January 2 - 8, 2013
JACKSONIAN TARASA BRIERLY-HARP
have the best job there is,” says Tarasa Brierly-Harp, chairwoman of the English department and teacher at Murrah High School. The former Floridian attended the Mississippi University for Women and has been teaching at Murrah for more than a decade. Brierly-Harp, 35, has received numerous awards and recognition for her teaching: In 2005 she was metro Jackson teacher of the year as well as the Murrah teacher of the year, in 2006 Parents for Public Schools named her an outstanding educator, and Brierly-Harp earned the title of STAR Teacher in 2011. The petite (maybe 5’3”) mother and teacher met her husband, Wes, in 10th grade in Florida, and one followed the other to Mississippi (he to the architecture school at Mississippi State). “That is how I got here,” she says, and then adds, “but what everyone always asks me is why I am still here.” She gets annoyed at the question, and points out the hidden implication that there is something wrong with Jackson. “Jackson really is home,” she says. “I don’t have family ties here, but we have collected a lot of surrogate family here over the years. And contrary to what most might expect, my kids are getting an amazing public education here—one we probably couldn’t afford if we left.” The Harp family lives in Fondren and enjoys being within in a mile or so of Tarasa’s
and Wes’ workplaces, as well as their children’s schools (Bailey APAC and McWille Montessori) and daycare. “I love being able to walk the kids to the park, to get groceries, to eat great food, or just to hang out,” Brierly-Harp says. “As a busy working mother of four, I don’t always have a chance to take advantage of the incredibly cool place I live, but it means a lot to me to live in a fairly vibrant, culturally diverse area.” Brierly-Harp’s students are another big reason to stay in Jackson. “They think I’m mean,” she says. “But over half of them pass the qualifying exam for AP English each year, and this gives them a great sense of accomplishment.” Although Brierly-Harp mainly teaches English, she also touches on many other topics such as history, writing, debate, literature and journalism. She takes her students to Eudora Welty’s house and to Medgar Evers’ house as part of a civil rights unit. “I like to think that since language skills are so incredibly important in so many aspects of life, I can have some lasting impact on most of the kids I teach,” she says. “Hopefully, they learn more from me than when to use a comma, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. My kids,” she adds, referring to Murrah students, “anchor me pretty solidly in Jackson. In many ways, they are Jackson, and that means this is where I belong—at least for a pretty long while. Murrah—the only place to be.” —Richard Coupe
Cover graphic by Trip Burns and Kristin Brenemen
8 Farish, What’s Happenin’?
“This is very frustrating. We’re at the end of another year, and still no action has culminated into anything positive out there on Farish Street.” — LaRita Cooper-Stokes
24 Art (Not) for Sale
Outside of Sneaky Beans in Fondren are some artworks that would be a bit hard to take home.
30 Threading Its Way Up
Fans of Manchester Orchestra, watch out for this dynamic chick-led group, Now, Now.
4 ............................. EDITOR’S NOTE 6 ................................................ YOU 8 ............................................ TALKS 10 .................................. BUSINESS 12 .................................. EDITORIAL 12 ................. EDITORIAL CARTOON 13 .................................... OPINION 15 .............................. COVER STORY 24 .............................. DIVERSIONS 25 .......................................... FILM 26 ....................................... 8 DAYS 28 ............................... JFP EVENTS 30 ....................................... MUSIC 31 ....................... MUSIC LISTINGS 32 ...................................... SPORTS 33 ................................. ORGANICS 35 ..........................................FOOD 37 .............................. ASTROLOGY 38 ...................................... FLY DIY
COURTESY TRANS RECORDS; TRIP BURNS; TRIP BURNS
JANUARY 2 - 8, 2012 | VOL. 11 NO. 17
by Donna Ladd, Editor-in-Chief
A More Kinder, Gentler Union
ive days before Christmas, I was on a bike at the gym, listening to news about the U.S. House of Representatives defying their speaker and going home instead of supporting his fiscal-cliff deal. But that’s not what made me cry. A reporter came on to explain what had happened. Among other things, he said, the walkout was a surprise because John Boehner’s compromise was “sweetened” to help convince Republican House members. How? It would cut funding for “food stamps and meals-on-wheels,” he explained. I stopped pedaling, blinking in disbelief. Sure, we all know that many Republicans—including three of the four Mississippi congressmen—want to slash programs that help the poor. But to hear it put this way was a sobering reminder of the cruelty many of us elect to represent us. Sweet, my butt. There’s nothing new about the Republican hatred of food stamps, of course. As we detailed in our GOOD issue on poverty two weeks ago (jfp.ms/poverty), so much mythology surrounds the poor in our nation. Essentially: They’re lazy, and it’s their fault. And picking on food stamps has long been a way to gather votes from people who don’t bother to pay attention to who is poor and why (call them the 47-percenters). But, meals-on-wheels!? That is exactly what it sounds like: People take food to hungry human beings who are too sick or too elderly to go scrounge it up for themselves. Or as its Wikipedia page begins: “Meals on Wheels are programs that deliver meals to individuals at home who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals. … Because they are housebound, many of the recipients are the elderly, and many of the volunteers are also elderly but able-bodied and able to drive wheeled vehicles, usually a van.” Let’s break this down: Cuts to mealson-wheels programs were inserted into a deal to help convince Republicans to go along with it. But they wouldn’t because the deal
would repeal the Bush tax cuts on folks who net (after taxes) more than a million a year. I’m sorry: There is no word for this other than cruel. Who are these people? Meantime, since the Newtown massacre, we’re seeing all sorts of posts and ideas about spreading random acts of kindness and “paying it forward.” Many of us are thinking about how we can be kinder to others, loved
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness … it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair... — Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities”
ones and strangers, in order to do our part to form a more kinder, gentle union. In fact, I just witnessed an amazing outpouring on Facebook from around the nation to give two needy teen girls a good Christmas, including new iPads, with no need for recognition. (On the next page, you’ll see a number of testimonials on random kindness.) I love this RACK (Random Acts of Community Kindness) movement, as some people call it. I applaud each little effort to show someone else you care, regardless of who they are and choose to love, or how they worship (or don’t). I believe strongly that Americans need to learn to be more kind to others and ourselves. And my own spiritual beliefs tell me that, no matter what we do about gun madness and mental illness (and we need to move on both), we won’t be a gentler nation until each of us steps up and does more than we do now. I also believe in the power of story. There’s a post being shared on Facebook right now from a woman who was standing
in line behind a stranger who couldn’t afford all the baby formula she was trying to purchase. The woman watching put back her items—all trivial, she said—and bought the mother a supply of formula. She told her story without self-aggrandizement, I thought (as a writing teacher, I found it an inspiring, touching narrative). But I saw people on Facebook belittling the woman, saying she was just looking for a pat on the back and attention. Reading that response didn’t make me as mad and depressed as the meals-on-wheels sweetness, but it made me very sad the night I read it. What possibly is the purpose of snarking about a woman telling her story of moving from greed and apathy to a higher ground of random kindness? Yes, she quoted the Bible to the woman, but it’s not like much of the philanthropy in Mississippi and the nation isn’t connected to some sort of ministry. The point, as I responded, was that babies were getting formula. They were being fed. And her post might inspire some other people to help feed some more hungry babies. Maybe I’m becoming a softie, but that works for me on both fronts. (Besides, what is snark if not self-aggrandizing?) I think what bothered me the most about these two encounters is that I haven’t seen a single social media post from friends or strangers taking congressional Republicans to task for thinking that cuts to mealson-wheels is sweet, but a woman who helps a mother and dares to tell the story gets harangued—and by people who do wonderful things in the community, to boot. It feels a bit like the negative is going to cancel out the positive if we’re not careful, leaving this RACK movement stuck in the mud. And we’ve got to make sure our kindness efforts go small and go large. Yes, paying for coffee for the person behind you at Cups can have a ripple effect that you can’t imagine—I believe this big time—but shutting your eyes while elected officials pander
to the rich and stick it to the poor is going to negate those actions, and then some. We’ve got to do both. We need a new ethos of kindness, big and little, and it’s something I vow to focus on in 2013. But, you might ask wisely, how do you be kind to people who want to hurt the poor? How can you be kind to people who spread lies about our president (precisely, frankly, because he wants to help the poor)? How can you be kind to folks who believe that the ability to have fun with very dangerous assault weapons is more important than saving a first-grader’s life? It’s hard, and it’s a huge challenge for me. I will say this: True kindness is never apathetic; it is compassionate but never blind. It is our responsibility to learn and spread facts and challenge those who lie to protect those who routinely attack or ignore or denigrate the weakest among us—often while masquerading as good Christians. Buddhists believe in the concept of “idiot compassion.” That is, it is not compassionate (and rather idiotic) to allow others to hurt you or others or, as Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön puts it, to enable “someone to keep being able to feed their violence and their aggression.” Or, for that matter, someone who engages in poor behavior in the workplace, thus putting at risk their own career success. That is, being kind is not the same thing as avoiding conflict and even confrontation. Think of your child: You confront their bad behavior because you love them dearly. Or someone you manage: You give feedback to help them succeed and give up sloppy work habits before they cost them dearly. In essence: Being kind is not always easy. It requires a full menu of focus and efforts—from the tiny action to factchecking political rhetoric to sending home election officials who find sweetness in pure cruelty. I urge each of you to join me as I work to become more kind in 2013. It’ll be fun— at least most of the time.
January 2 - 8, 2013
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. Call him at 601-3626121 ext. 12. He wrote for the legislative preview.
Intern Octavia Thurman recently got her bachelor’s in political science from Tougaloo College (c/o 2012). Her hobbies include cooking and traveling. She loves being competitive. She helped research for the legislative preview.
Ronni Mott came to Jackson by way of D.C. in 1997. She’s an award-winning writer and the JFP’s news editor, where she practices her hobbies of herding cats. She teaches yoga in her spare time. She wrote for the legislative preview.
Reporter Jacob Fuller is a former student at Ole Miss. When not reporting, he splits his time between playing music and photographing anything in sight. He covers the city for the JFP. He wrote for the legislative preview.
Julian Rankin was raised in Mississippi and educated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He writes about, photographs and paints all things southern. He wrote the arts feature.
Micah Smith is a senior at Mississippi College, a Jacksonbased songwriter, and an avid music listener and reviewer. He prides himself on being the very best, like no one ever was. He wrote an album review.
Anita Modak-Truran is a southern convert, having moved here from Chicago more than a decade ago with her husband and son. She loves the culture, cuisine and arts in these parts. She wrote the film story.
Spencer Nessel is a born and raised Jacksonian. A recent Millsaps graduate, he majored in English and spends his free time eating, lounging and leading a life of gluttony. He wrote the food feature.
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