July 30 - August 5, 2014
JACKSONIAN ASHLEY SULLIVAN
shley Sullivan describes her first year teaching in 2011 like other first-year teachers: difficult. Forest Hill High School hired Sullivan to teach Art I, but she and some of her students were not satisfied with the school’s meager art-class offerings. Sullivan says that when started at Forest Hill, the school only taught Art I and Art II classes. During her third year at Forest Hill, which was last school year, things began to change for Sullivan, 30, and the school’s art program. “With the coming and going of different teachers, I kind of ended up in the position to be head art teacher,” she says. “From there, I just took it.” Now, as her fourth year approaches, Forest Hill will offer an Art III and an Advanced Placement Art class. During July, Sullivan spent a week training at Rice University in Houston, Texas, to receive her certification to teach AP Art in the fall. The school now has an Art Club, as well. “I had kids who wanted me to start (one),” she says. “They seemed really interested so I just went from there.” Around 25 students are regularly involved with the club. “We’ve toured the Belhaven art department,” Sullivan says. “We go to museums, obviously the Mississippi Museum of Art, (but) we’ve also been to Ocean Springs to visit the Walter Anderson Museum.” The club also participated in the FIGMENT Jackson House Blend Design Compe-
tition last spring, where they won the People’s Choice award. Sullivan says the Art Club will be involved in the FIGMENT Jackson arts festival in Midtown Oct. 18. Sullivan, who graduated from Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., with a bachelor’s degree in visual arts in 2007 and Belhaven University with a master’s in education in 2012, says the improved art program at Forest Hill has helped the students who are involved. “It’s given them a place to fit in,” she says. “… You have kids who do sports and other things, but art is something different that a lot of kids, especially my kids, have never really thought about as an outlet or had the opportunity to have (as) an outlet.” Not only has Sullivan and art helped Forest Hill students socially, but some students have also seen fast, positive results, including a student receiving an honorable mention in the Scholastic Art Competition this past year. “It’s something that he would not have ever thought of doing before,” Sullivan says. As the school year is about to start, Sullivan says she hopes she can keep the program’s momentum going and further develop it, adding Art IV classes, as well as more AP classes. “I don’t think a lot of them have really had art or been taught about art and all the things you can do with art,” Sullivan says. “It’s kind of given those who didn’t have a place before to find something that they like and works for them.” —Mary Kate McGowan
Cover photo of (from left) Malaysia McCoy, Tralexis Earvin, Markessa McCoy and Jayla Johnson by Trip Burns
10 Ready to Run
Is Mississippi ready for more LGBT political candidates? One group thinks so.
24 Canning Summer
As summer comes to a close, it’s time to think about canning those seasonal fruits and veggies.
27 Letting Children Lead
“The simplicity of the exhibit draws you into the scenes, showcasing Freedom Summer’s unsung heroes, many of whom were children.” —Carmen Cristo, “The Children Will Lead Them”
4 ............................. EDITOR’S NOTE 7 ................................................ YOU 8 ............................................ TALKS 14 ................................ EDITORIAL 15 .................................... OPINION 17 ............................ COVER STORY 23 ...................... SHOPPING GUIDE 24 ......................................... FOOD 27 .............................. DIVERSIONS 28 ....................................... MUSIC 28 ....................... MUSIC LISTINGS 29 .......................................... ARTS 30 ....................................... 8 DAYS 31 ..................................... SPORTS 32 ...................................... EVENTS 34 .................................... PUZZLES 37 ....................................... ASTRO
TRIP BURNS; FLICKR/TOM HEAD; COURTESY ENTERPRISE-JOURNAL (MCCOMB, MS)
JULY 30 - AUGUST 5, 2014 | VOL. 12 NO. 47
by Amber Helsel, Assistant Editor
Expanding Horizons Through Reading
hen I was in elementary school, I was heavily into the Accelerated Reading program. I read all the books I could so I could get one of those flexible sticky-hands or any of the other prizes offered. It was like a competition to see just how many books I could read. What that program did was use positive re-enforcement to get us to understand the value of reading and learning. By the time I got to middle school and was no longer an Accelerated Reader, I had already become a bookworm. Throughout middle school and high school, I prided myself on being a fast reader; I read “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in an entire day and still sometimes read that fast. But for many students, the Accelerated Reading program wasn’t enough. I read a lot before then, so it came natural to me. But by the time many students got to high school, they lost that love for books and learning. Reading is Fun reports that 53 percent of 4th graders read for fun, but for 8th graders, the number drops to 20 percent. Statisticbrain.com reports that 33 percent of high-school graduates and 42 percent of college graduates never pick up a book after graduation. Eighty percent of U.S. families never buy books. But Reading is Fun also reports that 4th graders who have more than 25 books at their house test better than those who don’t. Income levels too often determine a love of reading and reading skills; i.e., those who are from a higher income bracket and have easier access to books are more likely to be proficient in reading and go further in life. But even those from a lower bracket can still excel if they are exposed to books. Researchers generally agree, though, that low-income children have a greater learning loss during the
summer than those who come from highincome backgrounds, so they may not be as proficient in reading. Those who don’t read enough as children and who subsequently don’t have great reading skills often have harder lives than their counterparts. Literarystatistics.com reports that two-thirds of students who can’t read proficiently by the end of 4th grade
You get to travel to many different places and become different characters. will end up in jail or on welfare. The site also reports that 16- to 19-year-old girls who live at poverty level with poor reading skills are more likely to have children born out of wedlock. I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you want to get a great education, have a successful career and be a generally wellrounded person, the first step is reading. If it hadn’t been for the love of books instilled in me at an early age, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. But I’m just one person who took something as gim-
micky as Accelerated Reading and turned it into something that persists today. Not everyone can say the same thing. What are the benefits of books and reading? You learn about different cultures and customs. You get to travel to many different places and become different characters. You have the ability to further your knowledge of things you already know about and also find new ideas and ways of thinking. You’re introduced to new perspectives and get to explore distant lands. If you have a bad day, a good book can make you laugh. No matter what’s going on in your life, if you just sit down to read a book, you get to escape and be someone else for a while. One could say that reading even gives a person a better sense of empathy. Maybe you meet someone similar to a character in a book and though a book isn’t exactly like the real world, you can still empathize a little better. And did I say that you get to be someone else? Oscar Wilde once said: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” On another note, reading introduces children to the possibility of being writers themselves. Through reading, they improve their comprehension and vocabulary and may discover that they like the idea of writing novels. You may have the next Richard Wright or J.K. Rowling on your hands. But it’s not enough to simply try to get children to like reading in elementary school and then ruin that love by forcefeeding students books. That’s how a lot of my classmates began hating reading. Reading became a chore to them because we knew we would be tested on what we learned. I even fell privy to that, which is why, to this day, I’ve never read “The Diary of Anne Frank” and remember noth-
ing from “The Hobbit.” Scholastic has a few suggestions to get students to read more. Instead of a standard testing format, why not have a discussion or do a short essay? Find books that interest them. Introduce them to the classics but also let them read something that will be interesting to them. If they aren’t interested, let them move on to the next book. What turns people off to reading is being forced to do it. Let them read at their own pace. Not everyone reads fast and some people take more time to absorb information. Besides giving children more access to books, I think the key is to not force children to read. Yes, they need to read in school, but if you know they won’t like the selection, choose something else. In eighth grade, we had to read books like “The B.F.G.,” “The Giver” and “James and the Giant Peach,” and you know what? I enjoyed reading those books and still regard them as some of my favorites. The college graduate statistic is probably true. Life simply gets too busy as an adult. These days, it’s hard for me to find a time to read, since I don’t get many moments to myself anymore. I plan to remedy that. Whether you read or not as an adult, it’s important to teach children the value of reading. No matter how you do it, remember to introduce them to a variety of books. And, teachers, I know it’s important to read in school but don’t make your students hate it. All of us should step up and help out the next generation. These kids are the future of the U.S. and the world. Let them discover themselves through reading. Assistant Editor Amber Helsel received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ole Miss. She is short, always hungry and always thinking.
July 30 - August 5, 2014
Mary Kate McGowan
Editorial Intern Mary Kate McGowan, a senior communication and English major at Mississippi State University, is a Starkville Free Press writer. She wrote the cover story.
Feature Writer and Tishomingo County native Carmen Cristo studied journalism at Mississippi State. She likes Food Network, ’90s music and her husband. She helped Girls Scouts gather back-to-school accessories for this issue.
Staff Photographer Trip Burns is a graduate of the University of Mississippi, where he studied English and sociology. He enjoys the films of Stanley Kubrick. He took many photos for the issue.
R.L. Nave, native Missourian and news editor, roots for St. Louis (and the Mizzou Tigers)—and for Jackson. Send him news tips at rlnave@ jacksonfreepress.com or call him at 601-362-6121 ext. 12. He wrote news stories.
Investigative Reporter Anna Wolfe, a Tacoma, Wash., native, studied at Mississippi State. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her with news tips at 601-362-6121 ext. 20. She wrote news stories.
Music Editor Micah Smith is a graduate of Mississippi College and has neither an eye patch nor a soul patch. When not at home with his wife Jeana and dog Zelda, he performs with the band Empty Atlas. He wrote a music story..
Editorial Intern Jared Boyd is an Ole Miss senior studying Broadcast Journalism. The Memphis native writes for the school paper and hosts his own urban-music-mix show on Rebel Radio. He factchecked for the issue.
Advertising Director Kimberly Griffin is a fitness buff and foodie who loves chocolate and her mama. She’s also Michelle Obama’s super secret BFF, which explains the Secret Service detail.
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Letters to the Editor Change the State Flag
On â€˜Mississippi Valuesâ€™
I just found your article regarding the state flag (Donna Ladd, Editorâ€™s Note, Oct. 30, 2013) and agree with you 100 percent about it needing to be changed. I personally believe the best path to having it replaced is for business and higher education leaders (including football coaches) to quietly press the Legislature and governor, much the same way it happened in Georgia when it changed its state flag. If memory serves correctly, the CEO of Home Depot and President Jimmy Carter were instrumental in bringing about change in Georgia. I personally lobbied for the return of the â€œMagnolia flagâ€? as a compromise. Unfortunately, our state Legislature is riddled with â€œgood-ole-boysâ€? who are perfectly happy with the status-quo. Best of luck in this endeavor.
I am a life-long resident of the state and grew up in the â€™50s and â€™60s, as the Jim Crow era transitioned into more complex strategies with the passage of federal laws that address the legal and inalienable rights of all the citizens of this country. I am concerned with Chris McDanielâ€™s perception of Mississippi. He runs on a platform based on prayer in schools, against â€œThe Affordable Care Act,â€? for the right to carry a gun, and curtailing federal expenditures. He speaks of â€œMississippi valuesâ€? with what seems to be an unquestionable reverence. I love Mississippi. My ancestors helped build this state with their blood, sweat and astronomical sacrifices. In our state, modern day Jim Crowism and Reconstructionism make for strange bedfellows. We seem to walk a fine line trying to stifle the progress of people of color, yet project a semblance of advancement. Letâ€™s take an honest look at our state. It
Richard McNeer, Oxford, Miss.
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Email letters and opinion to email@example.com, fax to 601-510-9019 or mail to 125 South Congress St., Suite 1324, Jackson, Mississippi 39201. Include daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, as well as factchecked.
has several glaring issues, but one that strikes my heart the deepest is the condition of the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, which is run by a private firm. This facility is located only 70 miles from state Sen. Chris McDanielâ€™s Jackson offices. Judge Carleton Reeves, the U.S. district court judge for the South Mississippi, wrote in a 2012 court order that conditions at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility violated state, federal and criminal laws, and the Constitution of the United Statesâ€”yes, the same Constitution that allows you to carry a gun to church. Evidence gathered for a report by the Justice Department and a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) painted a picture of such horror that should not occur anywhere in the civilized world. The kids housed in this facility were subjected to physical and sexual mistreatment, and perhaps worst of all, psychological abuse, including long-term solitary confinement for minor offenses. The guards regularly had sex with their young charges. The guards sold drugs on site and staged Gladiator-style fights. Efforts are underway to clean up and clear out Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, which one judge called a cesspool where children as young as 13 received inhumane treatment. According to the Census Bureau, Mis-
sissippi is the poorest state in the U.S. Twenty-two percent of residents live below the poverty level. In 2011, Mississippi spent over $1.5 billion on welfare, and in 2012, one in five Mississippians received food stamps, the highest rate of reliance on food assistance in the nation. Our state leads the nation in a number of health-care problems. According to the 2013 edition of Americaâ€™s Health Rankings, 770,000 adults are obese, and almost 280,000 adults have diabetes in the state. We have the highest rate of heart disease and second highest rate of diabetes. Mississippi also has the highest rate of single-parent households, the lowest average life expectancy, the highest rate of teenage pregnancy, and one of the lowest levels of adult literacy in the nation. Mississippi, dominated by conservative politicians, has health care, income and economic disparities that are some of the worst in the United States. If we keep holding on to our prejudices and fail to make a serious and sustained effort to upgrade the welfare of all our citizens, then I guess it will continue to be â€œstatus quoâ€? or worse, and Sen. Chris McDaniel will continue to smile when uses the term â€œMississippi values.â€? J. Ted Williams, Hattiesburg, Miss.
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Thursday, July 24 The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees offer competing proposals to fix problems in the veteransâ€™ health care program, both of which would scale back separate Houseand Senate-passed bills calling for more than $35 billion. Friday, July 25 The U.S. and Ukraine charge Russia with launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, while Russia accuses Washington of lying and charges Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. â€Ś During a meeting at the White House, President Obama urges the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to help ease the influx of minors and migrant families crossing the southwest border of the U.S. Saturday, July 26 Israel agrees to extend a humanitarian cease-fire that began Saturday to 24 hours, but Hamas refuses to do the same.
July 30 - August 5, 2014
Sunday, July 27 Ukrainian armed forces mount an onslaught against pro-Russian separatist fighters in an attempt to gain control over the Malaysia Airlines crash site, while the U.S. Director of National Intelligence releases satellite images he says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists has crossed the border.
Monday, July 28 House and Senate negotiators agree on a $17 billion emergency spending plan to fix the veterans health program after more than six weeks of talks. â€Ś The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules Virginiaâ€™s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Tuesday, July 29 Democratic and Republican members of Congress move to seal a $225 million boost to Israelâ€™s Iron Dome missile defense system before they break for a recess.
Old Ghosts to Haunt City Budget Plans by R.L. Nave
ackson city officials like to talk about the $1.25 billion worth of investment slated to come to the capital through infrastructure upgrades in the coming years. Yet, because of problems that have mounted over the past few years, Jackson could face as much as a $14 million budget deficit that will require deep cuts to popular city services, Mayor Tony Yarber said during his first state of the city address on July 24. â€œSacrifices will have to be made for the greater good of our communities. No longer can we afford to carry out functions that donâ€™t lead to the progressive genesis we seek. For example, what does it profit the city to devote $500,000 in support to a venue and only receive $20,000 in return?â€? Yarber said without mentioning any specific programs. The problem is that there arenâ€™t a whole lot of obvious candidates for cuts. â€œWe donâ€™t have a budget thatâ€™s carrying a lot of fat,â€? said Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr., who also chairs the city councilâ€™s finance committee. In the coming weeks, Yarber and his budget office will present a financial plan to the city council and Jackson citizens, through budget hearings. Despite a 1-percent sales tax hike that citizens passed in January, which is projected to add approximately $300 million to the cityâ€™s coffers, and water and sewer fee hikes that went
Napkin Wisdom Mayor Tony Yarber has started his own social-media trend since taking over office in April: He writes inspirational quotes or otherwise common-sense tips on napkins and posts them to his personal Instagram feed. Here are some of JFPâ€™s #napkins.
Wednesday, July 23 House Republicans and Senate Democrats advance competing proposals for dealing with tens of thousands of young migrants showing up at the southern border, with each side ruling the otherâ€™s approach unacceptable.
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Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. and other city officials are preparing to cut programs to balance the city budget.
into effect last year, balancing the budget could prove difficult. The reasons are myriad, Priester said. In the last budget cycle, Jackson dodged a bullet when Jackson Public Schools asked the city council, which sets millage (tax) rates according to what JPS needs to operate, for less money. â€œWe got breathing room from giving JPS fewer mills. This year, without question, giving them the full amount of the mills,â€? Priester said. In addition, Jackson recently started
paying back $1.9 million in community development block grant funds that failed to meet federal guidelines. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined that Jackson allocated money for several ineligible CDBG projects including for small-business development, the Roberts Hotel, the Electric Building and Metro Market Place, according to a January letter from HUD. Other budget wild cards include
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uncertainty around a pair of road-repair projects on Fortification and Capitol streets that recently hit snags. In his first state of the city address since becoming mayor, Yarber painted a hopeful picture of the capital cityâ€™s future, but said the road forward would be arduous. â€œI cannot promise you that this will be easy. I cannot promise you that every
decision I make will be popular. I cannot promise you that we wonâ€™t have shortcomings,â€? Yarber said. â€œThere will be growing pains, and there will be bruises, but together we can take the necessary steps to make this city what we desire it to be.â€? While heâ€™s the Budget Committee chairman, Priester would like to implement
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a priority-based budgeting process that would involve soliciting input from citizens to rank the effectiveness of city services and developing metrics for spending based on the highest priorities. Ward 4 Councilman Deâ€™Keither Stamps called Yarberâ€™s speech â€œpositiveâ€? and â€œencouraging,â€? and agreed that budget makers will have to prioritize city spending
to maximize return-on-investment, but he stopped short of naming any specific programs that need to be cut or reviewed. â€œWe have a lot of issues around the city of Jackson; we have to invest our dollars (wisely),â€? Stamps told the Jackson Free Press Monday. Comment at www.jfp.ms. Email R.L. Nave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pro-lifers Lose Big Legal Battle, Take Aim at JPD by Anna Wolfe
s the Jackson Womenâ€™s Health size, number and offensiveness of the signs â€Ś we probably would have just let it ride, routinely harassed pro-life citizens, who have Organization celebrates a 5th displayed in front of businesses across the but these were horrible,â€? Peters said. been peacefully exercising their legal right to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals street from the clinic, including a familyâ€œEvery five feet there was just another oppose abortion in the public square and ofruling handed down Tuesday oriented restaurant with outdoor seating. one, another one, another one.â€? fer information about life-affirming alternaallowing the clinic to continue operatTo some Jacksonians, the images Instead of ignoring the protesters as he tives to women seeking abortion.â€? ing, controversy continues to churn at the werenâ€™t just offensive. Mike Peters, owner of usually would, Peters walked outside, picked The suit was filed one day after the Crestateâ€™s only abortion clinic. But this time, the building across the street from the clinic, up each sign on the sidewalk, took them to ated Equal video was posted, showing police the City of Jackson and its police are in the Fondren Corner, found the signs disturbing, his buildingâ€™s basement and locked them up officers standing idly by and watching Peters crosshairs of pro-life groups. Together, the distracting and, most importantly, illegal. without saying a word. take the protestersâ€™ signs. â€œIâ€™m dealing with recent ruling and pending lawsuit bring Jackson city ordinances prohibit porâ€œPlease do not steal our property,â€? one something right now,â€? one officer said as he the abortion debate back to the watched and sipped a to-go cup fore for Jackson residents. of coffee. On July 17, an out-of-state Peters said he believes anti-abortion activist group the police did not arrest him becalled Created Equal visited cause the protesters were already the Jackson Womenâ€™s Health violating Jackson ordinances. Organization in large numbers â€œI think they knew that, â€˜Well, with sandwich-board signs diswhy should we arrest him for playing large, gruesome images doing this, and yet weâ€™re letting of destroyed fetuses. This week, them break the law, too? Thatâ€™s a different group called Opera- An out-of-state anti-abortion organization claims its rights were violated when Fondren Cornerâ€™s owner took their not right,â€™â€? Peters said. sandwich boards from the sidewalk in front of his buildingâ€™s storefronts across the street from the stateâ€™s only abortion clinic. tion Save America set up shop Created Equal complains that at the clinic as well as in front the police did not stop Peters of Jackson police headquarters downtown. table signs. That morning, however, Jackson protester said as shown in a video posted by from violating their First Amendment rights, â€œWeâ€™re trying to get them to think, police officers allowed the protesters to prop Created Equal, which went viral last week. even though the protesters got their signs and the pictures do that,â€? Mark Her- their portable signs on the sidewalks. No one attempted to physically stop Peters back unharmed later. rington, executive director of Created Peters said he believed this was due to from taking their equipment. Defendants named in the suit include Equal, told the Jackson Free Press in a orders from the city attorneyâ€™s office to JackPeters said an officer threatened that he former Police Chief Lindsey Horton, whose telephone interview. son Police Department not to intervene. would be arrested if he continued to take the retirement was announced July 21, ComThe clinic and its staff are familiar Herrington said the police gave differ- anti-abortion groupâ€™s signs, but Peters was mander James McGowan and several other with having protesters on and around their ing sets of instructions to the protesters dur- never cuffed, and no charges were ever filed. JPD officers. Shelia Byrd, city hall spokesproperty and being the center of contro- ing the time they were there. â€œThey actually â€œIâ€™m not mad at you,â€? Peters told the woman, declined comment, citing the pendversy. Despite their victory in a U.S. ap- changed their minds a couple times, telling JPD officer. â€œI know youâ€™ve got to do what- ing lawsuit. peals court, in which the court found an us we had to hold the signs, and then they ever youâ€™ve got to do. But Iâ€™ve got to do what Meanwhile, JWHO awaits the next admitting privilege law designed to close told us we didnâ€™t need to hold them. I mean, Iâ€™ve got to do.â€? piece of anti-abortion legislation intended the clinic unconstitutional, JWHO owner there was just utter confusion on their end of The group plans to file charges against to close their clinic, and Peters is still receivDiane Derzis knows the war is not over. things,â€? Herrington said. Peters as long as they are able to circumvent ing obscene calls from anti-abortion activists â€œItâ€™s definitely not over. This is a battle After receiving complaints from busi- the â€œtechnicality that I have to physically be across the nation. in an ongoing war,â€? Derzis told the Jackson ness owners in Fondren Corner, Peters told thereâ€? to sign the affidavit, Herrington said. â€œWhen you live in a democracy, itâ€™s Free Press Tuesday right after the ruling. his tenants that he would â€œbe the bad guyâ€? On July 23, the Life Legal Defense messy,â€? Herrington said, paraphrasing PresiThe same can be said about the July and decided to dismantle the groupâ€™s display Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of the dent Obama, about abortion, protesting and 17 anti-abortion protest, which has thrust himself. The signs, he said, almost prompted anti-abortion activist group, Pro-Life Missis- free speech. everyone involved in the abortion fight one business owner to close for the day. sippi, against JPD. Read more about the 5th Circuit decision into further litigation. What made that â€œIt was horrible. If they would have had In the complaint, filed in federal court at jfp.ms. Email investigative reporter Anna protest different from others was the sheer little signs like most of the locals have now in Jackson, the group alleges that JPD â€œhas Wolfe at email@example.com.
TALK | politics
LGBT Pols Ready to Play in State by R.L. Nave
ith black folks playing the public official who is outâ€”Mercedes candidates on ballots in a year or two. On spoiler in the Mississippi Ricks, an alderwoman in Magnolia. their recent swing through Mississippi, Republican Senate primary, Ricks, a native of Colombia and a Leeds and the fundâ€™s political director, Jabucking many traditional business owner, helped Magnolia (popu- son Burns, met with several potential cannotions about how politics work in the lation 2,420) pass one of eight equality didates whom they declined to identify. Magnolia State, gay, lesbian, â€œIf youâ€™re not intimibisexual and transgender dated going into it, youâ€™re people are making a politiprobably underestimatcal play of their own. ing whatâ€™s neededâ€? to win The Washington, elected office, especially if D.C.-based Gay & Lesyouâ€™re LGBT, Burns said. bian Victory Fund recently The prospects are began holding meetings a little less intimidating around the state to start if you consider the Vicscouting potential LGBT tory Fundâ€™s track record. office seekers. In 2006, the fund got inâ€œWeâ€™re looking to volved when the Alabama build the bench,â€? the fundâ€™s Democratic Party tried to deputy political director, toss an openly gay canNancy Leeds, told the Jackdidate for state House of son Free Press. Representatives named Founded in 1991 Patricia Todd, of BirmingMercedes Ricks, an alderwoman in Magnolia, is the stateâ€™s only openly gay public official, but a movement is under way to change that. and organized as a politiham, off the ballot. The cal-action committee, the fund called in the big guns, nonpartisan Victory Fund getting former presidential provides training and other candidate and Democratic supports to LGBT candidates. To take resolutions around the state, including National Committee Chairman Howard advantage of the fundâ€™s programs, candi- Jackson, which passed an anti-discrimi- Dean and pumping $100,000 in lawyersâ€™ dates have to be openly LGBT, support nation ordinance in early June. Statewide fees on Toddâ€™s behalf. reproductive freedom, have community support for LGBT community members They succeeded in getting Todd back support and be viable. has congealed around opposition to a new on the ticket and, since her election, the Those resources include access to the state law that took effect on July 1, the Victory Fund boasts that no anti-equality fundâ€™s political strategists, which is like Religious Freedom Restoration Act. legislation has been debated on the Alagetting free political consulting, as well as When proposed in the Legislature, bama House floor. the groupâ€™s network of financial donors, the RFRA proposal stirred fervent debate Over the years, the fund has endorsed including some of the nationâ€™s largest cor- between its supporters and civil-liberties 150 candidates for office and all but five porations and foundations. groups who believed the bill would lead have been Democratsâ€”four were RepubThe Victory Fund is focusing on 10 to legal anti-gay discrimination. After the licans, and one is an independentâ€”but states that have no openly LGBT mem- bill passed, albeit modified from its origi- Leeds and Burns say they would like to bers of their legislatures, but are recruiting nal form, the Human Rights Campaign meet with Mississippi Republicans. candidates from local boards and commis- announced a plan to hang out shingles in They are also planning more outsions on up. This spring, an openly gay Mississippi and other southern states to reach to the transgender communities man named Marco McMillan was found lobby for equal-rights protections. and LGBT communities of color. Laudead while running for mayor of ClarksThe Victory Fund is hoping to har- rie Bertram Roberts, a social-justice acdale. Currently, Mississippi has only one ness that energy to get a handful of LGBT tivist and Jackson Free Press columnist,
said with Mississippiâ€™s nearly 40 percent African American population, itâ€™s critical to seek out LGBT candidates beyond gay, white, cisgender, middle-class men. (â€œCisgenderâ€? is the opposite of transgender.) â€œClearly weâ€™re here, and some of us would be viable candidates,â€? said Roberts, who is bisexual. Roberts declined to say if she is contemplating a run for public office, but believes that Jackson, once named home to the nationâ€™s most same-sex couples raising children, is a natural launch pad for the political career of an LGBT person. â€œWeâ€™re the biggest city, weâ€™re the capital city. To be honest, Iâ€™m surprised that no one has run in Jackson,â€? she said. Comment at www.jfp.ms. Email R.L. Nave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HILL TO HEAD STATE HRC Human Rights Campaignâ€™s Project One America started in 2014 to expand LGBT equality by using HRC resources to place permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. HRC announced Tuesday that United Methodist preacher Rob Hill will lead as HRC Mississippiâ€™s state director. Hill, who is gay, grew up in Mississippi and has led as the pastor of Broadmeadow United Methodist Church in Jackson for nine years. â€œNo matter what, we are all Godâ€™s children,â€? Hill said. â€œEven though we disagree on various issues, our values in the Magnolia State teach us to love everyone.â€?â€” Anna Wolfe
July 30 - August 5, 2014
TALK | religion
by Anna Wolfe
will be given permission to enter its sovereign territory. Moses recognized this, and so should we. The only exception is under circumstances of a just war,” Fischer wrote in a July 9 blog. AFA’s own attorney, Patrick Vaughn, however, calls migrants “risk-taking doers.” “The fact is that 60 or 70 or 90,000 children are not a difficult thing for our society to absorb. We will probably abort approximately 1 million of our own babies this year, so absorbing 100,000 children from Central American—that just kind of puts that in perspective as not being that many kids. Our society and economy could easily support them,” Vaughn said this week. Still, many conservatives, including
ASSOCIATED PRESS/ REBECCA BLACKWELL
eligious leaders, political figures and hyperbolic talking heads have yet to reach a consensus on the Bible’s application to the issue of immigration in the United States. Gov. Phil Bryant, who considers himself a devout Christian, wrote a July 18, 2014, letter to President Obama expressing outrage at the U.S.’s growing trend of taking in and helping migrant children. It began: “I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the ongoing crisis at the United States’ southern border. Illegal aliens—many unaccompanied children—are flooding into our country in record numbers.” A July 22 response to Bryant’s letter highlighted the confusion associated with
On June 20, 2014, a Central American migrant carrying a small child waits alongside a stuck northbound freight train, outside Reforma de Pineda, Chiapas state, Mexico.
Christian hypocrisy. Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson wrote: “As a Christian who is the product of a similar religious tradition to Governor Bryant, I have great difficulty in understanding the position he is taking with respect to treatment of these children in this humanitarian crisis.” Bryant is not the only one who opposes opening U.S. borders to children facing violence in their home countries while also claiming his worldviews are guided by Christian ideology. Bryan Fischer of the Tupelo-based American Family Association, a Christian nonprofit devoted to imposing the gospel on national policy, said that the Bible emphasizes the importance of borders, implying that a nation’s boundary lines are more important than a “do unto your neighbor” ethos. “Each nation’s sovereignty is marked by its boundary, and each nation has the moral right to decide who
Vaughn, agree on one thing: U.S.’s immigration problem is what Fischer calls a “man-caused disaster.” “I think the issue with children currently is somewhat of a manufactured crisis that the president allowed to happen because he thought it would advance his agenda,” Vaughn said. In 2012, President Obama signed an executive order to stop deportation of undocumented child migrants in the U.S. This, which some on the right have categorized as “amnesty,” is the “manufactured crisis” Vaughn refers to. The order did not guarantee citizenship for those migrants, nor was it a permanent solution to the problems facing the nation’s southern border. In Phil Bryant’s July 18 letter to the president, he said he plans to prohibit the federal government from housing large numbers of new illegal immigrants in Mississippi.
“(It) is unfair to expect the states to bear the costs of a problem created by the federal government’s failure to enforce the law,” Bryant said. But many people of faith say this isn’t in line with the Christian values Bryant declares. Father Jerry Tobin, a founding member of Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, said one Bible verse is especially clear on the issue of immigration: Leviticus 19:33-34. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God,” reads the New International Version. Tobin said that Bible verses that mention national borders, like the ones Fischer cites, do not have cultural significance today and do not trump the universal Christian message that calls people to help others. “I think that’s garbage. Borders are not biblical. I think what the right wing is doing to religion is twisting it to fit their own bigoted racist ideology,” Tobin said, who admits he is not a biblical literalist. “That doesn’t even make sense in the present context.” At a press conference at the MIRA offices in Jackson Thursday, the Christian story of the “good Samaritan” resonated with the speakers and guests in attendance. Many of the speakers called Mississippians to welcome children migrants and ensure their protection. Amelia McGowan, an immigration attorney in Vicksburg and Christian, urged national and state leaders to respect the law, specifically the due process protection given to everyone in the United States, regardless of citizenship, in the fourteenth amendment. “Will we, as Mississippians, truly be committed to the rule of law? Will we fight to ensure that all individuals within our state and nation receive the constitutional protections to which they are entitled?” McGowan asked. “Or will we forget that we are a nation of laws and the hospitality state and drown in the political grandstanding?” The law, Tobin said, should “reflect justice, not the other way around.” Children migrating to the United States from Central America face violence in their countries that give them valid claims for asylum, he said. “Children are a blessing rather than a curse,” Vaughn said. “We’re getting the very best asset that Guatemala or Honduras has—their people.” Comment at www.jfp.ms. Email Anna Wolfe at email@example.com.
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Who Would Jesus Deport?
TALK | education
‘Grade Recovery’ Benefits Disputed by Mary Kate McGowan
July 30 - August 5, 2014
‘He’s Not Going to Pass’ This does not sit well with Phillips, and she said other Forest Hill teachers were upset as well because students who did not attend class and did not perform well in class graduated. She gave as an example a student who was not attending class and received multiple disciplinary actions such as suspension was allow to graduate. “The whole year we were like, ‘He’s not going to pass,’ and he did. He walked. He graduated because of credit recovery,” she said. “He’s a smart kid. I’m sure he got something out of the credit recovery, but where do you draw the line in saying in saying, ‘you can make up this class in two days?’” A science teacher also told Phillips of another student who used credit recovery. “A student attended her class two days the entire year and went to credit recovery for two days and got that science credit to graduate,” Phillips said. The teacher told Phillips the student completed course recovery in two days with a 40 percent overall grade. Phillips said she has not experienced course recovery before this year. “To my knowledge, I know for a fact that many of the other teachers in the building were extremely surprised. They didn’t understand what’s happening, and how all of the sudden these kids who failed them—like, rocked a 20 (percent) all year—were graduating,” she said. Because the program focused mainly on senior students, senior teachers were greatly affected. “It seemed to me from the senior teach-
ers I interacted with that they were all fairly incredulous like didn’t see it coming by a mile,” she said. Not a new practice Freddrick Murray, executive director of Jackson Public Schools’ high school division, said credit recovery has been around for years, but the district started using a new program called Odysseyware at the end of the year. At its Feb. 4 meeting, the Jackson PubCOURTESY SARAH PHILLIPS
hile sitting in the Mississippi Coliseum on May 28, a terrible feeling came over Sarah Phillips, then a third-year Algebra I teacher, who was attending Forest Hill High School’s graduation ceremony. “When I went to graduation, I (could) count a handful at least of students that have no business graduating,” Phillips said. Phillips was upset about the school’s credit-recovery program, which allows students to earn course credit after receiving a failing grade in a class. She said she started hearing from teachers that students were being allowed to go into the school’s computer lab, log on to a special software program and make up for a year’s worth of coursework. “So, you fail government, or you fail chemistry, or you fail something that is required, you’re not going to graduate, right? Well, these kids are being allowed to go into a computer lab and maybe one or two days of what is called ‘credit recovery,’ and then have credit for the class for an entire year,” Phillips said.
Sarah Phillips, a former Forest Hill math teacher, is concerned that the district has a so-called grade recovery program that allows failing students to pass a course after taking a short computer course.
lic Schools board of trustees unanimously approved Odysseyware for student use. Murray said Odysseyware is a web- and research-based program that students can complete when they have failed a course or skill. Students take a diagnostic test to access what needs to be addressed in the program and can work on the program wherever they have Internet access. But students must take all assessments at school while being monitored. “What the student can recover depends on the student. It could take the student days, or it could take the student weeks to recover credit,” he said. “So it’s not unusual to recover credit quickly. It just depends on how hard they work.” Murray said the program definitely affects graduation rates, and that was the reason JPS purchased the program. He said it gives students an opportunity to be successful. “We have students that are over-aged (for high school), and sometimes you’ll find that over-aged students have hopelessness,” Murray said. “They end up making the decision to drop out because they don’t see an end-goal. They don’t think they can make it
to graduation.” Although its goal is to increase graduation rates, some teachers do not believe students benefit from the program. Another Forest Hill teacher, who asked that her name not be used, taught in JPS for two-and-a-half years before moving on to the Long Beach School District. She said some of her senior students took credit recovery within a week of each other. One student completed the program in only three hours. She said the teachers do not control who can take the program and cannot see the assignments. “Everybody hates it. It is ridiculous that our kids can just take this class in three hours,” she said. “Because the graduation rate is so important, it’s skyrocketed use. We probably had 80-plus kids in credit recovery the last week.” Phillips has seen students work on the program and thinks it is ridiculous. “It’s one thing to say they can go in and do it in two days,” she said. “The other part of it, though, is that the program is ridiculous. It is not worth anything.” Neither is the diploma they receive, said Phillips, who has left the district. “(A student) has literally walked out of that building with nothing but a piece of paper that is now, in my opinion, much devalued,” Phillips said. “Is this the new normal?” ‘No One Is Going to Read It’ Because students must take assessments at school to be monitored, Murray said two people have been trained at each site including a school administrator and an interventionist—the person who works and monitors the program. One day, Phillips took her students into the computer lab, and a lot of seniors were trying to recover credit. She saw a student who had both a credit recovery page and a Wikipedia page open on her window. Phillips said she watched the student type word for word from the Wikipedia page. “I asked the supervisor of the room, ‘What is she doing?’ And she told me that she was doing credit recovery on that program. I was like, ‘OK. You realize she’s just typing, right?’” she said. “The supervisor just shrugged her shoulders and said (something) like ‘no one is going to read it anyway.’ That was the reaction of the person supervising this program. You can imagine that’s what’s going on with credit recovery.” Destroying Teacher Morale Sherwin Johnson, Jackson Public Schools’ executive director of public and media relations, said the Mississippi Department of Education approved the district’s
credit-recovery program. “JPS is not using any tool that is not approved and used in other school districts,” he said. Patrice Guilfoyle, communication director of the Mississippi Department of Education, said each district establishes a policy, and MDE checks the policy and student records during the accreditation process. The program in also use in the Pontotoc, Bay St. Louis-Waveland, Louisville and Covington County school districts. A state board policy states: “Credit recovery is defined as a course-specific, skillbased learning opportunity for students who have previously been unsuccessful in mastering content/skills required to receive course credit or earn promotion,” and “Students shall not remain in a Credit Recovery Course for more than one year.” Although JPS claims its course-recovery program is following MDE and district policies, the program could greatly affect student education as well as teacher morale. “People who were already underpaid and under-appreciated are now like, ‘Why am I here?’” Phillips said. The former Forest Hill teacher agrees. “It’s awful. There’s no point in the teachers. It’s the worse thing that could happen in the state,” she said. “It destroys teacher morale. It makes us not understand why we’re doing it.” Murray said it should be no concern about abusing the credit-recovery program because it is used across the country. School districts in at least 28 states are using the software. “I venture to say that every district has some kind of credit-recovery tool,” Murray said. “It is something that might be different to some teachers, but again it is a tool for helping our students recover credit so they can graduate on time so they can have be successful in school.” He said JPS has not heard any more complaints about the program than any other initiative. They have actually heard positive feedback. “There are new teachers in the district, and there are teachers who have not been involved in credit recovery in the past. It is a new initiative with Odyssey that we are training, and we just really started implementation of it,” Murray said. “With that, as we train more, people will understand what credit recovery actually is.” But Phillips disagrees. “It’s not being implemented the way that it should be if it’s going to be anything worthwhile for the kids. They’re getting zero knowledge out if it. They’re not learning any sort of skill about working hard or earning something,” she said. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
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Writings Define Mississippiâ€™s Emotions
his state has two passions: football and politics. We elect about every official that one could imagine all the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court. We pull for the candidates of our choice just like a favorite college team on the field, and emotions run high. However, when the average citizen thinks of a member of the Supreme Court, we are reminded of a reserved jurist, hidden from the public. State Supreme Court Justice Randy â€œBubbaâ€? Pierce is an exception to the rule with his love of writing where he defines the emotions of politics in Mississippi. Pierce, a Greene County native, is a writer and his latest novel, â€œMississippi Mud,â€? defines state politics in the very sense of this stateâ€™s current landscape. The novel is about the events of a gubernatorial race in Mississippi where two very well-liked officials, a Democrat and a Republican, are locked in a close contest. In the final stretch, a tragedy shocks the entire state, and partisan politics takes a back seat. Pierceâ€™s writings remind readers of how candidates and public officials are just like everybody else; they are not immune from personal tragedy. In his novel, Pierce demonstrates how short life can be. He shows how Mississippians put politics aside and has sympathy for the individual who is going through something they would not want to imagine happening to them. Even if the victim of such misfortune is on the other side of the political spectrum, reality hits, and we come together. I first met Pierce a decade ago in Jackson at the Mississippi Democratic Convention when he was serving as chairman of the Education Committee in the House of Representatives under Speaker Billy McCoy, a Democrat. In 2005 Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, appointed Pierce chancery judge of the 16th District. He was later elected in his own right to the state Supreme Court. It is encouraging to see a member of this stateâ€™s highest court share his love for writing with Mississippians. Pierceâ€™s writings makes me believe there could be more issue-oriented and fewer ego-driven campaigns if prospective candidates picked up a copy of â€œMagnolia Mudâ€? to read before filing qualifying papers. Ken Strachan is former member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, a former mayor of North Carrollton and serves as Carroll County coroner.
â€˜secureâ€™ July 30 - August 5, 2014
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