July 24 - 30, 2013
DELTA TECHNICAL COLLEGE
JACKSONIAN LYDIA HALL
ydia Hall, a 19-year-old graduate of Madison Central High School, has been a volunteer teacher at an orphanage in El Salvador for the past five summers. “I knew someone who had an organization down there, so I went one summer. I ended up falling in love with the teenage girls who were sold into prostitution and who had children,” Hall says. “It hit me really hard because they weren’t given opportunities like other people were given. I liked being down there. I liked getting to know them, and I liked trying to help them. I just kept going back.” Hall has five major goals:: to make a difference teaching, to live in El Salvador at some point, to be a foster parent, to raise children with Christian values and to live in New York City. “I think that our generation, especially, is very focused on themselves … Having the nicest things, having fame, finding love—that’s all very self-centered,” Hall says. “I wish I could make people see the people who don’t get to focus on that stuff and are just focused on their day-to-day living. I wish more people wanted to help out, not just in other countries, but here in Mississippi, too.” “I found out last year that Mississippi has one of the lowest literacy rates.” Hall says. The Mississippi Department of Education states that 52 percent of third-graders and 50 percent of eighth-graders read at or above grade level.
Seventy-eight percent of the state’s fourth-graders are below proficient in their reading skills. “(Many) newspapers are written at a fifth-grade reading level, and I think that is because there aren’t enough teachers who are willing to work hard. A lot of people think that teaching is just an easy major to get.” Although Hall was born in Jackson, she has also lived in Indiana and Miami, returning to Madison with her family in 2007. “I love southern hospitality, but I also just love Jackson,” Hall says. “I think that the buildings in downtown Jackson are so pretty … I wish we could fix (the city) up some, but I love it. I love the kids here; the way that southern children are raised … I love everything about Mississippi.” In the fall, Hall will be a freshman at the University of Mississippi, to which she received a full scholarship. She plans to major in education and English so she can be a ninth-grade English teacher. Hall has also volunteered at the Mississippi Children’s Museum where she was one of the original Learning Librarians who read to children at the museum. “I take a class at the Vocational Center called Teacher’s Academy. We have been kind of student teaching in the elementary schools for the past two years. I spend a lot of my time working on stuff for that class, like learning how to write lesson plans and doing competitions for the organization that we work with.” —Adria Walker
8 Not Vigilantes
“With a committed core of 10 members, Bennie Jones is able to do two patrols a week. During a patrol, members dress in the familiar Guardian Angels uniform of T-shirt, black cargo pants and the signature red beret, then gathers and walks through the neighborhoods of Jackson. They are not vigilantes. The men and women of the Guardian Angels go through three months of training that includes Tai Kwon Do, CPR training, basic criminal law and instruction on how to make a citizens arrest. It’s intensive training, but after 20 years, Jones can count on one hand the number of times he has used it while on patrol.” —Tyler Cleveland, “Angels on Patrol”
26 Hotel Greenery
Chef Nick Wallace is growing an urban garden outside the historic King Edward Hotel downtown, with fresh ingredients such as lettuce, mint and okra.
27 Quit, Jane, Quit
Fondren Theatre Workshop joins forces with The Warehouse Theatre to present a new original play, “See Jane Quit.”
4 ............................. EDITOR’S NOTE 6 ............................................ TALKS 12 ................................ EDITORIAL 13 .................................... OPINION 14 ............................ COVER STORY 21 ........................................... FOOD 24 ...................................... HITCHED 26 ................................. WELLNESS 27 .............................. DIVERSIONS 28 .......................................... ARTS 28 .......................................... FILM 29 ............................... EIGHT DAYS 30 ............................... JFP EVENTS 32 ....................................... MUSIC 33 ....................... MUSIC LISTINGS 34 ..................................... SPORTS 35 .................................... PUZZLES 37 ....................................... ASTRO
HALEY PALMERTON/COURTESY WAREHOUSE THEATRE; MELANIE BOYD; TRIP BURNS
JULY 24 - 30, 2013 | VOL. 11 NO. 46
by Kathleen M. Mitchell Features Editor
It’s Cool to Be a Nerd
f you want to talk about education in Mississippi, you need to prepare for a pretty depressing conversation. We’re either in the top five or bottom five of every national education-related list— whichever end you don’t want to be, there we are. Early childhood education is nonexistent in much of the state, starting our children with an automatic disadvantage. Abstinence-only sex education continues to be the norm; while, strangely enough, teenage pregnancy continues to affect young people across the state. College preparedness is dismal in many areas. My best friend works for Education Services Foundation and travels to high schools across the state, bringing back horror stories of kids who still haven’t even heard of the ACT. Meanwhile, university tuition is only becoming more expensive, and as the wealth divide continues to grow, the ability to earn a college degree (not to mention a graduate degree or higher) is becoming less attainable than ever. But I want to take a minute to appreciate a few good things about Mississippi education. St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Jackson State University, the University of Mississippi Medical School and Murrah High School are all making their way onto national lists for quality education. And then we have my alma mater, Millsaps College. Back-to-school season stirs a lot of different emotions, depending on who you are. Dread at losing the long, lazy freedom of summer days. Anticipation at returning to regularly scheduled sports events. Excitement at the prospect of seeing friends every day. Most likely, people feel some combination of these emotions and others. For me, the arrival of freshly bound
sheaves of college-ruled paper on store shelves and bombardment of ads for dorm-room décor brings a yearning to go back to freshman year of college—to relive four of the best years of my life and to re-immerse myself in an environment dedicated to learning. I have always loved learning. I checked out as many books as they would let me
I found kindred souls there, people of all walks of life who crave knowledge the way I do. from my local library as a kid (literally, I reached the maximum check-outs and remember having to sit and choose which books I would leave behind). I remember the first time I really understood a calculus problem in high school—the moment when I wasn’t just following the professor’s instructions, but each step made sense in my head, leading me to the next step and on to the correct answer. That feeling of triumph, the thrill that goes through you when something clicks into place—that feeling is awesome. I’ve never been much of an athlete, but I imagine its something like scoring a touchdown. Let’s just call a spade a spade: I’m a nerd (but, you know, a cool one). And after high school, I was lucky to find myself in cool nerd heaven: Millsaps College.
It’s the kind of place where teachers don’t look at students as vessels to dump the requisite amount of information into before sending them out into the world. Rather, the best professors there see their students as collaborators and fellow discoverers. It often becomes the sort of relationship where mentor and peer begin to merge. It’s not uncommon to see Millsaps professors having a beer at Fenian’s with current or former students, discussing anything from religion to politics to pop culture. I’m part of a group of graduates working in communication-related fields in Jackson who get together with the communication-studies professor about once a month to discuss news, media and more. At Millsaps College, my professors’ primary goal wasn’t to teach me to construct a well-thought-out essay or analyze works of fiction, although I certainly became good at those things along the way. They didn’t set out to teach me how to juggle five things at once and to manage when another got thrown at me, although I can certainly do that now, too. The people at that school taught me to think for myself. They demanded nothing less. I learned to care about the world both across the globe and across the road. I learned about myself and what is important to me. Of course, Millsaps is not perfect, and it may not even be the same school it once was. But when I attended, it was a school where people loved to learn. I found kindred souls there, people of all walks of life who crave knowledge the way I do. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that the cost of a private college such as Millsaps is prohibitive to many, many people (including some of the students
that wind up there and end up leaving). It is an expensive school, and only becoming more so. The yearly tuition is up many thousands of dollars today from when I matriculated. The vast majority of students are those who can pay the high price tag, or those that are able to get scholarships. So I’m not saying that the solution is for everyone to find a way to go to Millsaps College or even other schools like it, because a lot of students wouldn’t get what I got out of the school. What I wish is for everyone to have that same thrill I felt when calculus finally made sense, or when I started writing a paper and surprised myself with my own insights on a novel. I wish for them to look up from deep in a good book and realize two hours have passed without them noticing. I wish for people to find the school that fits them, that both supports and challenges them. That school may be different for each person. Money for education in this state simply isn’t where it should be, and people have drastically different opinions on how to fix that. The conversation will be hard, but to even get to that conversation, we have up decide once and for all that education is important—no, vital—to us. Students have to want to learn. They have to treasure education. It’s not something that can be taught, but it can be instilled. It takes all of us: students, teachers, parents, peers, friends. We have to seek out teachers and professors who are exceptional and lift them up. We have to press upon our children the value of education. Show them the thrill of putting something together, of coming to a conclusion after real mental work. Tell them its cool to be nerdy. If kids can learn to love to learn, they’ve conquered half the battle.
July 24 - 30, 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. Contact him at 601362-6121 ext. 12. He contributed to the Talk section.
Copy Editor Dustin Cardon is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. An English major from Brandon, he enjoys reading fantasy novels and wants to write them himself one day. He wrote the Week in Review.
Editorial Assistant Amber Helsel is an Ole Miss graduate with a degree in journalism. She is all about random facts, new music and striving to live a healthy life. She wrote the Hitched piece.
City Reporter Tyler Cleveland loves sports, good music and soul food. He can be found around Fondren when he’s not being herded around the JFP office like a cat. He contributed to the Talk section.
Design Intern Zilpha Young is a graphic design student and soon-to-be graduate of Delta Sate University. Her favorite doodle subjects are skulls and octopi. See examples of her work at zilphacreates.com. She helped design the issue.
Editorial Intern Adria Walker is a 10th grader at Murrah High School and an aspiring writer. You can find her reading novels or debating the greatest film saga ever, “Star Wars.” She wrote the Jacksonian and the Wellness pieces.
Advertising Designer Andrea Thomas is a native of Ridgeland. Andrea is a lover of all genres of music, fashion and good food. She spends her free time exploring everything Jackson has to offer. She created many ads for the issue.
ShaWanda Jacome is an elementary librarian in JPS. She lives in Ridgeland with her husband, Mike, and son, Mateo. One of her favorite scriptures is Psalm 34:4. She wrote for the cover package.
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Thursday, July 18 The Jackson City Council unanimously confirms Mayor Chokwe Lumumbaâ€™s nominees for police and fire chief, Lindsey Horton and Willie Owens, respectively. â€Ś Detroit becomes the biggest U.S. city ever to file for bankruptcy protection. Friday, July 19 The Mississippi Board of Education votes to return three school districts to local control that the state took over for failure to meet state standards. â€Ś U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces that Israel and the Palestinians have agreed on a basis for returning to negotiations. Saturday, July 20 The JFP hosts its ninth annual Chick Ball to raise funds to support victims of sex trafficking. â€Ś Five stars of A&Eâ€™s â€œDuck Dynastyâ€? reality show help raise at least $280,000 for a Hattiesburg childrenâ€™s home. Sunday, July 21 A Hinds County SWAT team and K-9 unit respond when 10 to 15 people incarcerated at the Raymond Detention Center exit their cells due to malfunctioning locks. â€Ś Chris Froome wins the 100th Tour de France.
Tuesday, July 23 The White House releases a statement urging swift passage of a bipartisan compromise on student loans that would lower interest rates for the next few years. â€Ś A blowout on a natural gas drilling rig 55 miles off the coast of New Orleans forces the evacuation of 47 workers. Get news updates at jfpdaily.com.
Abandoned Housing Two-Step by Tyler Cleveland
nez Jenkins had just about enough. The lot at 2941 Morton Ave., right across the street from her house, was overgrown, and it was embarrassing when her friends from church came over after services on Sundays. Her grandson even, as she said, killed â€œa big olâ€™ fat snakeâ€? on the lot. A pair of the unlikeliest partners rode to her rescue: Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and District 5 Hinds County Supervisor Kenneth Stokes, a Democrat. Hosemannâ€™s office donated the lot, which was repossessed for non-payment of taxes, to Hinds County, which agreed to finance construction of a community walking trail. The renovation of the previously useless lot is a story thatâ€™s becoming more and more common, as abandoned lots and dilapidating housing remain one of the biggest problems in the city of Jackson. At a July 18 meeting of the Jackson City Council, newly appointed police and fire chiefs, Lindsey Horton and Willie Owens, respectively, explained why abandoned homes are such a blight to the community. â€œBesides being a visual detriment, people squat in the abandoned houses and use them for drugs and prostitution,â€? Horton said. â€œIn the winter, they start fires inside to stay warm, and when they leave, it starts fires and becomes a real public-safety issue.â€? â€œIn the old days, we used to burn them,â€? Owens chimed in. â€œBut the Environmental Protection Agency put a stop to that, because of the chemicals that were released into the air when we did it.â€? For many of the properties, the process to clean them up is caught up in a nearly endless cycle of letters by mail, empty threats
from the city and legal tangles that take months and even years to resolve. When a complaint is made on a property, the city sends someone to assess whether the property is in violation of city codes. If it
property are absentee landlords,â€? said Kimberly Hilliard, executive director of Jackson State Universityâ€™s Office of Community Engagement. â€œThey are not locally invested in the city. They own the land or house, and
Abandoned and dilapidated houses, such as this one on Farish Street, are common in parts of Jackson and neighbors are fed up.
is, the city issues a warning to the property owner, who has 90 days to respond, but that can be done with a simple letter and one-time compliance. If, for example, the violation is due to an unkempt lawn, the owner can have the grass cut once. If he or she then fails to keep up the lawn again, another complaint must be filed, and the 90-day process starts over. In that way, the laws benefit the landowners and make it difficult for the city to wrest abandoned properties from owners who arenâ€™t caring for them. â€œMany of these people who own the
they are paid up on their taxes, but they donâ€™t live here and arenâ€™t keeping up the property.â€? Hilliard has researched the problem of blight and abandoned housing as part of her role in Vision 2022, a Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce initiative aimed at improving the metro area. She explained that when the state repossesses property from the owner, it isnâ€™t necessarily a bad thing. â€œItâ€™s sometimes a great thing when that happens,â€? Hilliard said. â€œThese absentee owners arenâ€™t keeping up the yards or keeping the house up to code at all, and it brings
READ ON by ShaWanda Jacome
ids still have time to finish up their summer reading books. The Jackson Public Schools program â€œOne Jackson, Many Readers, Summer Reading 2013â€? encouraged students to read at least three books (one from the required reading list and two of their choice) this summer. Research shows that students who read throughout the summer continue to
grow academically. Those who do not read can lose up to three months of academic growth. Through the summer reading program, JPS students earn incentives for reading and turning in reading logs when they return to school. For detailed information, including required reading list, visit jfp.ms/jxnsummerreading. For more features on heading back to school, turn to pages 14-17.
COURTESY JACKSON PUBLIC SCHOOLS
July 24 - 30, 2013
Monday, July 22 Pope Francis arrives in Brazil for a visit to his native South America. â€Ś An earthquake in northwest China destroys or damages thousands of homes, killing at least 75 people and injuring more than 400.
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Wednesday, July 17 The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that national outstanding student debt is at $1.2 trillion, up 20 percent over the last two years. â€Ś A wildfire pushes toward southern California mountain communities, forcing the evacuation of more than 2,200 homes and 6,000 residents.
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down the value of not only that home, but all the others around it. If the taxes arenâ€™t paid, and the state takes over the property, at least they keep it upâ€”up to a certain dollar amount. Theyâ€™ll at least cut the grass and keep it looking presentable.â€? The secretary of stateâ€™s website lists some 3,000 empty lots and abandoned houses in Hinds County alone. The properties range in price from free to more than $400,000, but the site lacks an easy search function. Private citizens can purchase the property directly from the state, but the city of Jackson has also had some success in the past by asking the state to give the property to the city. The law prevents the secretary of stateâ€™s office from donating the properties directly to non-profit organizations, but it doesnâ€™t prevent them from donating them to a municipality.
The Jackson Free Press featured one such project June 12 in a story about Voice of Calvary Baptist Church, which had obtained properties from the city for the purpose of refurbishing them, then assisting and subsidizing low-income families to get them through the buying process. Under that program, Jackson gave Voice of Calvary several dilapidated homes that the state had donated to the city. Hilliard and her partners on Vision 2022â€™s neighborhood beautification subcommittee have recently been in contact with the Center for Community Progress, a non-profit organization with offices in Flint, Mich., Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, which has helped communities around the country reclaim blighted areas and turn vacant spaces into vibrant areas. Itâ€™s an uphill battle, but other cities have
done it with varying levels of success. Just last year, the White House honored Center for Community Progress fellow Steve Mantle for turning a state-owned, run-down Flint warehouse into a park along the Flint River. But solutions for Jackson donâ€™t have to be that grand. As Hilliard pointed out, if the city, county and state all worked together, and neighbors were aware the lots were available at a reasonable price, the number of vacant properties could be cut down significantly. â€œRight now, we have a system where the county, city and state all have their own processes for dealing with the abandoned properties,â€? Hilliard said. â€œIf they were all pulling in the same direction, or had one central plan for dealing with them, they could make some serious progress.â€? Comment at www.jfp.ms. Email Tyler Cleveland at email@example.com.
Ready ... Set ... Scan by R.L. Nave
After a long delay, the state is implementing a controversial fingerscanner program for poor parents. In fall 2012, child-care providers and parents rallied at the Capitol to protest the plan.
vices) to correct the problems.â€? In her letter, Dent said her agency had learned a lot from the finger-scan pilot program. â€œWe have been testing this system with licensed providers for several months, and are confident in this programâ€™s ability to accurately capture attendance of children in your care and speed up the payment process,â€? Dent states in her letter.
Aside from the buggy computer systems, providers cite privacy concerns and say that piling on extra restrictions could force some parents to stop working to care for their kids at home. Even after two public hearings, capitol rallies and a lawsuit, Burnett said child-care providers still say they are having problems with the technology. The state will pay ACS approximately $1.2 million for 1,815 finger scanners and VeriFone scanners, which resemble credit-card readers, and up to an additional $12.8 million to service the equipment through 2017, a contract between the state and ACS shows. Burnett calls the way the program is being implemented heavy-handed. Dentâ€™s letter advises child-care providers to tell DECCD whether they will continue accepting the low-income subsidies or opt out of the certificate program no later than Aug. 15. Centers that do not respond by the deadline would be automatically dropped. Child-care providers have long believed that the finger scanners were a backdoor way to reduce the number of people helped by the child-care subsidy. Dent said that streamlining the payment system would enable the state to help more families. Burnett calls the scanners a deterrent for parents and child-care centers. â€œItâ€™s a bother that people would just rather not deal with,â€? she said. Comment www.jfp.ms. Email R.L. Nave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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said. â€œI havenâ€™t seen any real effort from (the Department of Human SerTRIP BURNS
ine months after state officials holstered a plan to require all parents receiving federal child-care assistance to scan their kids in and out of day care every day, Mississippi is moving forward with the controversial plan. In July 2012, Mississippiâ€™s Division of Early Childhood Care and Development, which administers the federal child-care subsidy, or certificate program, started testing a new system to pay child-care centers. The pilot program, designed to streamline the way child providers get paid, requires lowincome parents to scan their fingers into a database when picking up and dropping off their children. In the early implementations, the pilot program touched off many complaints about technical problems with the finger-scanning equipment and software, and resulted in a lawsuit from one child-care provider that remains pending. DECCD then held public hearings last fall on the program and decided to delay its full rollout. Jill Dent, who oversees the stateâ€™s childcare program, sent a letter to centers that accept certificates for federal low-income child-care subsidies. In the letter, dated July 15, Dent said DECCD would launch Mississippi eChildare statewide Oct. 1. Carol Burnett, executive director of the Low-Income Childcare Initiative, concedes that the providers she represents do get paid faster but said the electronic reports often contain errors. â€œI still have concerns,â€? Burnett
TALK | city
Angels on Patrol
Bennie Jones and his guardians patrol a neighborhood after one of its residents called and asked if they would spend some time in the area.
day talk-radio shows in New York City. Critics characterize the organization as a group that goes out looking for trouble, but JPD Assistant Chief Lee Vance said that hasn’t been the case in Jackson. “From my experience and understanding, they pretty much act as an extra set of eyes or ears in the community,” Vance said. “That’s something we’ve always advocated. It’s good to see citizens that want to get out there and be a part of the solution, instead of part the problem. I’ve only known them to try and be helpful to us.” With a committed core of 10 members, Jones is able to do two patrols a week. During a patrol, members dress in the familiar Guardian Angels uniform of T-shirt, black cargo pants and the signature red beret, then gathers and walks through the neighborhoods of Jackson. Guardian Angel recruits go through three months of training that includes Taekwondo, CPR training, basic criminal law and instruction on how to make a citizens arrest. It’s intensive training, but after 20 years,
Spotting the Criminals byTyler Cleveland
July 24 - 30, 2013
ake Back Jackson, organized by local attorney Ashley Ogden, is another group taking matters into its own hands. Regular Jackson residents, which Ogden calls citizens’ patrols, walk the streets and patrol the parks of northeast Jackson, particularly around Parham Bridges Park and the Interstate 55 corridor. He said his group aims to take back Jackson from “the criminals.” “It’s not hard to spot a criminal because they are usually doing something that the rest of us aren’t,” Ogden said. “While we’re going about our daily lives, they are standing around looking for an opportunity to take. You go to a park, and everybody is jogging or playing on the playground except for one guy, who is walking through the parking lot looking in car windows. That’s a suspicious person, so we call
Jones can count on one hand the number of times he has used it while on patrol. “We’ve gone down to the New Orleans to help out that chapter and got into some hairy situations, breaking up fights and stuff,” Jones said. “But here in Jackson, everything is pretty quiet most of the time. It’s more about trying to help people to feel safe in their own neighborhoods.” It was quiet Thursday afternoon when the group allowed this reporter and Jackson Free Press photographer Trip Burns to tag along on a patrol. The neighborhood was off Northside Drive between Brook Drive and Manhattan Road. The people were friendly, and one police officer rolled down his window and made a point to thank the group for what they were doing before he passed by. “Glad to see you guys out here!” he shouted from his cruiser. “Keep up the good work!” The crew for this particular patrol is five—four men and one woman. Jones stands about 5-foot-10-inches and is stout.
He looks like he could bench press a Toyota. Anthony Hayes (a member since the early ‘80s as well) and Larry Carter (six years in the group) are both tall and muscle-bound. Danny Bolden, who joined about the same time as Carter, has an easy smile and a quick high-kick, which he demonstrates at the end of the watch. Arlena Perry, the lone woman in the group, has been in the organization 10 years. In May, a concerned citizen had invited the Angels to her neighborhood. This citizen said she hadn’t felt safe lately, and wanted the group to patrol her neighborhood. Jones said he’d like to see the group get involved with charities that benefit the elderly and the homeless. The key to getting into these programs, Jones said, could be working with Jackson’s Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. Jones met Lumumba at a COPS meeting in Ward 2, which Lumumba represented as a Jackson City Council member for the past four years. “I commend any group of citizens that is trying to reduce crime and doing it in the right way,” Lumumba said. “The anticipation is that they will be willing to do a good watch program, and make sure people aren’t able to run amok with crime. We’re going to need that.” Lumumba added that meeting with the group and getting them involved in some charity events “is definitely on the agenda.” In the future, Jones would like the group to expand from safety patrols to charity work and to see them take advantage of speaking opportunities at Jackson high schools and middle schools. “You just see so many kids taking the wrong path,” Jones said. “My son is in ‘Little Angels,’ a program through Guardian Angels that teaches kids to make the right decisions.” Comment at www.jfp.ms. Email Tyler Cleveland at email@example.com.
the police and say ‘There is a suspicious person at Parham weapons permits, and can and should carry,” Ogden said. Bridges Park can you come check this out?’” “If you live in Jackson, you need to be carrying a gun right Ogden said he and other volunteers patrol the north- now to assist the police and to assist yourself and neighbors east neighborhoods and parks wearing Take Back Jackson until we control of the crime problem. I advocate people T-shirts and act as extra “eyes and ears” for regular police pa- with concealed weapons permits carrying... but I don’t make trols, which Ogden believes are too spread out. that a selling point of Take Back Jackson.” Unlike the Guardian Angels, Ogden said he encourages JPD assistant chief Lee Vance said the department benTake Back Jackson volunteers to carry firearms. efits from citizen patrols similar programs. It’s a controversial topic, especially since the “We don’t have a problem with it at all,” 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin Vance said. “We’ve always encouraged citiin Sanford, Fla. A coordinator for a neighborzens to be mindful of their neighborhoods hood watch program, George Zimmerman, and help be the eyes and ears of the police shot and killed Martin, and Zimmerman was department.” acquitted of second-degree murder. Regarding concealed weapons, JPD’s Ogden said nobody in his group is looking stance doesn’t change. “The issue is whether to shoot anyone, but added that he does not disyou are operating legally,” Vance said. “(If) TakebackJackson.com courage his volunteers from carrying weapons. you go outside the law, you have to pay the “A lot of these people have concealed- founder Ashley Ogden. consequences like anyone else.” COURTESY TAKING BACK JACKSON
ennie Jones was sitting alone at his Jackson home watching the news night after night in the summer of 1981 as the story of the Atlanta child murders unraveled. To jog readers’ memories: 28 African American children, adolescents and adults were killed in over an 18-month period between spring of 1981 and summer of 1982. Jones watched in disbelief as horrible details about the murders came to light, but then he saw something that moved him to action. “I was watching TV, and I see these guys in red berets patrolling the neighborhoods,” Jones said. “They had flown down from New York, and they were there to try to make a difference. It was inspiring.” What Jones saw was the Guardian Angels, a group of red beret-clad men who had traveled to the Peach State to make the rounds of the neighborhoods and, if not to prevent crime, at least to provide the people a sense of safety. The sight inspired him so much that he started a Jackson Guardian Angels chapter. “When we first got it going, there were a handful of us,” Jones said. “People didn’t know what to think, but eventually we got good responses from the public and the police.” Jones, who works two jobs—at the Courthouse Racquet and Fitness Center during the day and a nursing home at night—did not do any work for the group from 1993 through 2006, but got the ball rolling again in 2007. Now, the Angels are becoming more visible. As a group, Guardian Angels have a history of controversy since Curtis Sliwa founded it in 1979 in New York City. Sliwa staged a number of subway rescues to promote the group, leading the group to be tagged as fakes and vigilantes. He has since apologized, and now hosts two week-
by Tyler Cleveland
TALK | rights
Lawsuit Highlights Child-Support ‘Disarray’ by R.L. Nave
lawmakers passed a bill that they believed would lower the caseload. Under the law, which was effective July 1, DHS can contract all or part of its child-support collections to private firms. That plan drew criticism from parent groups and state-worker advocates who believed that privatizing collections would make things worse, not better. Plaintiff Christopher E. Kelly Patton believes the culture of the child-support division needs to change. He said that he began
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601-919-2829 Windell Blount is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Mississippi Department of Human Services that alleges sloppy management of the agency resulted in child-support orders that plaintiffs would not have otherwise had to pay.
paying child support in 1998 and had never missed or been late with a payment until fall 2012. Patton said he had been sending the checks directly to his ex-wife, but when she applied for state public assistance, state law requires child-support checks to be processed through the DHS system. Patton said his wife didn’t tell him she started receiving state benefits, so he continued to pay her directly. Kelly produced a copy of a $200 check he wrote to his ex-wife in November 2012, which is included as evidence in the lawsuit. In almost 15 years of paying child support on time, the one time a question arose about his promptness, he said child-support collectors met him with “grave disrespect.” “Everyone has an adversarial attitude— as if I’m a deadbeat dad,” he said. Scarier, he said, is the thought of what would happen if, after so many years of prompt payment, he lost his job and was unable to pay. In that sense, he sympathizes with people who simply cannot afford to pay child support. Although it is possible to renegotiate child support when someone falls on hard luck, doing so requires hiring an attorney. “If a person could pay, a person would pay,” he said. The lawsuit described in this story represents only one side of a legal dispute. Comment at www.jfp.ms. Email R.L. Nave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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hild custody cases are messy affairs. Take the case of Windell Blount, a May 2013 graduate of Tougaloo College, who has been embroiled in a he-said-she-said tug-of-war with his ex-wife over visitation of their 9-year-old son for about four years. Blount’s ex-wife reported Blount to state officials for alleged sexual abuse of the boy when he was about 5; Blount says his son told him that someone in Blount’s ex-wife’s home was abusing him. In the meantime, as a result of the allegations against Blount, the Mississippi Department of Human Services stripped him of joint custody and visitation privileges and ordered Blount to pay $588 a month in child support. “I’m amazed,” he said of the state’s handling of his case. Blount contends in a federal class-action lawsuit against DHS filed April 30 that he should not have to pay the support and accuses DHS employees of conspiracy to take away his parental and constitutional rights. Cathy Sykes, director of field operations for DHS, said she could not comment on the lawsuit. However, Sykes said the state has 360,000 child-support cases representing about $1.1 billion in child support. On average, each child-support enforcement officer handles about 1,500 cases at a given time. Sykes added that DHS’ job is to collect child support, not to sort out disputes over custody or how the parent who receives the payments uses the money. “Some absent parents want to look at it like every penny is going to the child. It is hard to convince people (that the custodial parent has) to use it to support the child,” by paying rent, mortgages and utilities, Sykes said. In early 2012, DHS’ child-support enforcement division sent Blount letters saying that he owed more than $1,400 in back support. The agency’s letter told him that if he failed to pay up within 15 days, DHS would report him to credit bureaus and would have his drivers’ license suspended. In December 2012, Blount reported what he called DHS’ intimidation and harassment to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Also, in 2013, a man from Albuquerque reported that Mississippi, a state where he has never lived, attempted to collect back support for a child he never fathered. Sykes explained that the New Mexico man previously had his identity stolen by someone who lived in Mississippi. DHS eventually fixed the mistake, but somehow the New Mexico man ended up back in DHS collections system. “I hate to say it, but it was a computer issue,” Sykes, the field operations director, told the Jackson Free Press. During this year’s legislative session,
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Jackson Zoo Keeping Options Open by Tyler Cleveland
could possibly be used for an African savannah exhibit. The location also has its drawbacks. Itâ€™s distant from the cityâ€™s other tourism destinations, including LeFleurâ€™s Bluff State
events, including International Tiger Day July 27 and Back To Zool Aug. 3, and Poff said sheâ€™s going to concentrate on those and let the board worry about the future. â€œWe wonâ€™t conclude the study at the
ackson Zoo Director Beth Poff said the organization and its board of directors are keeping all options open as the zoo continues to adapt and change to meet the needs of new exhibits and an expanding number of annual visitors. That includes the option to move to a new facility, which has been widely speculated since an April 12, 2013, Mississippi Business Journal editorial that called for, among other things, the zoo to relocate to the area near LeFleurâ€™s Bluff State Park at the site now occupied by LeFleurâ€™s Bluff Golf Course. Speaking at Friday Forum at Koinonia Coffee House July 19, Poff answered a question from an audience member about a possible move, saying, â€œEverything is on the table.â€? â€œWhat weâ€™re doing with a consultant study is looking at the criteria of what a move involves,â€? Poff said. â€œBut it wouldnâ€™t really be moving the zoo, because what weâ€™d be doing is building a new zoo from scratch at a new location.â€? Poff explained that many factors will go into the decision-making process, including the cost of a new facility, which she estimates would be anywhere from $20 million to $30 million an acre (the current zoo occupies 35 acres), and the question of what would happen to the facility the zoo is in now. To that end, the zoo boardâ€”which is made up of 10 members plus a secretary, a vice president and President Eric Stracenerâ€”is in the throes of a consultant study, which could conclude in early fall, to determine which path the zoo should take to continue to grow. There is room for growth at the current location in west Jackson, at 2918 W. Capitol St., including an additional 20 acres the zoo could access through its lease with the city. That space
The Jackson Zoo is keeping its options open as it continues to adapt to meet the challenges of a modern facility on a controlled budget.
Park, the Childrenâ€™s Museum, the Mississippi Museum of Art, the Agriculture Museum, the Old Capitol Museum, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and the planned Civil Rights Museum, in addition to the Convention Center. If the city moves forward with plans to connect all of these other destinations via a walking and biking trail, the zoo would be left out. â€œIf I take a step back and look at it from a purely tourism-impact point of view, it makes sense,â€? Poff said. â€œYou would have a tourism Mecca right there off of the interstate, where we would be very visible. Suddenly, weâ€™d have joint-ticketing package possibilities with other destinations and a chance to do some things that other zoos around the country are doing, like developing a quality restaurant facility and possibly even tree-top overnight stays.â€? The zoo has a couple of upcoming
end of the summer and say, â€˜OK, this is what weâ€™re going to do,â€™â€? Poff said. â€œI think weâ€™ll end up with an idea of what strategy we want to explore further. â€Ś Rumors are out there, but the fact is, weâ€™re going through a study. As far as Iâ€™m concerned, Iâ€™m running this zoo at this location.â€? Jobless Rate Dips Mississippiâ€™s June unemployment rate of 9 percent remains considerably higher than the national average of 7.6 percent, but trends show itâ€™s moving in the right direction. At 9 percent, the rate is down from Mayâ€™s 9.1 percent, and June marks the fourth month in a row the rate has shown improvement. The U.S. Department of Labor reported 117,513 people who were actively seeking employment in June, but thatâ€™s 2,220 less than it had this time a month ago
and 5,444 less than it had at this time last year. A breakdown of the June numbers by county was not available at press time, but unemployment data from May show most of the stateâ€™s unemployment centered in west and northwest Mississippi. Then, the highest rates were in Clay County (18.5 percent), Jefferson County (18.3 percent) and Holmes County (16.6 percent), and the lowest were Rankin County (5.5 percent), Lamar County (6.5 percent) and Madison County (6.7 percent). The Magnolia State has the third-highest unemployment rate in the country, ahead of only Illinois (9.2 percent) and Nevada (9.6 percent). South Dakota has the nationâ€™s lowest unemployment rate at 3.5 percent. BP Gets Day In Court On Friday, July 26, lawyers representing oil-giant BP will argue on the companyâ€™s behalf to temporarily block settlement payments to Gulf Coast businesses and residents affected by the companyâ€™s 2010 oil spill. BP has requested a moratorium on payments while former FBI Director Louis Freeh investigates alleged misconduct by a lawyer who helped administer the multibillion-dollar settlements, the Associated Press reports. U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier appointed Freeh to investigate the allegations, and scheduled the hearing for Friday. The investigation centers on a former staff attorney for court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau. In June, Juneau admitted that his office was investigating allegations that Lionel H. Sutton III might have benefitted from settlement proceeds for claims he referred to a law firm before he started working on the settlement program. Comment at www.jfp.ms. Email Tyler Cleveland at email@example.com.
July 24 - 30, 2013
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The Swimsuit Body
ummer brings one of my least-favorite times of the year: skimpy clothes and swimsuit season. As a curvy woman, finding a suit that I like and that fits properly is a challenge. I am not sure why it is so hard to make an attractive, affordable swimsuit for a plus-size woman under 50, but apparently it requires a team of NASA scientists. I used to hate this time of year because I was self conscious and uncomfortable in summer clothing. I felt like too much of my big, socially unacceptable body was showing. Those days passed long ago, thankfully. These days, my strong dislike for this time of year has to do with other people. I rarely have anyone say to me that my summer dress is inappropriate for a larger woman. The uncomfortable things are much more oblique, such as all the â€œI canâ€™t believe that â€˜fat girlâ€™ wore itâ€? memes, and social-media comments about seeing some â€œfat cowâ€? dressed in shorts and a tank top with her rolls showing. My personal favorite is, â€œWho would want to see that ?â€? For some reason, people think that commenting negatively on othersâ€™ bodies is appropriate behavior. I guess plus-size women should hide in shame all summer long, right? I challenge myself to question the judgments I make about people, including what makes people attractive, and why I think someone should or shouldnâ€™t wear something. When I push back against fat shaming and size judgments on social media and in other spaces, I get arguments. Most of them are caught up in writersâ€™ perceived need for women to dress to be attractive (to them)â€”or at least not offensive. They say fat people need to be healthy. Certain things are attractive and OK for some women to show but gross when others show them. It is a challenge to insist that women and men of diverse body types are also people who have the right to exist without ridicule. Our popular media and culture tell us what the standard of beauty is. Many feel compelled to not only comply but also to punish those who donâ€™t. For me, I have been working at something different for several years: radical self-love. It is a wonderful space to occupy, and I encourage everyone to try it. Everyone can have a swimsuit body. Just buy a swimsuit and wear it!
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July 24 - 30, 2013
Â°-ISSISSIPPI !TTORNEY 'ENERAL *IM (OOD IN HIS APPEAL OF (INDS $ISTRICT #OURT *UDGE 7INSTON +IDDÂ´S DECISION TO BLOCK THE STATE FROM IMPLEMENTING ("