and Benton counties, two districts located in north Mississippi, recently switched their policies from abstinence-plus to abstinence-only. Jerry Moore, superintendent of the Marshall County School District, said the board approved an abstinence-plus policy about a year ago, before he became superintendent.
The Jackson Public Schools board has yet to vote on a sex-education policy and curriculum for next year.
the (approved-curricula) list,” he said. After Moore became superintendent in January, he and the board met with vendors that have programs on the MDE’s approved-curricula list. They also met with teachers and school health nurses and surveyed the community, he said.
So far, the MDE has approved four abstinence-plus programs, two of which are also on the list of abstinence-only curricula. Until late March, however, the only two approved abstinence-plus programs were the same ones available to schools with abstinence-only policies. The department has approved five programs for abstinence-only policies. Before a new law, HB 999, passed last year, Moore said his district did not have a defined sex-education policy. “It was definitely part of our vocational health classes, but it was definitely not a policy,” he said. So far, 30 districts have chosen abstinence-plus policies, according to the education-advocacy organization Mississippi First, which has been trying to get more abstinence-plus programs approved. As school officials discuss policy, some Jackson-area residents say no matter what policy school districts adopt, it will be much more effective if community groups get involved. Betti Watters is the president of the
newly formed nonprofit Mississippi Campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention. She says that teens will make better choices if they get sex-education from people they already have a connection with and who can be role models for teens after classes end. “Our core belief is that teens, of course, need correct information on sex in order to be able to make good decisions, and the people who are closest to them are the best people to give that education,” Watters said. “Of course, parents are the best educators, but many of them do not have the information, maybe, the time or are just uncomfortable talking about sex.” Watters, who has been a social worker for several different organizations, said community groups should also work with parents to help them talk to their teens about sex. She is encouraged by how many people are talking about Mississippi’s high teenage-pregnancy rates, but still sees a need for effective programming to address the problem. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
by Elizabeth Waibel
by R.L. Nave
Against Tough Odds, Dems Rally
ongressman John Lewis likes to say Court Judge David Lyons and Constable that he didn’t grow up in a big city like Mitch Sumrall of Jones County; Sheriff Greg Indianola or Tunica. He was born in Waggoner, Coroner Randolph Scott, Supervirural Pike County, Ala., near the town sor Tony Smith and Justice Court Judge Ken of Troy (which is roughly the same size as Indi- Adcock of Leake County; and Sheriff Jackie anola), where his family raised chickens. As a Knight of Newton County. Justice court boy, Lewis wanted to be a minister. judges are the only judges in the state that run From time to time, Lewis said he and by party affiliation. his siblings would gather the family’s chickens Waggoner said Democrats have taken and preach to them: “Some of those chickens “an extreme left turn,” alluding to Obama’s would bow their heads. Some those chickens announcement that he supports gay marwould shake their riage as one reason heads. They never he was leaving the quite said Amen. party less than a year Some of those chickafter winning elecens I used to preach tion as a Democrat. at in the ’40s and ’50s “I’m a Christended to listen to tian, and my first me much better than allegiance is to Jeour Republican colsus Christ. If we’re leagues,” he quipped. going to preserve Sometimes, our country, we’re Democrats like to going to have to feast on red meat, too. Speaking in Jackson, Congressman preserve our famiAt this year’s Jefferson John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, urged lies, and we’re not Jackson Hamer Din- Mississippi Democrats to “get in the going to preserve ner, held June 1 at way” and fight for Democratic values. our families going the Regency Hotel in the route that they Jackson, Lewis, a civil-rights icon who marched want to go,” Waggoner said. with Dr. King, played the role of zookeeper. A Mississippi Republican Party press “You look like you’re ready to get in release said more than 50 Democrats in Misthe way,” Lewis said in greeting the 600- sissippi have gone to the other party “since Democrat gathering that included mem- Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have taken bers of the Mississippi Legislature and At- over the national Democrat party (sic).” torney General Jim Hood, the lone stateIn 2011, Rep. Jeff Smith of Columwide elected Democrat. bus, Rep. Donnie Bell of Fulton and Democrats, Lewis said, need to learn to Sen. Gray Tollison of Oxford traded their get in the way to push back against the Re- D’s for R’s. publican-controlled U.S. House of Repre“We are committed to winning elections sentatives, which has often locked horns with at every level and are glad to welcome conserDemocratic President Barack Obama and vative Democrats in Mississippi who can no sought to block many of Obama’s policy ini- longer support the liberal policies of Barack tiatives. Lewis said it was one reason Demo- Obama and the national Democratic Party,” crats need to organize and ensure high voter Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement. turnout in the November 2012 election. Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman He chided congressional Republicans for Jamie Franks called on the Democratic lawpushing laws targeting undocumented immi- makers in attendance to introduce legislation grants and abortion rights. Republicans made that would automatically declare seats vacant similar efforts in Mississippi during the legisla- when politicians switch parties in the middle tive session. While the party failed to get an of a term. immigration law passed, the GOP did muscle “Those people were never Democrats in through strict regulations on the state’s only the first place,” Franks told the Jefferson Jackabortion clinic. son Hamer Dinner audience. Democrats, at least the ones in MissisRickey Cole, executive director of the sippi, could probably use the encouragement. Mississippi Democratic Party, said the party In the November 2011 statewide election, expected to lose some members after Obama’s Democrats lost control of the state House of gay marriage announcement and that party Representatives, yielding control of the Leg- switching is a natural part of the political islature to the GOP. Three Democratic legis- process. However, calling their switch unfair lators also switched parties last year, and last to Democratic voters and their Republican week several county Democratic officials jet- primary challengers, Cole said the switchers tisoned the party. should resign their seats and let their counties Obama’s affirmation of same-sex mar- call special elections. riage in May spurred some of the officials’ de“If it takes a person to upper middle age cisions to go play for the other team. At a May to decide what they want to be when they 30 news conference, the Mississippi Republi- grow up, then there might be some maturity can Party introduced its newest acquisitions. issues they have to deal with,” Cole said. The party-switching officials are: Justice Comment www.jfp.ms.
chef inspired Monster Creations and Milkshakes, including adult alcohol infused shakes! Special odka! Happy Meal toys and burger everyone! Coloring Books! Fun for kids and adults! Live Music at 5pm with ng bands Spacewolf, Furrows, the Iron Feathers. New Bands the Rat Kings tic Ensemble! Returning Chefs from the original PM Burger! Classic PM Burger Monday, June 11, 2012 - 11:00am until 10:00pm - Crazy, chef inspired Monster
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June 6 - 12, 2012
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by Jacob Fuller
Whitwell: Getting Things Going
ate and law school that got him involved in politics. You worked on a presidential campaign? Yeah, I worked for Lamar Alexander, who is now a U.S. senator from Tennessee. Heâ€™d been governor of Tennessee and education secretary under (Ronald) Reagan. He ran in the Republican primary when (Bill) Clinton was running for re-election, and he lost to Bob Dole in the primary. I got to go
uentin Whitwell, 39, was born in Memphis and grew up in Southaven and Oxford. His father, Robert Q. Whitwell, served as the U.S. Attorney for northern Mississippi from 1985 through 1993. After graduating from Oxford High School, Whitwell earned his bachelorâ€™s degree from Ole Miss in 1995 and his law degree from the school in 1998. Since college, his career titles have included lawyer, lobbyist, novelist and now Jackson Ward 1 city councilman.
Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell, who previously lobbied for Farish Street developers, said the quickest way to put Jackson on the map is to open the Farish Street entertainment district.
Soon after law school, Whitwell moved to Jackson and worked as an attorney and lobbyist. In 2006, he helped start The Talon Group LLC, a lobbying and consulting firm, along with former City Councilman Chip Reno. His lobbying clients this year include Delta Technical College, Freedom Prosthetics LLC, Mississippi Mortgage Bankers Association, Treasure Bay LLC and Cash in a Flash, among others. The Jackson Free Press caught up with the Ward 1 councilman Monday, June 4. He said it was his time between undergradu-
to Iowa and work in the first caucus (of the year). It was a great experience. I did advance work, drove the press van, set everything up before all the town hall meetings. It was an incredible experience. It was one of those things where, if I didnâ€™t already have the bug, I had it after that. Why did you decide to become a councilman? I knew (former Ward 1 Councilman) Jeff (Weill) was rolling off after getting elected to be a judge. I had some people ask me if I was
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interested in it. I just really thought it would be a great way to make a difference. Iâ€™m limited in what I can do at the state and federal level right now with my lobbying practice, so the city level was more manageable on the conflict side. So I decided to go for it. Of course, my lobbying partner, Chip Reno, was on the Jackson City Council (from) â€™97-â€™01. He served in Tony (Yarber)â€™s seat. Have you ever had something come before the city that you had to recuse yourself on because of a conflict with your lobbying practice? Yeah, itâ€™s just like (any career). Itâ€™s like when Councilman Yarber was a principal of a high school, he couldnâ€™t vote on education issues. There was a time when I did some work for the Watkins Development group, trying to help them with some contractual issues on funding. I wasnâ€™t able to vote on those issues when I represented them. Youâ€™ve done some lobbying for payday lending. What do you think about those companies? Well, I believe that payday lending is an alternative financing source for many people who are either unbankable or do not desire to utilize the services of banks and the banking industry. I think just like any industry, there are good ones and there are bad ones. I certainly think the ones I represent are some of the good ones, or I wouldnâ€™t represent them. The things that we have worked for over the years, with the companies that Iâ€™ve represented, (we) have actually tried to seek lower interest rates and longer terms to help their customers. I donâ€™t think anybody would argue with that. (Note: See sidebar, top right.) I donâ€™t think there are as many payday lending places in your ward as there are in a lot of the others. Why is that? Well, the market bears out where the customers are. Apparently, there are more customers in other places.
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What needs to be the cityâ€™s No. 1 priority right now? Good question. Citywide, we need to do a couple things. First thing we need to do is get past petty politics, petty racial tensions. Understand, I say that with a sincere heart, because racial tensions are not petty, but the folks who try to aggravate or push people apart for their own purposes, weâ€™ve got to get past that and all start working together. Iâ€™m sure there was a time when people were saying, â€œIs this a majority black city or a majority white city?â€? Well, that pendulum has already swung, so thereâ€™s no reason to be trying to push anybody out of this city at this point. As a matter of fact, we should be trying to bring people in, no matter who they are. From a development standpoint, both economically and as far as the population goes, some of the goals that I think are most critical (are) first of all, we need someone to paint a vision. We need someone to give us a picture of: â€œThis is what Jackson could be in five years, 10 years, 20 years.â€? I try to do that from one council seat, but we need it at the top level. I really want to see more of that. For me, I believe the easiest, fastest, quickest way to put Jackson, Mississippi, on the map is to open Farish Street. Itâ€™s just so easy. Theyâ€™ve spent so much money, and all they need is one very last piece that will have them open within 90 to 120 days. If I was in charge, so to speak, I would say, â€œWhat do we have to do to get that going?â€? (Note: Watkins Partners is redeveloping the Farish Street district. Whitwell lobbied for the Farish Street Group in 2011.) Read more of this interview at www.jfp.ms.
by Jacob Fuller
City Calls on Companies to Offer â€˜Fresh Startâ€™
ackson is making an effort to stop the to begin the planning process of the Fresh the program both to business owners and through the Second Chance Act last year. revolving door in the stateâ€™s prison sys- Start program. Karen Quay, offender re- to the community to try to get more em- The grant matched a $50,000 investment tem. One of the biggest keys, accord- entry program coordinator, said the turn- ployers to hire former inmates. from the cityâ€™s general fund to implement ing to the Fresh Start Task Force, is out and energy at the meeting were great. One of the main goals of the meet- the task force and the planning stages of helping formerly incarcerated people learn Within the task force, Quay and other ing was to create a mission statement for the project. Chris Mims, Johnsonâ€™s direcskills and find jobs. leaders split members into work groups that the group, and they created this statement: tor of communications, said the city and Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. appointed highlighted their expertise, such as employ- â€œThe mission of the Fresh Start Re-Entry the mayor are actively pursuing funding to a few dozen local leaders to the task implement the project. force earlier this year to plan the The group also invited Eddie Fresh Start program. The goal of Walsh, executive director of the the program is to reduce recidivism Second Chance program in Memamong Mississippians who leave the phis, to speak during their meeting. criminal-justice system. He said Memphis started its proThe percentage of inmates in gram after officials noticed a large the state who return to prison withportion of the cityâ€™s money was in three years is relatively low comgoing toward correctional facilities pared to the national average, but itâ€™s and public defendersâ€™ offices. rising. The Pew Center on the States â€œWe determined we had to stop reports that Mississippiâ€™s recidivism and look at ways we could stop this rate between 2004 and 2007 was money from going out, because the 33.3 percent, up from 26.6 percent same people were going through from 1999 to 2002. The national the (public defenderâ€™s) office going average was 43.3 percent in 2007, to and from jail,â€? Walsh said. down from 45.4 percent in 2002. One program Memphis startThe stateâ€™s inmate population as ed to respond to the problem was of May 29 was 21,820, according to Building for the Future. Under the state Department of Corrections. the program, inmates build housJohn Hopkins, director of treatment ing materials in the prison to be and programs at DOC, said that the The Fresh Start Task Force is working to keep people from returning to the stateâ€™s prisons, including the State used by charities such as Habitat department offers vocational skills Penitentiary at Parchman, pictured. Mississippiâ€™s recidivism rate is relatively low, but it has risen in recent years. for Humanity. The project, Walsh training to prisoners, such plumbing said, gives inmates a sense of being and carpentry. Employers must be involved in communities and cuts willing to hire former prisoners once costs for the charities. they are out, Hopkins said, to keep them ment, education and skills training, hous- Task Force is to implement a comprehenâ€œWe taught inmates a viable skill, an from returning to prison. ing, law enforcement, and more. sive, seamless system of innovative services employment-retention skill about building â€œThere are a large number of people The employment group includes, designed to facilitate the successful re-entry panelized housing,â€? Walsh said. â€œWe taught who want employment and want to try to among others, group leader Don Watson process from corrections to community.â€? them how to make bricks. They might not be responsible,â€? Hopkins said. â€œAnd they of D. Watson and Associates, Jeff Good The program needs to bring inmates have been a bricklayer, but they can mix canâ€™t get (a job). So then, what happens of Mangia Bene Restaurant Group and in between one and three years prior to the mud.â€? when you canâ€™t get a job?â€? Lurlene Irvin from the Center for Business their release to receive adequate job trainThe meeting Thursday was the first The Fresh Start Task Force is made Development at Jackson State University. ing and skills, Quay said. for the task force since an orientation earup of representatives from a range of proâ€œWe got some concrete ideas about The cityâ€™s program will likely bring in lier this year. The planning stage of the fessional fields including city government, how the business sector needs to be in- inmates closer to one year prior to release, program will continue through the sumlaw enforcement, business, mental health, volved and (about) recruiting other busi- though, due to a lack of resources to sup- mer. The task force must submit a strategic domestic abuse treatment, corrections and ness people,â€? Quay said. port longer stints in the program. plan to the U.S. Department of Justice by the judicial system. â€œWeâ€™ve got some good leadership in Jackson was one of 15 cities, out of Sept. 30 to be considered for implementaThe group met Thursday, May 31, that sector (and) in that work group.â€? more than 600 applicants, that received a tion funding. at the Entergy Lodge on Northside Drive Quay said the task force will promote $50,000 grant from the federal government Comment at www.jfp.ms.
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Private Prisons Flourish on Desperation
f you drive around Natchez, a sleepy river town of 16,045 people, and talk to folks, everybody has an opinion on whether Adams County Correction Center and its parent company, Corrections Corporation of America, have had a positive impact on the area. Whatever people thought, it likely changed on Sunday, May 20, when a disturbance with a still-unknown cause prompted inmates to set parts of the prison on fire, take employees hostage and reportedly kill a young prison guard who happened to be working on his day off. For inmates and employees, prisons are dangerous places, and stress comes with the territory. Human-rights activists who keep close tabs on America’s prisons assert that those dangers are heightened at private prisons whose owners court local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to house prisoners. Because the contract is usually worth a prescribed dollar amount, the prison company has to make its profits on the margins. The ACLU and other groups say the arrangement results in private prison firms cutting corners to boost income. When the companies trade their stock on Wall Street, which rewards them not just for generating profits but for growing profits quarter over quarter, there’s even more temptation to keep expenses low. In most large organizations, employees represent the biggest line-item expense. In a prison, cutting back on staff is a recipe for disaster. A small, overworked prison staff might be more inclined to take a hard line with inmates. Understaffing also means inmates won’t have access to the privileges and services to which they are entitled. When one person has to oversee an entire housing unit, moving prisoners from their cells to the recreational yard or law library or infirmary becomes a logistical nightmare, fueling resentment and causing even a docile inmate to lash out at anyone in striking distance. But the saddest thing is that the private-prison industry makes its money by exploiting a cycle of human desperation. They go into poor communities like Tutwiler and Natchez, which doesn’t have much going for itself economically besides tourism, promising jobs. In the case of ACCC, which houses immigrants who re-entered the U.S. after being deported, the prison is filled with men who came to this country looking for a better life. Surprisingly, Mississippi has quietly moved away from private prison companies the last few months. Last fall, the Department of Corrections let CCA break its contract to run the Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood. After a settlement was reached in a lawsuit alleging sex abuse and other civil-rights abuses at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, its operator, The GEO Group, announced that it would pull it out of Mississippi. We are encouraged by this trend and hope other states will follow Mississippi’s lead.
Hard Times Made Tolerable
June 6 - 12, 2012
il’ Momma Roscoe: “I am so proud to announce that Clubb Chicken Wing was awarded best Community Service Venue during the first annual Best of the Ghetto Science Community Public Service Awards and Disco. My hard-working son, Big Roscoe, and I worked diligently to make Clubb Chicken Wing a place that meets the needs of the whole Ghetto Science Community. “I am honored and happy that the Ghetto Science Public Service Committee recognized our efforts during this great recession. And thanks to some very benevolent financial contributions from members, businesses and institutions of the Ghetto Science Community, Clubb Chicken Wing grew from a small, local bar and grill to a multipurpose complex. Also, I’m glad Big Roscoe had big ideas like the football stadium, recreational center for the kids and adults, and office space for aspiring entrepreneurs. Today, the Clubb Chicken Wing Multipurpose Complex is a core of positive community development. Bubba Robinski, token Caucasian Ghetto Science community member, says that Clubb Chicken Wing is a large-scale version of ‘Cheers,’ where everybody knows your name. “Clubb Chicken Wing’s goal during the recession is to create jobs for the unemployed. Our daily ‘Hot Wing Happy Hour’ provides unemployed DJs, emcees, college graduates, teachers with Ph.D.s and other mid-level workers with part-time income. And we are not afraid to host job-search seminars and resume workshops either. “Big Roscoe and I want to help make these hard times more tolerable for the common people. 12 “So, here’s a toast to the community: Cheers!”
Hold the School Board Accountable
’m a proud product of Jackson Public Schools. I attended Boyd Elementary and Chastain Middle schools up until the 9th grade. I then went to St. Joseph Catholic School because my mother wanted me to attend Murrah High School instead of my neighborhood school, Callaway. Out of teenage defiance, I left JPS for St. Joe but have forever remained a supporter. And though I could easily send my kids to a private school (and I have contemplated it), I’ve remained loyal to the system that made me. In my opinion, as an advocate, I have to lead by example. I attend PTA meetings. I attend parent-teacher conferences. I have my kids’ teachers’ cell numbers, and they have mine. Principals and coaches at least know my face. This doesn’t mean that my kids are perfect; it simply means that as a parent, I understand my role and have done my part. That said, I can only express utter embarrassment at what has transpired lately with JPS and its new rezoning plan. I’m even more embarrassed at how the debacle was handled publicly. I’ve got a stake in this: my kids. From the outside, anyone looking at this mess might surmise that incompetence abounds on the JPS school board. While I don’t think that’s totally the case, one could surely get the impression upon first glance. Not good. Not only was the announcement of the plan haphazard; the explanation for the plan has been more confusing. It speaks to a leadership issue in this city that I and many others have a problem with. It
seems our city leaders have not been and don’t want to be held accountable. They’re not welcoming of criticism and, in many cases, take it personally when their decisions are questioned. They make unpopular (not necessarily bad) decisions and do their dead-level best to avoid fielding tough questions from the public. No one wants to be unpopular, right? So, instead, JPS is paying Eric Stringfellow a nice piece of change to have him stand in front of folks and take the heat. To my knowledge, that’s all they’re paying him for. Tell us, why exactly JPS is paying a “spokesperson” up to $10,000, and where is that money coming from, seeing as how we’re having financial issues in the district? When the future of our kids is at stake— hell, the future of a district in danger of losing its accreditation is at stake—I need more concise answers, answers that I can’t easily find on a website or by speaking with someone’s assistant. For example, I want to know why my stepson, who lives in north Jackson, will be attending a school in west Jackson. Being a leader is a tricky thing: When things go great, you probably never get proper praise, but when things are bad, you most certainly get the blame. But that’s what leaders sign on for. Tough. When you make a choice, stand by it, explain it, take the bullets when they come your way, and stand steadfast. The JPS school board boggles my mind, and they’re playing craps with my kids’ education. Get your stuff together! And that’s the truth ... sho-nuff.
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In Praise of Public Servants
lendora businessman Mike Sturdivant passed away at age 84 on May 1, at his home on his Due West Plantation. It brought to mind many things about one of the Magnolia State’s best leaders. He was a successful businessman who made two attempts to become governor of this state, in 1983 and 1987. In 1983 Sturdivant finished behind former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy and then-Attorney General Bill Allain. Gandy and Allain both had the advantage of holding statewide office. Then came 1987, which may go down as the last “big time” gubernatorial election. By the time the qualifying deadline ended we had 10 candidates: eight Democrats and two Republicans. The list included former Gov. Bill Waller, Attorney General Ed Pittman, State Auditor Ray Mabus, former Columbia Mayor Maurice Dantin, Jackson attorney John Arthur Eaves and Tupelo businessman Jack Reed. An editorial in The Clarion-Ledger summed it up best, saying the Democratic Party offered “one of best slates Mississippians could have asked for.” The paper went on to conclude that Mabus, Sturdivant, Dantin or Waller would all serve the state well. The paper also mentioned Republican Reed in that category. When the primary votes were counted, Mabus and Sturdivant led for the Democrats, and Reed won the GOP primary. Mabus defeated Sturdivant on the way to winning the general election against Reed. Sturdivant was a supporter of public education and campaigned extensively on that issue. I have no doubt that if he had been elected governor, education would have been a foremost concern. Reed, the 1987 GOP candidate, also had a passion for education. He served on Gov. William Winter’s education commission in 1980 and on the state Board of Education. The eventual winner, Mabus, had served on Gov. Winter’s “Boys of Spring” team, which in 1982 helped pass the Education Reform Act. He supported and tried to pass funding for his education program, Better Education for Success Tomorrow. The legislature approved BEST in 1990 but failed to fund the program. Sturdivant was as passionate about education as anyone in this state, in a campaign where his competition was also passionate. I believe he would have made great strides to improve the education system in Mississippi, which would have improved the economic standing of our citizens. In the end, Sturdivant, Mabus and Reed were the top contenders in the 1987 race for governor—three big supporters of education and moving our state forward. I followed former Hinds County Sheriff and Jackson Chief of Police Malcolm McMillin long before the first time I met him at a Mississippi Press Association Convention back in 1998. My grandmother, Lois Strachan, was a resident of Hinds County for more than 22
years after she moved from Carroll County, and we visited her many times over the years before her death. I remember when McMillin ran for sheriff the first time in 1991, and I have been a long distance supporter of his ever since. At that MPA convention over a decade ago, I asked him about running for the old 4th Congressional District seat, which Rep. Mike Parker vacated to run for governor. I found out that his heart was in law enforcement, and that is where he would stay. Last year, I heard some talk that he might run for lieutenant governor, but I believed he would run for re-election as sheriff or retire. He has the temperament for law enforcement, and if there was ever anyone who fit the role of county sheriff in Mississippi, it is McMillin. When he ran for and lost the race for a sixth term as Hinds County’s top cop, it was clear he wasn’t ready for retirement. Gov. Phil Bryant could not have made a better choice when he named McMillin to head the state parole board. In the wake of the recent pardons uproar, someone of McMillin’s experience in law enforcement and his ability to make tough decisions will be an asset to Mississippi’s justice system. His slogan during his last campaign was “I’m the sheriff you know, the sheriff you can trust,” and it fits him. From his tenure as a Hinds County constable to his years being sheriff of the county that encompasses the capital city, McMillin is a proven professional. His tough stance on crime on the county level, his management of the county’s inmates and his dealings with the Hinds County Board of Supervisors shows he doesn’t back down. One of the best examples I know is this: McMillin arrested Frank Melton back in 2006 when Melton was mayor of Jackson. When Bryant appointed McMillin to the parole board, Sen. Lydia Chassaniol, RWinona, said to me: “Former Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin is a good appointment as head of the Mississippi State Parole Board. His prior experience as a county sheriff will make him well aware of the effects of paroling inmates on the local community. When I served as a member of the state parole board, I often contacted the local sheriffs before voting to parole an inmate. The local sheriffs are the ones who must deal with offenders when they are returned to the local communities. His experience will make McMillin a good chair of the current parole board.” I am now glad that McMillin never ran for that congressional seat back in the ’90s or for lieutenant governor last year. With his experience and what he can offer this state as chairman of the parole board, he will be an asset beyond measure. Ken Strachan is a former mayor of North Carrollton and serves as Carroll County coroner. He is a former member of the state Democratic Party Executive Committee.
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LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT
Private Prisons, Public Problems by R.L. Nave
The cause of a riot at Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez that resulted in the death of one prison guard remains unknown. The Federal Bureau of Investigations is leading the inquiry into the incident as rumors fly.
June 6 - 12, 2012
ail Tyree exited U.S. Highway 84 onto Hobo Fork Road and drove through the rose-adorned entrance of the sprawling Adams County Correctional Center. A female correctional officer leaving the prison’s main administration building scrutinized Tyree’s car as she circled the
parking lot. A stout African American in her late 30s with her hair pulled back into a neat tight ponytail and an empty gun holster, the guard eyed Tyree’s car suspiciously as it approached her. Rather than evading the guard who was certain to question Tyree and her reporter companion about why they were driving around snapping pictures of the prison—situated near Richard Wright Memorial Highway—Tyree pulled right up to the guard and slipped into her best down-home sister-girl vernacular. “Can I help y’all?” the guard asked, taking a brief glimpse inside the car. “Girrrrrl … Y’all was all on the TV, somethin’ ’bout a riot. I came down from Memphis because I had to see for myself,” said Tyree, who lives in Southaven. A Jacksonville, Fla., native and organizer with
the anti-private prisons Grassroots Leadership based in Charlotte, N.C., Tyree has helped communities fight to prevent private prisons from going up in their backyards in Florida and Mississippi. “Y’all came all the way down here from Memphis just for that?” inquired the half-impressed-half-incredulous guard. Tyree explained that she had come to Natchez to “see my people” and out of curiosity stopped by the prison that two weeks earlier became the focus of national media headlines. Prison inmates had taken two dozen staff members hostage, sent 16 of them to the hospital with injuries and killed a young corrections officer. As a result, the Corrections Corporation of America and American flags outside the administration building stood at half-mast. The riot also sent Natchez into a panic for a short period after a rumor, which turned out to be false, began circulating that some of the inmates had escaped. After Tyree’s explanation, the guard seemed to loosen up and let her guard down. “You like working here? It seems dangerous. I’d be scared,” Tyree said, probing for more details.
“Not really,” the guard shrugged. “I mean ... it’s a prison.” Treated Like ‘Animals’ On Sunday, May 20, smoke billowed high against the dusky sky above the Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez. By the time the sun was setting, the uprising that started around 3 o’clock that afternoon was still unfolding. It was close to midnight before correctional officials finally quelled the riot and got control of the privately-run federal prison, which houses approximately 2,500 immigrant prisoners. What exactly happened that day is still being sorted out by CCA, the prison’s Nashville, Tenn.-based operator and the nation’s largest for-profit prison management firm, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prison watchdog groups. Facts not in dispute are that sometime that afternoon, a disturbance at the prison erupted into a fullscale melee. Over the course of several hours, a group of 100 to 300 inmates briefly seized control of part of the facility. Prisoners held up to two dozen staff members
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â€˜It probably took me a couple hours to realize this ainâ€™t safe. You got me up here with keys and (pepper) spray in a pod of killers and stuff like that. I wasnâ€™t scared, but you know itâ€™s always in the back of your mind.â€™
In Pursuit of Profit In February 2007, the Adams County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on proposals from the nationâ€™s two largest private prison companies, CCA and The Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut Corp.). CCA was open to federal and state operating contracts and considered sites in Pike, Walthall and Adams counties. Mississippi law enables citizens to petition county boards of supervisors to hold special elections on allowing private prisons to be built in their in their communities, and in April 2007, Pike County voters spiked CCAâ€™s proposal, shifting the firmâ€™s focus to Adams and Walthall counties. Robert Palmer, a lifelong Adams Countian, spearheaded the petition drive to put the question on the ballot. Palmer said he personally opposed locating the prison in Adams County, where heâ€™s lived on the same property since 1952, but thought it was more important that residents have an opportunity to vote it up or down. Prisons, page 16
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hostage, and several of them were reportedly targeted for beatings. Catlin Carithers, a correctional officer who had shown up for a shift on what was supposed to be his day off, climbed to the roof of one of the buildings where prisoners followed him and reportedly beat Carithers to death. Shortly after the uprising began, an inmate phoned WAPT Channel 16 in Jackson and spoke with reporter Meg Pace. The inmate, whom the station did not identify by name, sent photographs snapped with a contraband cell phone from inside the prison. One of the photos appears to show inmates sitting calmly around tables in a common area. The man spoke with an accent and told the station that prisoners were rebelling against conditions at the prison, which is heavily populated with Mexican nationals. Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield told the Associated Press that a gang fight initiated everything. Mayfield, who was elected sheriff in 2009, did not respond to the JFPâ€™s interview requests. Inmatesâ€™ accounts stand in stark contrast to Mayfieldâ€™s. According to the man who called WAPT: â€œThey always beat us and hit us. We just pay them back. ... Weâ€™re trying to get better food, medical (care), programs, clothes, and weâ€™re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants.â€? Steve Owen, spokesman for CCA, said the company is working in concert with the FBI and couldnâ€™t comment on the investigation. Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, said his organization has received similar complaints from prisoners and their families for years about alleged abuse and racial discrimination from guards, particularly in the months leading up to the May 20 riot. Chandler read part of an email from an inmate (a different man than the one who called WAPT, although Chandler said that man had also contacted MIRA) to the Jackson Free Press. It struck a similar chord: â€œThe guard that died yesterday was a sad tragedy, but the situation is simple: If you treat a human as an animal for over two years, the response will be as an animal. ... Most of the correctional officers were not harmed. ... Most of them that were taken hostage were shaken and afraid, but none of them was harmed.â€? A California womanâ€”who asked that neither her name nor the name of her relative be printedâ€”said her relative, who is from Mexico, has told his family that Adams County prison guards routinely employ ethnic slurs such as â€œwetbacksâ€? to inmates. She said: â€œI understand theyâ€™re criminals, but theyâ€™re doing their time. And theyâ€™re human beings; theyâ€™re not animals. Not even animals should be treated like that.â€?
, from page 15
“I just thought that a thing of this magnitude, people in the county should have a right to vote on it, Palmer said. “Apparently more people thought the prison was a good deal. After this riot, I don’t know
June 6 - 12, 2012
how many people would like their decision, but that’s something they’ve got to live with.” Just in case CCA’s deep pockets weren’t enough to guarantee getting its prison built, the company also had backing in some pretty high places. In April 2008, then-Gov. Haley Barbour signed a bill sponsored by former Democratic state Sen. Bob Dearing clearing the way for Adams County to host a state or federal prison. Also helping the project along were Hurricane Katrinarelated Gulf Opportunity Zone tax breaks. The local newspaper, The Natchez Democrat, was among the project’s most vocal boosters, publishing several editorials in favor of the prison. One opinion piece about Palmer’s petition drive carried the title “Say no to prison and say no to jobs” and warned that denying CCA would send hundreds to Walthall County four or five counties to the east in south-central Mississippi. (More than 3,000 people applied for roughly 400 positions at the prison, the paper later reported.) An editorial, published in January 2010, called 2009 “the start of something good,” citing the prison and other economic-development projects as examples of progress. A former Hinds County sheriff’s deputy, then-Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant characterized the sparkling new prison as symbolic of societal progress from his days working in the dank Hinds County jail during the 1970s, telling the Natchez paper: “I’m glad to see the world has changed.” Despite all the cheerleading it received, when con-
Benefiting from Bondage Business for CCA has boomed since the company’s founding in the early 1980s. The firm’s origins begin in Tennessee with founders Thomas Beasely, a one-time chairman of the Tennessee’s Republican Party, and T. Don Hutto, the former commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Corrections. As head of the Arkansas prison system, years before he started CCA, Hutto became the defendant in a landmark class-action lawsuit, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that long unjustified periods of solitary confinement were tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the 8th Amendment. The SCOTUS decision probably cemented Hutto’s reputation as someone who would push the envelope of the Constitution’s civil rights protections in the pursuit of being “tough on crime” during the “war on drugs”—two concepts that also became popular in the 1980s. With investment from Honey Alexander, then Tennessee’s first lady, and her husband, Gov. Lamar Alexander (now a U.S. senator), and aided by the prevailing Ronald Reagan-era dictum that private industry can do everything better than the government, CCA started contracting with federal, state and county governments to build and run jails and prisons. Early on, CCA’s stock faltered, falling from almost $150 per share in February 1998, then plummeting to under $1 in December 2000. In the summer of 2001, the stock price began to tick upward and has steadi-
ly increased to the $26 it currently trades at. CCA’s largest competitor, GEO, had similar experiences with its stock. After lackluster performance in the early days of public trading, GEO’s shares also started to soar in early 2002. Mississippi cashed in on the action, too, contracting out MDOC to three companies under Gov. Kirk Fordice, a Republican. Today, five of Mississippi’s state prisons are privately run. CCA is hoping that state and congressional lawmakers’ desire to slash budgets represents an opportunity for further growth. CCA stated in its most recent annual filing with the Security and Exchange Commission: “Notwithstanding the effects the current economy could have on our government partners’ demand for prison beds in the short term, we believe the long-term trends favor an increase in the outsourcing of correctional management services.” Specifically, the company names prison overcrowding, aging government facilities, tightening state budgets and a growing acceptance of privatizing prisons as reasons the company believes it’s looking at a positive business climate in the years to come. Across CCA’s network, the Bureau of Prisons, the United States Marshals Service, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement comprise 40 percent of the company’s revenue. Only the U.S. government and three states (Texas, California and Florida) are responsible for more inmates than CCA, which operates 66 county, state and federal facilities. CCA’s 90,000 prison beds in 20 states and the District of Columbia hold 3.7 percent of the nation’s COURTESY CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA
Gail Tyree, an organizer with anti-privatization group Grassroots Leadership, is working to abolish private prisons in Mississippi.
struction was complete on the $140 million ACCC in December 2008, it faced a major hurdle: It had no prisoners. So problematic was the lack of inmates that warden Lance McLaughlin directed a crew to go around turning the kitchen appliances on and off, running the heating and air-conditioning systems and flushing all the toilets. “It just can’t sit empty,” McLaughlin told The Natchez Democrat at the time. “It has to be used, it was made to be used.” It didn’t take long for CCA to start putting its fourth prison in Mississippi to use. In April 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons awarded the company a contract to house immigrants guilty of various federal offenses including re-entering the country after being deported, a felony. As part of the federal Criminal Alien Requirement 8 Solicitation program, the four-year contract included a 90 percent occupancy guarantee and would net CCA $226.4 million in revenue in the first four years of the renewable contract. Over the years, CCA helped itself along by supporting public officials’ re-election campaigns. CCA’s federal political-action committee has contributed millions of dollars to Republican and Democratic congressional campaigns, although the overwhelming majority of recipients are Republicans. In Mississippi, Republican Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran and Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson all have been beneficiaries. Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the Bureau of Prisons, has called for an investigation into the bloody Adams County riot. During the 2011 state election cycle, CCA donated $5,400 to 11 Mississippi politicians including Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. Kathy Sykes, MIRA’s lead organizer, remarked that states have increasingly looked toward prisons as economic-development saviors. “The prison budget is the only one that seems to be going up when all the others are going down,” she said.
Corrections Corporation of America, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., is the nation’s largest private prison operator. The company has 90,000 beds in 20 states.
incarcerated population. Adding in GEO’s 79,000 beds pushes the portion of offenders in the hands of private companies to 7 percent. In the company’s most recent annual filing for the period ending Dec. 31, 2011, CCA reported profit of $162 million on revenues of $1.7 billion compared to $157 million in profit on $1.7 billion in revenues the previous year. The upward revenue and profit trends over the past five reporting cycles comes despite a decrease in the nation’s imprisonment rate (calculated as the number of sentenced prisoners per 100,000 residents) from 502 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents in 2009 to 497 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents in 2010. Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma lead the nation in incarceration rates. In making its case that privatization is a better deal for taxpayers, CCA’s website points to a study completed by the research arm of its rival Management & Training Corporation, which is headquartered in Ogden, Utah.
BEN HILLYER/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT
After the riot erupted, Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield (right) told media outlets that a fight between rival gangs sparked the deadly melee at the Natchez prison
around 260 pounds, recalls his first shift on the job: “I think it probably took me a couple hours to realize this ain’t safe. You got me up here with keys and (pepper) spray in a pod of killers and stuff like that. I wasn’t scared, but you know it’s always in the back of your mind.” Located in the Delta town of Tutwiler (population: 1,201), TCCF is the second largest prison in CCA’s network, able to accommodate 2,800 prisoners from Mississippi and California, which has been the subject of numerous lawsuits due to conditions at its notoriously overcrowded state penitentiaries. The facility opened in 2000; in July 2007, CCA spent $52 million to expand the prison. In his first month at TCCF, Perry said a brawl broke out between Nortenos (northern) and Surenos (southern) California gangs. He radioed that a “code blue”—inmate-oninmate attack; an inmate-on-staff attack is a “code red”—was underway, but his radio didn’t work, forcing him to call for assistance using the public address system. A couple months later, another brawl resulted in 100 inmates going on lockdown, he said. Although such fights were common, Perry said he never witnessed a full-scale riot like in Adams County. For the hourly wage of $9.76, Perry describes periodically working a housing “pod” of approximately 120 inmates alone––even though the pods are designed to be have three to four staff members assigned to each.
‘I just thought that a thing of this magnitude, people in the county should have a right to vote on it. Apparently more people thought the prison was a good deal. After this riot, I don’t know how many people would like their decision, but that’s something they’ve got to live with.’
‘This Ain’t Safe’ Patrick Perry is all too familiar with the pressures that come with working as a corrections officer. By the time he started working at CCA’s Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in November 2007, he had been unemployed for two years and was desperate for any job he could get. His brother, who had worked at the prison since it opened, encouraged Perry and his sister to apply. After what he says was a less than rigorous interview process, Perry was offered a job “basically on the spot.” Perry, who stands 6’4” and at the time weighed
When he joined the SWAT-like Special Operations Response Team, or SORT, he got to travel to Oklahoma for special training and received an extra $35 per paycheck. The financial incentive, he said, was the guaranteed abundant hours: Perry averaged between 60 and 70 hours per week, and remembers once working 152 hours in a single pay period. To deter corruption, CCA employees also have to submit to credit checks and must maintain prescribed levels of personal debt. According to Perry, the biggest temptation facing guards is trafficking prepaid cell phones, $20 devices that can aid in running criminal organizations, coordinating attacks on enemies or alerting local media to events going on inside the prison and fetch unscrupulous guards up to $500 each. The problem is so widespread in California, where corrections officials seized more than 15,000 illegal phones in 2011, that the state recently announced it would buy deploy signal-jamming technology at its prisons. California’s prison guard union stopped a proposal to have officers walk through TSA-style scanners to detect forbidden mobile device from being smuggled into lockups. After two years at TCCF, Perry was fired for leaving his post in the guard tower to drop off a prescription for high-blood pressure medication that he’d been working too much to have filled at a nearby Walmart. Although he acknowledges it was a violation of procedure, he said it was a common practice for officers stationed at the guard tower to run quick errands instead of taking 15 minutes to clock out. Perry enlisted the help of Sunflower County NAACP president Rosie King to help get his job back. In a Jan. 18, 2011 letter to King, CCA executive vice president and chief human resources officer Brian D. Collins thanked King for meeting with him and responded to Perry’s complaints. Collins said in the letter that CCA did not give out Prisons, page 18
MTC is also largest contractor with the federal Labor Department for the Job Corps program. MTC’s report, “Privatization in Corrections: Increased Performance and Accountability Is Leading to Expansion,” argues that as state corrections budgets soar, private companies can help reduce cost. To bolster its claim, MTC cites a Vanderbilt University study that concluded private prison saved “a typical state correctional system with no private prisons” between $13 million and $15 million per year. As private prisons have come into vogue, so has greater scrutiny from watchdog groups such as Grassroots Leadership and the American Civil Liberties Union that contend the companies cut corners in pursuit of higher profits. In 2007, the ACLU sued on behalf of detainees at the CCA-run T. Don Hutto Detention Center for immigrant families in Taylor, Texas. Settled in 2009, the lawsuit alleged the facility failed to meet standards for housing minors in federal custody. Later in 2009, the Hutto center stopped taking in families and began to exclusively house female detainees. The ACLU again sued in 2011 on behalf of women detained in the Hutto facility who accused a male employee, Donald Dunn, of sexual abuse. Besides, David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project, questions whether private prisons save citizens money at all. In the ACLU’s November 2011 report Banking on Bondage, Shapiro writes: “The view that private prisons save taxpayer money, fuel local economies and adequately protect the safety of prisoners helps to feed mass incarceration by making privatization appear to be an attractive alternative to reducing prison populations. “But the evidence for such benefits is mixed at best. Not only may privatization fail to save taxpayer money, but private prison companies, as for-profit institutions, are strongly incentivized to cut corners and thereby maximize profits, which may come at the expense of public safety and the well being of prisoners.”’ CCA’s Owen characterized anti-privatization groups as people who have never worked in corrections, who are busy politicizing and “Googling isolated incidents” at private prisons. Putting prisoners and staff members in harm’s way by skimping on things is counterintuitive, he said. “It doesn’t make sound business sense because, at the end of the day, if we can’t operate safely and securely, we can’t stay in business,” Owen said.
, from page 17
raises in 2009 or 2010, but some employees could get $600 performance bonuses. With respect to the long shifts, Collins wrote: “A survey recently conducted by the facility showed that approximately 70 percent of the Tallahatchie staff are happy with the 12-hour shifts, which was an increase from the 55 percent of the staff in favor of the change when the 12-hour shifts were originally implemented.”
June 6 - 12, 2012
Bill Chandler, director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, has received complaints from inmates alleging abuse and a lack of medical care at the Adams County facility.
“(W)e have seen throughout the company that once staff become accustomed to working 12-hour shifts, they typically enjoy having more time to spend away from the facility and with their family.” Collins further notes in the letter that employees work approximately 160 days per year on 12-hour shifts and 228 days on 8-hour shifts, and that 35 percent of CCA facilities operate on 12-hour shifts. He also talks about $8,500 in “liquidated damages paid due to the lack of staff” during 2010. Under TCCF’s contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the prison must maintain certain staffing levels and offer rehabilitation programs or face fines. According to Collins’ letter, the fines TCCF incurred resulted from hard-to-recruit professional positions such as registered nurses, addiction treatment managers, principals, academic instructors and dentists. An audit of TCCF and other CCA-run prisons conducted by the California prison system’s inspector general in 2010 seems to bolster the concerns Perry and CCA’s critics raise about slipshod management. The 11-page report documents California’s concerns on a variety of matters that “if left unaddressed, could develop into more significant problems.”
The concerns included denial of inmate rights and privileges, safety and security weaknesses, and poor recordkeeping. Items that piqued auditors’ interests at TCCF included a malfunctioning security camera near the administrative-segregation unit, wasting prescription medications sent from California (Mississippi law prohibits inmates from possessing medicine not issued by a Mississippi-licensed pharmacist), officers unsafely carrying handcuffs and one incident of officials finding a white powdery substance. Investigative staff never followed up to determine what the white substance was, auditors wrote. Owen, the CCA spokesman, said the company has a strong reputation as a good employer and that CCA puts a lot of effort into training staff and providing support to employees, including counseling when events such as the Adams County riot occur. On staffing shortages, Owen said, “Do we get fined occasionally at some facilities? Yes, sometimes that does occur. I think that also speaks to the high level of accountability and oversight that government does have on our contracts, and that’s one of the benefits of pub(lic)-private partnerships.” He added: “Corrections is an inherently stressful profession, and that is something that every corrections professional in every corrections system, public or private, deals with.” When the Adams County melee erupted, Perry became active commenting under just about news story published about the riot. In one post, Perry wrote: “If those inmates were treated like humans, they probably would be less rowdy (even though you are dealing with inmates, so a lot of them would be rowdy no matter what). When you mix up mistreated inmates + mistreated staff (overworked, under paid, under staffed) = A deadly combination.” Perry, 34, who hasn’t worked since being fired (he makes a living by collecting scrap metal), wouldn’t mind going back to work at TCCF if changes are made to how the place is run, but he knows that scenario is unlikely given his many public protestations. Shortly after his firing, he even staged a one-person picket line outside the prison that the Charleston (Miss.) Sun-Sentinel published an article about. Nor is he optimistic that working conditions will improve anytime soon. With 600 employees, TCCF employs more people than the local school district. But even with the chronic unemployment and the ease with which jobs can be secured at TCCF, given the prison’s ongoing staffing challenges, he wonders how desperate for work people actually are. “I guess they’re like, ‘For $9.76, it ain’t worth it,’” he said. A Changing Tide? Tyree wants to see private prisons abolished in Mississippi, a dream that might not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Despite CCA’s claims that the public is becoming more comfortable with the idea of privately operated prisons, there are signs that the tide may be turning against private prison companies. In January, a legislative committee in Maine voted down a bill that would have allowed private prisons to operate in the state. Then in February, the Florida state Senate blocked a proposal that would have privatized a third of prisons in the state. Illinois already bans private companies from running state prisons and county jails, but lawmakers recently tried to expand the prohibition to federal prisons and detention centers. Under the Illinois proposal, which passed in the Senate but was shot down in the
House, governmental entities that the state oversees would be forbidden from contracting with private prison firms. Calling profiting from incarceration “immoral and antithetical to our Christian faith,” the United Methodist Church’s health and pensions board voted last September to divest the church’s portfolio of CCA and GEO stock. “The fact that an inordinate number of persons incarcerated in the U.S. are people of color and persons who come out of poverty raises serious concerns about investments in prisons serving to perpetuate racism and classism. The detention of immigrants without the due process of law further raises serious questions of justice; immigrants in increasing numbers are being detained and treated as persons guilty of a crime until proven innocent, a troubling reversal of our understanding of justice and a threat to basic human and civil rights,” reads the letter church’s letter. “Across the country, there is a growing realization that private prisons are not the way to go,” said the ACLU’s Shapiro. “There may be differences between Company A and Company B, but the fundamental similarity is that they’re driven by profit and that’s their principal role, therefore (they) have incentives to cut corners, even at the expense human rights.” Surprisingly, Mississippi has quietly led the trend away from privatization. In March 2012, lawyers representing a group of boys and young men who alleged abuse at the GEO-owned Walnut Grove Correctional Facility reached a settlement in the case. The high-profile suit charged prison managers with creating a violent and corrupt culture through which staff sold drugs in the prison and engaged in sex with the youths they supervised. The U.S. Department of Justice started looking into Walnut Grove in 2010 and issued a report this spring charging the state of Mississippi with showing “deliberate indifference” toward the conditions at the prison. Under the terms of the settlement, MDOC must remove the youth from Walnut Grove and place them at a separate stand-alone facility. The decree also requires the state to offer rehabilitative services and protections from further violence and sexual abuse, and prohibits the state from using solitary confinement to punish youth in its custody. GEO’s high-profile embarrassment prompted the company to announce in April that it would quit doing business in Mississippi altogether. MDOC also announced last fall that it was letting CCA out of its contract to operate the 1,172-bed Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood. The rationale for the closure, according to MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps, was that CCA couldn’t make any money. Mississippi law requires private companies to run prisons for cheaper that the state could on its own. With MDOC saving the state $118 million under Epps’ administration, CCA just couldn’t compete. Earlier this year, CCA sent a letter to 48 state officials offering to buy state prisons and local jail facilities and run them. The deal applied to facilities with a minimum of 1,000 beds, and the term would span up to 25 years; the agency would also have to guarantee a minimum occupancy rate of 90 percent throughout the contract’s term. To Shapiro, the initiative demonstrates that private prison companies won’t be backing down without a fight. “I think we’re seeing a turning of the tide, but it’s certainly going to be a long process,” Shapiro said. Comment at jfp.ms or to rlnave@jacksonfreepress.
ARTS p. 20 | FILM p 22 | 8 DAYS p 24 | MUSIC p 29 |SPORTS p 32
our smiling mop-topped men with skinny ties strum guitars to a familiar backbeat. “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah,” they confirm in unison as if they really know something. Paul’s big eyes and John’s long chin move with the rhythm. It’s the present, 2012, but the 1960s have returned. The four men in skinny suits not only sound like the Beatles, each member of this tribute performance resembles one of the Fab Four. The act is Classical Mystery Tour, a traveling tribute performance backed with a symphony orchestra. The show, based on a Broadway production, gives a chronological repertoire of the Beatles’ hits. It comes to Hattiesburg’s Saenger Theatre June 9 as the big opener for FestivalSouth. Organizers of the two-week arts festival say it’s a perfect fit for attracting audiences to the Hub City. “They approached us,” Mike Lopinto, the public relations, marketing and event coordinator of FestivalSouth, said. Lopinto is not surprised a Broadway troupe wants to play in south Mississippi. He’s worked for years promoting the University of Southern Mississippi School of Music and its music director and conductor, Jay Dean. The Southern Miss Orchestra attracts guest performers such as Yo-Yo Ma and Renee Fleming. Dean, who has built
COURTESY SAM MILLER OF BLUE HEALER MUSIC
a career on international come to hear and see the collaboration, also acts. directs the Mississippi Planning for Opera. He most recently FestivalSouth goes on wrapped up as artistic all year, but two weeks director of the Natchez before the first show, Music Festival. daily meetings and long Dean is artistic hours become the norm. director of FestivalSouth, At a May 29 meeting now in its third year of the minds, Jay Dean with more venues, more sat at the head of a table performances and larger in a crowded meeting audiences. Although the room. About 20 people festival includes many with open laptops waited Scott Chism and the Better Half will perform at the Skylight Lounge Friday, June 15. Southern Miss musicians for his notes. These and strategists, it is not weren’t artistic notes. an official university function. It’s under the umbrella He conducted teams dealing with scheduling, name of the Hattiesburg Concert Association and represents recognition, backstage lighting and social media. Like a collaboration of several arts groups and tourism the eye of a hurricane, Dean calmly called for attention promoters. The eventual goal, Lopinto said, is to have to detail, proper communication and incessant social people book a cultural vacation in Hattiesburg. media plugs. He warned that things might get stressful. Headliners help defray the costs of putting on a “Our first priority is happy customers,” Dean said, summer arts festival of this scale, Lopinto said. Most looking over his laptop and papers. He encouraged of the 72 events packed into the two-week window everyone to remember the performances are high quality from June 9 to June 23 are free. But three big-ticket and to reflect that professionalism when dealing with shows––the Beatles tribute, the opera “Don Giovanni” ticket buyers. He also emphasized the need to treat each set as a Civil War-era tale with a Scarlett O’Hara heroine performer like precious gold. and a closing show from singer Christian Sandi Patty “Happy artists give great performances,” he said. performing Broadway standards in a massive Baptist One of FestivalSouth’s biggest challenges is finding church––are expected to attract mainstream crowds. They the money to do it all. The goal is to break even, Dean are what pays for the classical musicians and the logistics said. Grants, interns and volunteer time help make of operating a festival with numerous venues including that happen. The Mississippi Tourism Department is churches and bars, promoting the festival downtown spots this year, and next and neighboring year Lopinto hopes communities, all they advertise out of itching to get some state. attention. “We have sponsors The classical approach us,” Dean performances said. “Not too many draw many more arts organizations can visitors, musicians say that.” and artists. South For information, Mississippi Ballet including a complete is producing “Don schedule of events, and Quixote” with to buy tickets, visit fesas many as 20 tivalsouth.org or call professional guest 601-296-7475. Ticket dancers coming prices vary; most events from all over. are free. Check before Someone has to going. A circle pass, coordinate who is which includes all paid where when and events, is $180; you Christian singer Sandi Patty will close out FestivalSouth. ensure that people save $50.
Hattiesburg’s two-week FestivalSouth kicks off June 9 with Beatles tribute band Classical Mystery Tour.
by Valerie Wells
COURTESY OF SANDI PATTY
COURTESY CLASSICAL MYSTERY TOUR
Conducting a Festival
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A Journey to the Center of the Mind
hornton Wilder’s Pulitzer-Prize award-winning 1930s drama, “Our Town,” is not just a play, but a spiritual voyage. The stage is barren, except for a row of chairs, and dialogue is often spoken atop ladders that represent houses. The actors mime most of their actions, drinking from invisible cups and throwing invisible newspapers. This alternate reality gives meaning to Wilder’s quote, “Our claim, our hope, our despair are in the mind––not in things, not in ‘scenery.’” Wilder’s play proves that the simplest things can pack the hardest punch. The stage manager acts as tour guide by breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly. As we visualize the invisible scenery, we in the audience unconsciously see our own neighborhood and our own lives, giving a double meaning to the title “Our Town.” “Our Town,” opening June 7 at the Black Rose Theatre in Brandon, provides a glimpse into the lives of two families, the Gibbs and the Webbs, in the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, N.H. The two families are typical of the turn of the 20th century––the men conquer their spheres of the working world, and the women corral the household. Emily Webb begins as an insecure yet ambitious girl, and George Gibbs as a confident jock and a bit of a dreamer. They fall in love, thrusting them onto the fast track to marriage and a family of their own. Sadly, they also careen into tragedy. Wilder’s tale of living and dying in a isolated town serves as a case study that reminds the audience that life is fleeting, and we should enjoy this life as we live it. As I watch the cast doing its second dry run of Act II, director Kris Vick sits in the semi-darkened theater and watches the cast run through their lines. There’s no notebook in his hand; he just sits back in his movie theater chair with his arm draped on the seat next to him, as if he is an audience member with an invisible date seated next to him. Afterward, Vick gives feedback to the actors. He starts by complimenting them on the fact that they hardly ever had to call for lines. The cast, sitting on the edge of the black wooden stage, claps and cheers loudly, all smiles. When he corrects Tommy Kobeck on a misspoken line, he says gleefully, “Her stomach ain’t never gonna be the same?” Everyone erupts into laughter, and after it quiets
by Sonya Lee
down, he tells him the correct line: “Her stomach ain’t what it ought to be.” But even in jest, Vick is the pilot of this production. He always addresses the actors by their stage names, never their real ones, keeping them in the correct mindset for his sixth production for the Black Rose Theatre. PLAYBILL
GET A REWARDS
Minimalistic “Our Town” allows viewers to place themselves in the actors’ shoes.
“The play deals with so many themes,” Vick says. “I just want (the audience) to be enlightened about this play that touches on so many universal truths.” Vick has been involved in the world of theater for more than 26 years, with a love inherited from his mother, Lydie Vick, who is the production’s assistant director. She has seen “Our Town” over a dozen times. “It’s one of my favorite plays,” she says. “It’s very well written. Every time I see the play, it’s just magical.” She promises that when I see the climax, I’ll get goose bumps. In the spirit of the play, I ask Kris Vick when was the last time he did something fun and spontaneous. “It’s been quite a while,” he responds. I suspect that is the case for most of us– –perhaps it’s time to add a good play to our schedules. See “Our Town” at the Black Rose Theatre (103 Black St., Brandon, 601825-1293) June 7 to 10 and June 14 to 17. Curtain is 7:30 p.m. except for Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15; $10 for students and seniors.
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Fairy Tale Redux
Underneath all that fake questioning irror, mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest bitch of them all?” about “who is the fairest in the land” simmers That is the real question never an epic cat fight, at some points as compelposed by the Evil Stepmother ling as two girls pulling out chunks of hair Queen (Charlize Theron) in “Snow White and scratching out flesh on the school playand The Huntsman.” ground. On some offbeat level, Sanders’ film Understandably, such candor would rendition of “Snow White” may be one of the defy the sugarcoated purpose of the fairy greatest subversive feminist film ever made. tale genre, which tends to put a soft focus The real power brokers in this fairy tale wear on female virgins dresses over their victimized by pants––literally. evil stepmoth(The pants are ers. They then convenient when become feckless you need to jump heroines and snag off a cliff into raga good-looking ing white water man along the or when a goodway. In a postlooking huntsmodern era, the man rips off your virgin princess skirt in the Dark must also be a The latest ‘Snow White,’ starring Kristen Stewart, Woods). All of warrior capable attempts to inject originality into an oft-told the men in this story, but falls short. of wielding the film serve one of sword of death two mistresses: and destruction Ravenna, the for the sake of peace. She then will marry Evil Stepmother Queen (Theron); or Snow and live happily ever after. White, the Rightful Queen (Stewart). The new adaptation of “Snow White,” Unlike Snow White, who exudes about directed by Rupert Sanders, opens with the as much life as a blow-up princess doll, comforting words of “once upon a time.” Ravenna plays for keeps and keeps it real (well The camera zooms into a lush winter para- sort of). “Do you hear that? It’s the sound of dise, where a single red rose blooms in de- battles fought and lives lost. It once pained fiance of the cold and wet snow. Pricking me to know that I am the cause of such deher delicate fingers on the thorns, the Good spair. But now their cries give me strength. Queen (Liberty Ross) gazes at this mysteri- Beauty is my power,” she says. Theron’s perous botanical wonder and wishes: “If only I formance transforms this fairy-light tale into had a child as white as snow with blood-red passable entertainment. She’s fabulous and lips like my blood on the snow.” These aren’t utterly believable. The language is never false, her exact words, but you get the gist––the even when she wobbles out dialogue written language smacks of archaic triteness. The by a posse of writers. Theron embodies every queen’s wish comes true: She births a beauti- mean pore of her character. ful baby girl, whom she names Snow White The supporting cast provides the (Kristen Stewart). gusto lacking in the hackneyed story. Chris Beauty built on blood and snow fore- Hemsworth (“Thor,” “The Avengers”) warn us that Snow White’s life will not be a doesn’t have to act to be watchable, and his rose garden or even a blossom of dubious ori- role as the Huntsman doesn’t offer him any gins. Through trickery, deception and black acting challenges. Here, Hemsworth is big magic, the King (Noah Huntley) marries and brawny and wields an axe like the god the villainous Ravenna, aka Evil Stepmother Thor. You could swear that he’s played this Queen, after the Good Queen’s death. role before. The dwarves, however, are parAnd so the rivalry begins. “Mirror, mir- ticularly delightful. ror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Stewart’s Snow White hits her trademark Ravenna asks. This magnificent mirror oozes combination of glassy-eyed stare and despera glob from its reflective surface that morphs ate monotone. Her character succumbs to and stretches vertically into a dark shape that fate without putting up a struggle. But then, speaks. Very impressive. Ravenna learns from she is the chosen one. her magical mirror that Snow White threatens This movie suffers from “been there, her position. The queen and her creepy broth- done that.” When Snow White speaks to er (Sam Spruell) hire the Huntsman (Chris the troops, she comes off as a fractured Hemsworth) to find Snow White in the Dark fairy-tale version of Joan of Arc. While the Woods, where she fled after escaping the castle visual sensibility of the movie is breathtaktower she was imprisoned in for most of her ing, it feels like a cinematic shake of “Lord life. Snow White is remarkably fit for a young of the Rings,” “Braveheart” and “Shrek.” woman who has spent most of her life in a This movie never elevates beyond a state of tower with only birds to befriend her, and she recycled trash art, but then it is a fairy tale demonstrates uncanny gifts of survival––she’s and it’s been done and redone and done certainly not afraid to poke out an eye or two. forevermore. Please, no more. COURTESY ROTH FILMS
By Anita Modak-Truran
BEST BETS June 6 - 13, 2012 by Latasha Willis firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: 601-510-9019 Daily updates at jfpevents.com
COURTESY MARCY FISCHER-NESSEL
Dr. Wilma Mosley Clopton’s multimedia exhibit “Preserving the Legacy” debuts at 10 a.m. at the Arts Center of Mississippi (201 E. Pascagoula St.) and hangs through June 30. Free; call 601-960-1557, ext. 224. … Blue Mountain College President Dr. Bettye Coward speaks during History Is Lunch at noon at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building (200 North St.). Bring lunch; call 601-576-6998. … The play “The Marvelous Wonderettes” is at 7:30 p.m. at New Stage Theatre (1100 Carlisle St.) and runs through June 17. $25, $22 seniors and students; call 601-948-3533, ext. 222. … Club Magoo’s hosts Open-mic Night. … Dreamz JXN hosts Wasted Wednesday. … Baby Jan and All That Chazz performs at Underground 119. … The Med Grill hosts Mingle @ the Med at 8 p.m. and the Battle of the Bands at 9 p.m.
June 17. Reservations recommended. $15, $10 seniors and students (cash or check); call 601-825-1293.
The artist reception for Rod Moorhead and Betty Press is at 5 p.m. at Fischer Galleries (3100 N. State St.). Press also signs copies of “I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Images and Proverb.” Free; $39.95 book; call 601-291-9115. … The Medgar Evers Homecoming continues with a banquet at 7 p.m. at Hilton Jackson (1001 E. County Line Road); actor Danny Glover is the guest speaker. $50; call 601-948-5835. … The Detectives Mystery Dinner Theatre presents the play “Marvelous Murder” at 6 p.m. at Parker House. RSVP. $48; call 601-937-1752. … Art Remix is at 7 p.m. at the Mississippi Museum of Art (380 S. Lamar St.). Lisa Mills and Latinismo perform. Free admission, food $5 and up; call 601-960-1515. … The play “Not As I Do” is at 7 p.m. at Belhaven University Center for the Arts. Encore show June 9 at 6 p.m. $15, $12 children under 12 in advance; $20, $15 at the door; call 601-506-7377. … Yellow Scarf hosts “Honoring the Masters Series, Part 4” at 8 p.m. Joe Jennings, Alvin Fielder, Dr. London Branch and Charlie Robinson perform. $25 in advance, $30 at the door; call 347-754-0668. … Snazz is at Reed Pierce’s.
The Just Have a Ball 5K Run/Walk is at 7:30 a.m. at Fleet Feet Sports (Trace Station, 500 Highway 51 N., Ridgeland). Proceeds benefit The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. $25, $20 fun run, $60 family (up to five); call 601-454-2420. … Community Animal Rescue and Adoption’s Putting on the Dog is at 11 a.m. at Great Scott (4400 Old Canton Road) and includes a car show, a children’s carnival and pet adoptions. Free admission, food for sale, dog food and treat donations welcome; call 601-842-4404. … The Medgar Evers Homecoming wraps up with a parade at Freedom Corner (Medgar Evers Boulevard and Martin Luther King Drive) at 10 a.m., and a blues concert at 4 p.m. at Edwards Livestock Arena (108 Mt. Moriah Road, Edwards). $15 concert; call 601-948-5835. … Sneaky Beans See Rod Moorhead’s sculptures (“Nine Zen Nuns” pictured above) at Fischer Galleries June 7 at 5 p.m.
June 6 - 12, 2012
The Mississippi Women’s Conference kicks off at 8 a.m. at Mississippi State University CAVS Extension Center (153 Mississippi Parkway, Canton). $50, $20 luncheon; call 601-859-5816. … Fondren After 5 is from 5-8 p.m. Free; call 601-981-9606. … Lazy Jane performs on the patio at Sal & Mookie’s at 5 p.m. Free beer for early guests. … Salsa Mississippi’s (605 Duling Ave.) open house includes Zumba lessons at 6 p.m. and hip-hop lessons at 6:30 p.m. Free; call 601-213-6355. … Dreamz JXN hosts Centric Thursday. … The 49th annual Medgar Evers Homecoming kicks off with a gospel concert at 6 p.m. at Word and Worship Church (6289 Hanging Moss Road). Free admission; call 601-948-5835. … See the play “Our Town” at 7:30 p.m. at 24 Black Rose Theatre (103 Black St., Brandon); runs through
Art House Cinema Downtown at Russell C. Davis Planetarium (201 E. Pascagoula St.) features the opera film “Peter Grimes” at 2 p.m. ($16) and the independent film “A Bag of Hammers” at 5 p.m. ($7). Visit msfilm.org. … The GenerationNXT Indie Concert Series is at Dreamz JXN at 6 p.m.
Author Elizabeth Kantor signs “The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After” at 5 p.m. at Lemuria Books (202 Banner Hall, 4465 Interstate 55 N.). Reading at 5:30 p.m. $24.95 book; call 601-366-7619. … The Central Mississippi Blues Society Jam is at 7 p.m. at Hal & Mal’s. $5.
P.M. Burger 2: Revenge of the Monster Burgers is at 11 a.m. at Parlor Market (115 W. Capitol St.). Food prices vary; call 601-360-0090. … The Detectives Mystery Dinner Theatre’s play “Cracked” is at 6 p.m. at Kathryn’s. RSVP. $42; call 601-937-1752. … Pub Quiz at Hal & Mal’s.
Historian Jim Barnett talks about and signs copies of his book “Mississippi’s American Indians” during History Is Lunch at noon at the Old Capitol Museum (100 S. State St.). Free, $40 book; call 601-576-6998. … Last Call has karaoke. More at jfpevents.com and jfp.ms/musicvenues.
Lazy Jane (Wes Hughes (left), Laurel Isbister Irby (right) and Loye Ashton (not pictured) performs at Sal & Mookie’s June 7 at 5:30 p.m. ED INMAN
(2914 N. State St.) hosts the Bug Boil at 2 p.m. with crawfish, beer and live music. $20; call 601-487-6349. … “The Blast” deejay showcase is at 6 p.m. at North Midtown Arts Center. Free. … The Cave Singers perform at 9 p.m. at Duling Hall (622 Duling Ave.). Cocktails at 7:30 p.m. $8 in advance, $12 at the door; call 601-292-7121 or 800-745-3000.
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