JAC K S O N
VOL 18 NO. 12 // FEBRUARY 5 - 18, 2020 //
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FREE PRESS MAGAZINE REPORTING TRUTH TO POWER IN MISSISSIPPI SINCE 2002
Teacher’s Pay Raise Moves Forward
Judin, pp 9-10
Valentine Dinner Dates
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Hal & Mal’s International Blues Award
CELEBRATING 17 YEARS OF THE JFP
Schumann, p 21
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Average Annual Residential Price per kWh U.S. Avg. Residential Rate
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February 5 - 18, 2020 Vol. 18 No. 9
ON THE COVER Kevin and Tram Truong Photo by Whitney Jordan Photography
4 Editor’s Note 7 Talks
earl native and resident Casey Spell has never felt too busy to take on another activity or responsibility, as he is presently working his way through medical school while also co-owning and managing H&S Roofing and Home Repair alongside his high-school friend Chris Hare. In 2010, Spell graduated as valedictorian from Pearl High School, where he played soccer and was on the school’s drumline. He then enrolled in Millsaps College, earning his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 2014. Spell later taught at his alma mater Pearl High School for two years before starting medical school at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in August 2018. “Medical school is something I’ve wanted to do since probably eighth grade, but I took some time off after college to explore whether I wanted to live the working life,” he says. Spell attends medical school on an Army scholarship, specifically the Health Professions Scholarship Program, which means he will do his residency at a military hospital and then be committed to four more years of military service. “I was used to getting paid already, and I didn’t want to just drive myself into debt,” Spell says. “Although it wasn’t something that I really wanted to do, my father was in the Army, I figure I’ll follow in my old man’s footsteps.”
14 Power Couples 18 BOJ Thank you 20 Food
Casey Spell On his own time, Spell enjoys listening to audiobooks on personal development, money, and finance while driving between school and home—at twice their normal speed. “I usually don’t listen to the radio. I’m usually listening to books,” he says. “It is the only time I have to consume information outside of school.” At the beginning of his second semester of medical school in early 2019, Spell and Hare, founded H&S Roofing and Home Repair. Hare had been working in the home repair and property preservation sector for eight years and wanted to go out on his own. “Chris knew that I knew some business stuff, so we sat down and got something started, and it’s been going ever since,” Spell says. “I take care of the finances and taxes and the business side of the company, and Chris is all on the labor side, and he basically goes out and does all of the work.” Spell met his wife, Anna, in January 2018. “I guess you can say we fell in love,” he says. They married in July 2019 and have a baby boy on the way, whom they will name Holden. The couple attends Park Place Baptist Church in Pearl and likes to occasionally go out for a steak or stay in and watch “Grey’s Anatomy” together. Call H&S Roofing and Home Repair at 601-209-5462. –Richard Coupe
21 events 21 Music
22 Meet Mac Mitchell Learn a little about the Hearth & Mantel Theatre’s in-house playwright.
24 sPORTS 26 music listings 28 Puzzle 28 Sorensen 29 astro 29 Classifieds
30 Susan Farris’ Top 10 Mangia Bene’s marketing manager lists her favorite local spots and organizations.
February 5 - 18, 2020 • jfp.ms
Jonathan Wright Photography
Dr. Scott Crawford relays his story on how Hinds County willfully refuses to meet ADA standards.
by Donna Ladd, Editor-in-Chief
odd Stauffer and I tell the story of why we moved to Mississippi from New York City in 2001 quite differently. I talk about how he and I—then together a mere five years—came to Mississippi that year over spring break my last semester at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Even though I was nearly 40 and had been a (self-taught) journalist for more than a decade by then, I had never ventured back into Mississippi to practice the craft of truth-telling. I’d done one form or another of journalism in New York City, Colorado, Massachusetts, D.C., and a snippet in North Dakota. But cage-rattling the power structure and reporting truth to power here in the state that made me who I am was a scary proposition to my younger self. My nowdeceased brother used to tell me that all those people up north and out west were
February 5 - 18, 2020 • jfp.ms
“I said yes because the sublet was running out.”
going to run me off for exposing their demons; God knows what would happen back here in the tortured heart of Dixie that turned me into a sassy young feminist ready to bust proverbial kneecaps over racism and mistreatment of “the other.” On that pivotal spring break, Todd and I rented a red Mustang and toodled around the state, from the old Independence Quarters in my hometown of Philadelphia (where we were swarmed with kids; it was the car, not us), to Oxford (where we later considered living until Todd had a vision of a primer-gray truck and a huge Confederate flag), and in Jackson, where the actual “diversity” of daily life made us realize the often-clueless bubble we lived in on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Put simply, I got a hankering to come back to Mississippi “for six months,” I told Yankee friends. I was toying with a book I could write here, and Todd and I both had freelance projects we could do from anywhere. And I had the urge to really dig into the pain of growing up in a town known for killing three civil-rights workers in 1964 and then not being willing to do a damn thing about it. We were also witnessing the
overly timid-if-well-meaning campaign to change the Mississippi flag, while not mentioning much about the deep pain and white supremacy it had long represented. I suddenly found the courage to tell real stories right here, close to where my mama and daddies are buried in the red clay, where the legacy of racism engulfed me and made others outside here assume that I agreed with that ugly side of Mississippi due to my skin tone and accent. I wanted to tell beautiful and hopeful stories about overlooked and ignored Mississippians who had, like me, grown up with loving parents who, like my mother, couldn’t read or write or were too scared or ill-prepared to speak up for themselves and others. Todd, on the other hand, always shares the same one-liner after I tell people my south-toward-home origin story that led to this newspaper. “I said yes because the sublet was running out,” he quips. That was true, too. Our two-year lease was up, and looking (and paying for) apartments in New York City is a special kind of hell. Looking back now, though, to that decision to move to Jackson 19 years ago this June, and then to put down roots after the Sept. 11 attacks disrupted everything, I know Todd’s quip belies the commitment he has made to this state and, if I may be sentimental, to me and my people. Todd is one of the most talented and brilliant people I’ve ever met—he was 24 then and already author of numerous computer books, co-host of an Emmy-winning computing TV show, running a radio show out of Denver, a singer who could make money doing it—and he gave every skill and resource he could muster to my needy home state. Not just to me. To this state. Todd is the opposite of Mississippi’s
Christopher McGee Photography and Aerial Services
In Love, Life and Work, Do the Right Thing and Wait
Publisher Todd Stauffer leads the awards ceremony every January to honor the Best of Jackson winners. And that’s not all he does.
brain drain. He followed me to Mississippi in perhaps the most committed act of love one could conjure, but once here he used his skills for the greater good. The Jackson Free Press, and the impact and careers and awards and hope and muckrakery we’ve spawned, would not exist without him. I can’t imagine what my own career would look like without him. He has done so much for businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals, often face-to-face in difficult conversations, in Mississippi. The mantra that has kept this paper going through thick and thin came about early when I published cover stories against the Iraq War as it began and detailing powerful white men pandering to white supremacy and the “southern strategy” after then-Sen. Trent Lott praised the racist history of Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond. It’s one thing to gently shake a stick or two
State reporter Nick Judin grew up in Jackson and graduated from the University of Mississippi. He is covering this year’s legislative session. Try not to run him over when you see him crossing State Street. He wrote an update on legislative actions.
Freelance writer Jenna Gibson is originally from Petal, and is a senior at Millsaps College, hoping to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communications and English literature. After college, she plans to travel and pursue a career in journalism. She wrote a Power Couple feature for the issue.
Freelance photographer Acacia Clark picked up the photography gene from her father. When the camera is down she enjoys anything involving the arts, playing the cello and piano, volunteering with the deaf, cooking, and her family and friends. She took photos of a Power Couple for the issue.
when you’re a billionaire, but try sleeping at night when your sassy partner unveils Mississippi’s darkest secrets when you barely have two quarters to rub together. So he embraced the mantra that still keeps us going: “Do the right thing and wait.” Todd has also supported and believed in me in ways that I don’t think I grew up thinking I deserved. He has cheered me on, edited my work, spoken up for me, resisted finding and beating the hell out of someone trying to hurt me, and cried on my behalf after acts of cruelty and misogyny. In the last 16 months, he has dressed my wounds and helped me do literally everything I was not able to do as I went through three surgeries in just over a year, while keeping me laughing and feeling beautiful and loved no matter what tubes were sticking out of me. All the while, Todd has become the most consistent newspaper publisher in the region (I’ve lost count of how many publishers and editors The Clarion-Ledger burned through since we launched in 2002) and has managed to avoid layoffs when times were toughest. He’s kept this train on the tracks through sheer will and belief in our mission of helping Jackson and Mississippi be, and show off, our best selves. He studies not only racism, but sexism, so he can help be part of the solution for all our people. The word “power” is often misused. It’s not about money or controlling everything. To me, showing unconditional love—for a partner, a city, a state, a nation—through the toughest times is the most powerful one can be. And I couldn’t be prouder than the man on this crazy journey with me. Twitter and Instagram: @donnerkay
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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2020 BOOK SIGNING AND RECEPTION AT 5 P.M. PROGRAM AT 6 P.M. OLD CAPITOL MUSEUM CELEBRATE THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIRAM REVELS’S ELECTION TO THE U. S. SENATE WHERE IT HAPPENED—IN THE HOUSE CHAMBER. 601-576-6920 | MDAH.MS.GOV
February 5 - 18, 2020 • jfp.ms
WITH A MILLSAPS DEGREE, YOUR DREAM JOB IS WITHIN REACH. TEN YEARS AFTER ENTERING SCHOOL, MILLSAPS GRADUATES HAVE THE HIGHEST AVERAGE SALARY OF GRADUATES FROM ANY COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY IN MISSISSIPPI.*
WE TAKE YOU HIGHER. MILLSAPS.EDU * SOURCE: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION COLLEGE SCORECARD WWW.COLLEGESCORECARD.ED.GOV
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P A R A D E & F E S T I VA L Saturday February 15 Downtown Jackson, MS February 5 - 18, 2020 â€˘ jfp.ms
Parade 12 pm - 2 pm
s Festival 2 pm - 8 pm
Bands, Musicians, Bounce Houses, Face Painting
After Party - Martinâ€™s - 214 S. State St. Doors open 8 pm - Show starts 9 pm Epic Funk Brass Band performing
Benefiting PineHurst Resource Services and R U Hungry Accepting non-perishable food items at Parade Parade & Festival start at â€œWelcome to Jacksonâ€? Parking Lot Visit JacksonMSMardiGras.com for more details Facebook: SW Envision Management Events
Plan Your Next Romantic Weekend Getaway! VISITNATCHEZ.ORG 800.647.6724
torytelling & e, s i ur
news, cul t
TALK JXN ence ver rre
Jackson community members address how to prevent gun violence during the Strong Arms of JXN community meeting at the COFO Civil Rights Education Center on Lynch Street in Jackson on Jan. 28.
Strong Arms of JXN to Hold Non-Violence Event in Grove Park
renda Scott’s voice trembled as she addressed the 50 or so people with whom she was seated in a circle. “I have a grandson right now who is on the verge of going to prison,” she said, fighting back tears. “I think y’all said something about intervention,” she continued, “and I just need to see—I don’t know if there’s someone in here that would, you know, meet with me, to talk to him.” “Ms. Scott, I got you,” responded John Knight, an anti-violence activist and member of the Strong Arms of JXN, the capital city’s inaugural credible-messenger and violence-interruption strategy that hosted the Jan. 28 evening meeting at the COFO Civil Rights Education Center on Lynch Street. Scott and Knight agreed that they would trade
phone numbers at the meeting’s end. The exchange embodied the spirit of the meeting, one rooted in bringing together members of the local community to share concerns and resources aimed at preventing violence in Jackson. It was the Strong Arms of JXN’s first community meeting of the year, although the group has been holding meetings since 2018 after activist and attorney Rukia Lumumba started the credible-messenger and violence-interruption initiative with her childhood friend Terun Moore. Moore, a native of Jackson, had been released from prison after serving a 19-and-a-half year sentence, beginning at age 17, for killing a man during an armed robbery. He wanted to use his experiences to dissuade other young people in Jackson from going down
the wrong path and support them in making healthier choices. Moore and Lumumba then recruited Benny Ivey, another formerly incarcerated man and former white gang leader from Jackson, who wished to engage in similar efforts to steer others away from a life of crime. The trio established the initiative the same year Jackson experienced its highest murder rate in more than two decades. The city saw 84 murders in 2018, up more than 30% from 2017. In 2019, Jackson continued to struggle with high homicide rates. The city saw 82 murders, down just 2% from 2018. Curing Violence Moore and Ivey are the city’s first trained credible messengers and violence interrupters following the Cure Vio-
lence model pioneered by former World Health Organization epidemiologist Gary Slutkin. The model uses a publichealth lens and views violence as an epidemic. To fight the virus of violence and prevent the disease from spreading, the model recommends a three-step outreach program. The first step is to detect symptoms of the disease, followed by controlling and interrupting it. Lastly, the model calls for changing social norms around the disease, work that can take months or years. This is precisely what credible messengers and violence interrupters do. They conduct block-by-block, onthe-ground outreach to dissuade at-risk young people and adults from partaking in criminal activity, particularly in the afmore STRONG ARMS, p 8
February 5 - 18, 2020 • jfp.ms
by Seyma Bayram
storytelling & re, ir tu
TALK JXN ce eren rev February 5 - 18, 2020 • jfp.ms
Grove Park Meet-and-Greet On Feb. 9, the Strong Arms of JXN will hold a meet-and-greet event at Grove Park that will include a barbecue and documentary film screening. The event is part of the Strong Arms of JXN’s plan to go into neighborhoods that experience a disproportionate amount of gun violence and introduce them to the work of credible messengers and violence interrupters. The Grove Park event will feature a screening of the 2011 PBS and Frontline documentary film “The Interrupt-
— Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann on his unusual plan to raise salaries of the lowest-paid state employees. “They” is the Legislature.
courtesy Strong ARms of Jackson
termath of a violent act, which can lead to further retaliatory violence. The model also requires that messengers and interrupters come from similar circumstances as those they are trying to reach. This is what distinguishes them from traditional counselors and lends their message greater credibility, so that their advice resonates with those who need it most. Studies from cities across the United States show that, with proper funding and a trained, full-time and paid staff, the Cure Violence model works. This year, the City of Jackson has apportioned a small amount of money toward funding the Strong Arms of JXN, as the program continues to raise funds through other means, including philanthropic contributions, in order to build out its multifaceted programs. The Strong Arms of JXN’s goals include recruiting and training others—including women and young people—in the community to engage in violence-prevention work. It plans to train community members to canvas neighborhoods with high rates of gun violence in an effort to let them know about resources that exist and that there is a whole community that cares. The Strong Arms of JXN wants to build out enrichment programs, too, from youth educational programs to job training, as well as workshops on conflict-resolution and harm-reduction skills, among others. The goal is to foster healthier communities and equip residents with the tools and resources to continue this work themselves.
“They’ve never had me for a lieutenant governor.”
A Strong Arms of JXN meet-and-greet barbecue and film screening will take place at Grove Park at 4126 Parkway Ave., on Sunday, Feb. 9, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. All are welcome. Email email@example.com or call Tyson Jackson at 601-201-7364 or Terun Moore at 601-497-6631.
ers,” which follows a group of violence interrupters in Chicago, where the Cure Violence model was first piloted. A 2009 study on violence-interruption in seven Chicago neighborhoods showed that the program led to a 41% to 73% decrease in shootings and a 100% reduction in retaliatory murders in five communities.
Located near the Shady Oaks and Bel Air neighborhoods, Grove Park is in a ZIP code that the initiative identified in its ongoing research as experiencing some of the highest homicide rates in the city between 2017 and 2018. The Strong arms of JXN hopes to eventually target the Washington Addition, Virden
Addition and south Jackson as well. The Strong Arms of JXN does not canvas neighborhoods or otherwise enter into neighborhoods without first establishing a relationship with a local leader in that community, who subsequently serves as liaison between the group and the rest of the community. At the Jan. 28 meeting, Lumumba stressed the importance of getting the entire community’s input and buy-in. That is why Strong Arms of JXN is holding the Grove Park event. “We are holding these events in ZIP codes that we are surveying to see if those are the appropriate places for us, and if they want us there,” Lumumba said. “So first of all, we’ve got to build the relationship and figure out, do y’all even want this? We ain’t coming in to try to take over someone’s spot,” she added. The meet-and-greet barbecue and film screening will take place at Grove Park at 4126 Parkway Ave., on Sunday, Feb. 9, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information about the event or the Strong Arms of JXN, including how to become involved, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Tyson Jackson at 601-201-7364 or Terun Moore at 601-497-6631. Read more violence-prevention coverage at jacksonfreepress.com/preventing-violence. Follow City Reporter Seyma Bayram on Twitter @SeymaBayram0. Send story tips to email@example.com.
Be Mine in JXN Are you a pothole?
Because you Had me stumbling the moment I ran into you
Wanna take a stroll through the art garden?
What’s better than living in Jackson?
Will you by my JXN valentine?
Teacher Pay, Prison Reform, Horn Lake Dem Tentative Winners So Far
1. “Disabled Children Losing Medicaid Coverage, Families Desperate for Help” by Nick Judin 2. “Best of Jackson 2020: People” by JFP Staff 3. “OPINION: Gov. Tate Reeves’ Willful Ignorance Is Not the Gravest Sin” by James M. Thomas 4. “New Republican Legislator Resigns Under Pressure from Speaker Gunn” by Ashton Pittman 5. “OPINION: Southern Evangelical: Trump ‘Fits the Scriptural Deﬁnition of a Fool’” by Fred Rand
EVENTS TO CHECK OUT AT JFPEVENTS. COM: 1.” Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical,” Feb. 5-9 2. 6th Annual Dyslexia Symposium, Feb. 7 3. Shut Up and Write! Workshop, Feb. 8 4. “The Dance of the Lion King,” Feb. 9 5. “My Funny Valentine,” Starring Ora Reed, Feb. 10
Teacher Pay Charges Ahead As promised, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann began the process of raising teacher pay on Thursday, Jan. 30. Senate Bill 2001 proposes a $1,000 raise for all public-school teachers in the state. The bill would also bring the bottom bracket for new teachers to $37,000. SB 2001 sailed through the Senate Education Committee on Jan. 30. SB 2001 is the first Senate bill this term. Hosemann called the bill “the first step in a hopefully quick journey” to satisfactory teacher pay in the state. Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville; Vice Chairman David Blount, D-Jackson, and representatives from the Mississippi Professional Educators Association flanked Hosemann at the Jan. 30 press conference. SB 2001 must now pass the Senate Appropriations Committee, survive a final Senate vote, and then to House Speaker Philip Gunn, who will refer the bill to relevant committees in the House. The bill does not yet accomplish the full measure of teacher pay raises that Hosemann and Gov. Reeves promised. Additional raises will come at a later date, Hosemann said, indicating that SB 2001 may not be the last word on teacher pay this session. In addition to bills addressing educator compensation, DeBar promised to meet with teachers after the session ends to plan out initiatives for improving Mississippi’s education system in coming years. Hosemann also spoke of plans to raise salaries of numerous other state employ-
ees. “We have other state employees who are woefully undercompensated,” he said. “We have over 1,000 employees working full time for the State of Mississippi whose gross salary is less than $20,000. First of all, that is not economically feasible. Second of all, realistically, we can’t compete. We have thousands of open positions in state government. Why is that? We can’t compete with a growing and burgeoning economy in Mississippi. They can get a better job.”
Party at the beginning of the session. The newly independent senator told Mississippi Today that he “voted pretty much down the middle,” even before his departure from the Democrats. The Corrections Committee has much to do this session. With the leadership roles of Horan in the House and Juan Barnett, D-Heidelberg, in the Senate, no Republican is leading Corrections in the Legislature. Previously, Reeves tapped Tommy Taylor, a NICK JUDIN
MOST VIRAL STORIES AT JFP.MS:
Henley quickly contested the results, alleging improper procedure on the part of DeSoto County election officials as well as voter fraud. The key testimony in the special committee’s proceedings came from two DeSoto County officials, Circuit Clerk Dale K. Thompson and Election Commissioner Danny Klein. Both Republicans unequivocally stated that the election of Jackson-McCray was fair and unblemished. After four hours of testimony and deliberation, the committee of four Republicans and one Democrat voted 5-0 to recommend the House uphold the results of the election. The decision is not expected to change the makeup of the Legislature: The House sat Jackson-McCray with all the other representatives at the beginning of the term.
So far, Rep. Hester Jackson-McCray, D-Horn Lake, prevailed in a challenge to her election. The full House of Representatives must afﬁrm the committee’s vote.
Hosemann’s plan is to raise the salary of the lowest-paid state employees, making entry-level positions more attractive to job seekers. The lieutenant governor was quick to point out the Legislature had not attempted a bottom-up pay raise in the past. But then, as Hosemann said at his press conference, “they’ve never had me for a lieutenant governor.” Little Dem Leadership in House After a brief delay due to the volume of incoming freshman representatives, Speaker Gunn announced the full slate of House committee assignments. Unlike the Senate, Democratic leadership is notably missing, save Rep. Cedric Burnett, D-Tunica, who now chairs Youth and Family Affairs. But a closer look reveals a number of interesting appointments. Rep. Kevin Horan, I-Grenada, chairs Corrections, replacing Bill Kinkade, R-Byhalia. Horan, who represents a majority-black district outside Greenwood, left the Democratic
Republican, as interim commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Recent Democratic defectors head both the House’s powerful Judiciary committees. Judiciary A’s new chairwoman is Rep. Angela Cockerham, I-Magnolia, reelected as an Independent in last year’s elections. Rep. Nick Bain, R-Corinth, heads Judiciary B. Bain switched from Republican to Democrat last March, saying in a statement that he desired to be more involved with the legislative process. The Judiciary committee chairs wield substantial power over criminal and civil-justice reforms: both Cockerham and Bain are moderates, compared to many House members. Medicaid, Health-care Bills Hundreds of bills now wait for the attention of their attendant committees in both chambers of the Legislature. Hosemann spoke glowingly of bicameral cooperation at his press more MSLEG, p10
February 5 - 18, 2020 • jfp.ms
ep. Hester Jackson-McCray walked the halls of the state Capitol with a jubilant smile on her face, flanked by her team. Last November, the Horn Lake Democrat convinced 1,553 voters near Horn Lake and Southaven to vote for her. On Wednesday, Jan. 29, she received only five new votes. But that was all it took to keep her in the Mississippi House of Representatives—as long as the full body agrees. The House Special Election Committee tasked with investigating the race unanimously voted to keep Jackson-McCray in the Legislature after a long and emotionally charged public hearing. White Republican incumbent Ashley Henley had challenged Jackson-McCray’s victory over her in the Republican-controlled House rather than through the courts where most election challenges land. As of press time, the House had not voted on the final measure, but Rep. Rob Roberson, R-Starkville, told the Jackson Free Press he is confident the House will accept the committee’s recommendation. Jackson-McCray defeated Henley in last November’s election by 14 votes.
by Nick Judin
#MSLeg, from page 9 Nick Judin
avail—time will tell if that pattern holds. Many of the currently filed bills are related to health care and Medicaid expansion specifically. The question of expansion is a dicey proposition for legislators, especially those in leadership roles. Gov. Tate Reeves has repeatedly rejected expansion, calling any attempt to accept federal funds “Obamacare.” But Hosemann displayed flexibility on the issue before and after the election. House Bill 350, sponsored by Rep. Jarvis Dortch, D-Jackson, would expand Medicaid in the state, directing the governor to seek a waiver to expand the program’s eligibility to Mississippians below 138% of the poverty line. House Bill 94, sponsored by Sam C. Mims, R-McComb, would establish the Mississippi Center for Rural Health Innovation, a central resource for the provision of expertise and resources to Mississippi’s struggling rural hospitals. Rural hospital failure is central to the fight over Medicaid expansion. Nearly half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals are at risk of closing due to insuf-
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann (center) made good on his promise of swift action on teacher pay, shepherding a bill for a first raise through the House Education Committee. But more is needed to achieve both his and Gov. Reeves’ goals.
ficient funding, a problem proponents of Medicaid expansion say federal funds could easily solve. Senate Bill 2180, sponsored by Sen. Chad McMahan, R-Guntown, aims to expand Medicaid to include a broader range of disabled children not currently covered under the eligibility requirements. The bill follows a crackdown on a different kind of
‘Medicaid gap’: disabled children whose medical needs are extensive, but do not justify institutional care. Parents of many of these children previously received coverage based on the federal “Katie Beckett waiver.” The waiver extends Medicaid coverage to children who need one of three levels of institutional care—skilled nursing,
hospital or intermediate care facility— regardless of their family income. But a change in the authorization process revoked the eligibility of more than 200 Mississippi children previously covered under the waiver, many permanently. The bill is only intended as a partial fix, instituting an income cap on eligibility the senator from Guntown says is out of his hands. The cap is fixed at 300% of the federal poverty level—roughly $78,000 for a family of four. “This 300% cap is a federal regulation. If I remove it, no one will get the waiver. None of them,” McMahan explained to the Jackson Free Press. The health-care bills filed so far show differing approaches to expanding Medicaid coverage, with some legislators seeking broad support for the program and its beneficiaries, while others are content with a more targeted approach. Email state reporter Nick Judin at nick@ jacksonfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjudin.
Disabled Children Losing Medicaid by Nick Judin ourtesy Sierra Rood
February 5 - 18, 2020 • jfp.ms
ohn Riley Rood, now 10 months old, was born with a hole in his larynx. Unbeknownst to doctors, John Riley experienced chronic aspiration of foreign matter for the first five months of his life. He now suffers from a raft of life-altering issues, including chronic lung disease, frail muscle growth and critically delayed mental development. In January, his family got the phone call they dreaded. Alliant Health Solutions told them John Riley’s Medicaid eligibility is under review, giving them a limited window to appeal or risk losing coverage entirely. Funds from Medicaid are all that stands between the Roods and bankruptcy. John Riley’s medical bills already exceed $100,000. “I don’t know why they’re denying people. It’s not making any sense. There’s not a criteria that’s being consistently followed,” Sierra Rood, John Riley’s mother, told the Jackson Free Press. More than 200 severely disabled children across Mississippi lost their Medicaid eligibility over recent months. The Mississippi Division of Medicaid announced last June that Alliant Health Solutions would replace eQHealth Solutions as the third-party vendor responsible for assessing applicants’ eligibility for Medicaid, starting Aug. 1. Shortly afterward, families renewing their children’s Medicaid services began to receive letters and calls of denial, Mississippi Today reported last week. The official line on the sudden reversal in eligibility is that many of the families eQHealth approved for Medicaid did not actually qualify for the program, due to a combination of income level and the care their children require. The common thread through these stories is the category of Medicaid eligibility the children share: Disabled Child Living at Home, also known as the “Katie Beckett
Sierra Rood and more than 200 other Mississippi families may permanently lose the Medicaid eligibility that keeps their children at home.
waiver.” President Ronald Reagan established the waiver in 1981 to extend Medicaid coverage to children whose medical needs justify institutional care, but for whom at-home care is possible. On paper, an order of institutional care is based on a non-specific set of criteria. Doctors may assign multiple different levels of institutional care, and not all of them qualify a child for the waiver. More than 200 Mississippi families have similar battles ongoing today, with 126 children receiving tech-
nical denials, in which final judgment awaits additional information. Alliant denied 79 more children outright. Families can appeal this decision, but for many, chances for a reversal are slim. Clarity on the issue for the families affected seems impossible to find. Every parent reached for this story complained of the opaque nature of Medicaid’s process. In multiple conversations and interviews, parents shared with the Jackson Free Press a byzantine array of requirements, cryptic messages and pitfalls. Some believe Alliant expects them to prove a certain level of developmental delay, desperately seeking IQ tests for children as young as 2 years old. Others worry that if a doctor confirms the requirement of institutional care, the State may take their children away—a fear experts like Polly Tribble, executive director of Disability Rights Mississippi, say is understandable but totally unfounded. Tribble did, however, confirm that parents who appeal their child’s denial and lose may need to reimburse the State for the cost of care between appeal and final denial, leaving families affected at a virtual roulette table, wagering their financial security for their children’s survival. The Mississippi Division of Medicaid did not respond to requests for interview by press time. Rood spoke to the Jackson Free Press from work over the weekend, her son John Riley at her side. No one else was available to care for him, and she had to make up for the hours missed scrambling to prove his eligibility during the week. Her voice could not conceal her emotion. “We have money for wars and walls,” she said. “How can we not care for the least of our own people?” Read the full story online at jacksonfreepress.com/DCLH
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have multiple sclerosis and rely on an electronic wheelchair to get around. In 2012, I was called for jury duty at the Hinds County Courthouse. I was surprised to find many barriers to access that should have been corrected following the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. For example, the very jury box where I would be serving was located up a step, making it inaccessible. The public bathrooms had no wheelchair access to the stalls. The whole building was inaccessible to me. In response, ADA advocates met with Hinds County staff, surveyed the building and wrote up a brief report on ways to bring it into compliance. I spoke to the Hinds County Board of Supervisors in January 2013, and worked with county staff for several years trying to advocate for change. We asked for two courtrooms to be brought into compliance with ADA as soon as possible, and the other six within the next 20 years. We also asked for one public restroom to be compliant on each floor of the courthouse. In January 2017, I returned to the courthouse to see if there were any improvements. The bathrooms and courtrooms remained inaccessible. In February 2017, I was forced to file suit against Hinds County in Federal Court. After Hinds County tried to get my case kicked out of court before even
February 5 - 18, 2020 • jfp.ms
If the ADA doesn’t apply to you now, just wait.
going to trial, the court ruled that I had legal standing to pursue my claims, and that Hinds County was in violation of the “Program Access Standard” under ADA. After this great ruling, we went to trial in February 2019, which was supposed to be about the extent to which Hinds County needed to update the courthouse in order to meet the “Program Access Standard.” That is not what happened. At trial, Hinds County’s defense team brought up issues of standing, statute of limitations, basically anything
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Hinds County Mississippi Defies ADA, and Wins
Editor-in-Chief and CEO Donna Ladd Publisher & President Todd Stauffer Associate Publisher Kimberly Griffin Creative Director Kristin Brenemen REPORTERS AND WRITERS City Reporter Seyma Bayram State Reporter Nick Judin Culture Reporter Aliyah Veal Contributing Reporters Ashton Pittman, Mauricio J. Quijano State Intern Julian Mills Contributing Writers Dustin Cardon, Bryan Flynn, Alex Forbes, Jenna Gibson, Tunga Otis Torsheta Jackson, Mike McDonald, Anne B. Mckee EDITORS AND PRODUCTION Deputy Editor Nate Schumann JFPDaily.com Editor Dustin Cardon Editorial Assistant Azia Wiggins Consulting Editor JoAnne Prichard Morris ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY Senior Designer Zilpha Young Contributing Photographers Seyma Bayram, Acacia Clark, Imani Khayyam, Ashton Pittman, Brandon Smith
Hinds County can be a very unfriendly place for people living with disabilities. Columnist Scott Crawford is fighting to change it.
that might “stick,” even if the judge had already ruled on it. After the trial, the judge ruled that we proved “that jury service is not accessible to disabled individuals at the Hinds County Courthouse. Plaintiff has demonstrated that there are no readily accessible restrooms for wheelchair users and that various architectural barriers in most, if not all, of the eight courtrooms impede ready access by wheelchair users to program areas.” That’s where it went off the rails. The ruling went on to claim that because “nothing in (Crawford’s) actions suggests to the court that plaintiff had a genuine intent to return to the courthouse for any purpose, the court concludes that plaintiff lacks standing to obtain injunctive relief because he has not proven that he faces an immediate and real threat of future injury. Accordingly, it is ordered that plaintiff ’s claim for injunctive relief is denied.” To translate: The judge thought that I wasn’t going back to the courthouse, so I couldn’t force them to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a citizen of Hinds County who uses a wheelchair doesn’t have legal standing, who would? I’ve been to the Hinds County Courthouse four times since 2012 just for jury duty alone, much less visits to meet with Hinds County election commissioners, vote absentee, see my sister sworn in as deputy coroner, and other reasons. Since the trial date of February
2019, I’ve been there four times. But, this fight was never about one person in a wheelchair. Recent Centers for Disease Control data indicate that 17.5% of Mississippians have “serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs.” If the ADA doesn’t apply to you now, just wait. Very few of us remain fully functional our entire lives. We should all think of ourselves as “the temporarily able-bodied.” Hinds County claimed over the years that it “doesn’t have the money” to make the necessary renovations. That argument might have had merit in 1992, when ADA was still new, but we have had almost 30 years to find the money to make our public buildings, sidewalks, programs and facilities accessible. Most people pay their entire mortgages in 30 years. Instead of complying with ADA and living our motto of being “The Hospitality State,” Hinds County fights tooth and nail every step of the way and, by doing so, reinforces the stereotype of Mississippi as openly defiant of human-rights law. Shame on us. Scott M. Crawford, Ph.D. is a retired clinical psychologist living with multiple sclerosis. His attorneys have filed a motion with the court to reconsider its decision. If it does not, they will appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the JFP.
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PUBLIC HEARING NOTICE SECTION 5310 OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION ACT All interested public and private transit and paratransit operators within Hinds, Rankin, and Simpson counties, are hereby advised that the South Central Community Action Agency is applying to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, Jackson, Mississippi, for a grant under Section 5310 of the Federal Public Transportation Act, as amended, for the provision of Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Service (is being) (would be) provided within Hinds, Rankin, and Simpson counties. The goals of the Program is to enhance transportation for seniors and individuals with disabilities access of people to health care, shopping, education, employment, public services and recreation; to encourage and facilitate the most efficient use of all Federal funds used to provide passenger transportation in non-urbanized Area through the coordination of programs and services. The purpose of this notice is to advise all interested parties, including transit and paratransit operators, of the service being planned for providing transportation services for the elderly and disabled within the area as described above, and to ensure that such a program would not represent a duplication of current or of proposed services provided by existing transit or paratransit operators in the area. The application may be viewed at South Central Community Action Agency, 398 Simpson Hwy 149 Suite C, Magee, MS 39111 from January 29, 2020 until February 12, 2020. All comments are welcome. For more information please call 769-235-8224.
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2020 Power Couples When February shows itself each year, we are often reminded that it is the month where we celebrate love—and not only because several stores bombard us with products that feature pink or red hearts (although there is certainly plenty of that). During this month, we reflect on the people in our lives whom we cherish, and we often devise clever ways to express those feelings. The Jackson area is proud to claim a number of power couples that use their bonds to accomplish great things or otherwise positively affect the community. Some born and raised in the metro who have gone on to be successful elsewhere and give back here, and some are from other parts of the world who have decided to make Jackson their home. And stay tuned for the next issue of BOOM Jackson, which hits the streets on Feb. 19..
February 5 - 18, 2020 • jfp.ms
courtesy Xiwei Wu and Lingshan Song
sentation, but the quality of representation we had when we started in 2012,” Williamson said in the interview, saying LGBT characters back then too often “announced their diversity and disappeared from the narrative.”
Kit Williamson and Bobby Quillard
As an 11-year-old in Jackson, Kit Williamson spent nights lying awake, ruminating on warnings against homosexuality he heard in church and thinking he would never find happiness. These days, though, at 34, he wakes up in California each morning next to his husband, John Halbach, with whom he has spent the past seven years creating EastSiders, a successful web and now Netflix series that has drawn multiple Daytime Emmy Awards nominations. “It’s really easy to believe the lie that you’re never going to be happy when that’s all you’re ever told,” Williamson told the Jackson Free Press, where he interned as a teenager. “And it’s a lie. I am proud to report that it’s not true.” Williamson was acting in a Broadway play in New York in the late 2000s when he attended a party with the cast at a Scottish Pub in Midtown Manhattan’s Theatre District. While there, one of Williamson’s fellow cast members introduced him to a recently single bartender with whom she had attended college. “John’s single and not crazy,” the cast said, before promptly walking off and leaving the two alone together. “We stayed talking until the bar was closed and made plans to see each other and immediately started dating,” Williamson said. Williamson would later land a number of roles, including the character Ed Gifford in AMC’s hit show, “Mad Men.” But he wanted to do more for LGBT representation on television. In 2012, with then-boyfriend Halbach’s help, he began working on EastSiders, which tells the story of couple Cal (played by Williamson) and Thom (played by Van Hansis) in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. Halbach plays Ian, a straight landscape architect. “I was frustrated not just with the amount of repre-
John Halbach That has changed for the better in the years since, Williamson said—and that’s not all. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state-level bans on same-sex mar-
Xiwei Wu and Lingshan Song For Xiwei Wu (who also goes by Aaron) and Lingshan Song, community is one of their top priorities. “Clinton has become my second hometown. I’ve been here for about 14 years, and I’ve always been treated with lots of kindness,” Song says. Song is from southeast China and works as the assistant director at the Writing Center at Mississippi College, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Her husband, Wu, is from southwest China and works at Bellinder Law Firm in downtown Jackson. He got his under-
riages. Williamson and Halbach, who had been engaged before that landmark ruling, married the next year. The couple spent the past seven years waking up, getting their morning coffee, and sitting together on the couch to work on EastSiders, which they call their “web series baby.” Now, though, they are ready to send their “web series baby off to college,” he said. The fourth and final season of EastSiders released on Netflix in December. In it, Willam Belli, a famous actor and drag queen who rose to prominence on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” plays Douglas, who wants to wear drag when he marries his partner, Quincy. The new season, Williamson said, tackles not only gay masculinity and femininity, but the fallout it presents for Quincy (Stephen Guarino), who has a conservative mother who does not know that her son’s groom is a drag queen. Several weeks after the final season dropped, “EastSiders: The Documentary” followed, giving fans a behind-thescenes look at the series’ creation. Williamson is already developing a new series that features LGBT Mississippians living in New Orleans, a city he calls “a symbol of what the South can be.” If it moves forward, the new series would also give him a chance to move closer to home. In the meantime, he and Halbach are enjoying having a little more leisure time. “I’m excited to have a little more time in our relationship to just be a couple and not have to work so much,” Williamson said. While working together is not always easy, Williamson said, it is part of what makes his and Halbach’s relationship work so well. “It’s definitely challenging, but it’s also our secret weapon,” Williamson said. “We’re great partners in life and in work.” –Ashton Pittman
graduate degree in Beijing and majored in English before coming to the U.S. to study at Mississippi College School of Law. The two met at the Jackson airport in 2012, when Song picked up Wu, although she did not know him at the time, because the person who was supposed to get him suddenly couldn’t. She invited him to eat at Mr. Chen’s restaurant and then asked him to go to church with her the next day. They started dating about three years later. The two do a lot of work with the community, both in their own jobs, as well as with their church. One of the main reasons the couple has decided to stay in the Jackson area is that they feel strongly connected to their church community. Wu also
began an English tutoring service, Beyond English, after realizing the need for tutoring, locally and internationally. “I started an English education company, Beyond English, to provide long-distance English tutoring anywhere in China and Japan. Originally, we only targeted Chinese people, but we realized people are in this kind of need locally, too,” Wu says. Wu enjoys working as a lawyer for the local Chinese community, helping people learn about U.S. laws and how to better protect themselves, and making them more comfortable while dealing with legal issues. To learn more about Beyond English, visit their website, mybeyondenglish.com. – Jenna Gibson
“I have to give credit to God because we can only do so much and everything else is up to God,” Kevin says. “My wife and I have been very blessed.” While their time may be limited due to the hours they keep at the spa, the Troungs believe that they have an obligation to give back to the area that has given so much to them. They provide donations to community programs and resources. They are active in their children’s schools and have a close-knit relationship with other members of the local nail industry. The Troungs are planning to open a second location, Sandals Day Spa, in the coming months. It will be located one street over from their current location. —Torsheta Jackson
Carlos Nelson and Jana’ Byrd Carlos Nelson, 20, says that the first time he saw his now-girlfriend Jana’ Byrd, 21, in a class at Jackson State University, he knew they would end up together. To his surprise, the attraction was mutual. “I thought I was going to be the one chasing her, but we both felt the same way about each other,” Nelson says. Nelson says Byrd’s affectionate attitude has made him a more loving and patient person. As Byrd speaks about Nelson, she says she feels herself blushing. “For him to be so accepting and exuberant (about our relationship) is great,” Byrd says. “No relationship is perfect, but we’re always striving to better ourselves and better our relationship and to work together to reach a goal or maintain a goal.” Byrd says Nelson’s go-getter attitude is what attracted her to him. “It feels so good to be with someone who’s just like me and wants to give back and isn’t selfish in any way,” Byrd says. Nelson is vice president of Collegiate 100, a national organization that allows black men in college to mentor children in their local communities. He is also Mister Junior and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., which does philanthropy work of its own.
Samuel and Rhemalyn Williams Samuel Williams, pastor at Bibleway Church in Jackson and New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Isola, Miss., met his wife, Rhemalyn, in 2014 at the Jackson Run retirement home, where she works as a resident service coordinator. Samuel and members of his congregation began giving seniors free haircuts and cosmetic care there on the first Wednesday of each month. He and Rhemalyn met and quickly fell in love, marrying in 2015. “The Bible tells us to take care of elderly, and we each found a way to do something for them and be the people of God that we should be,” Samuel says. “Our goal is to give back to the elderly and help them with things like their Medicare while still letting them remain self-sufficient.” The couple buys and cooks food for Stewpot Community
cpurtesy Carlos Nelson and Jana’ Byrd
Kevin Troung wanted to gift his new wife with “something she could own.” So, in 2016 he and his wife, Tram, opened Serenity Nail Spa. The business quickly became a hit in the Gluckstadt area and developed a loyal clientele. “We have customers from all over the area. They’ve been so supportive of us,” Kevin says. “When they come in they feel like they are a part of the family, and we treat them like family.” Kevin began working as a manicurist in 2001 while a student at Hinds. The work allowed him to help his sister in her business while helping him pay for college. He married Tram in 2009, and she joined the family business soon after. Family is an important concept to the Troungs. They have three children ages 10, 7 and 2. The pair juggle the demands of work, parenting and advancing their education. Kevin, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Mississippi College, will complete his master’s degree in biomedical science in December. He plans to apply to medical school this summer. The couple credits their ability to do so many things well to several factors—an amazing staff, loyal customers, but most of all to their faith.
Whitney Jordan Photography
Kevin and Tram Truong
Byrd enjoys doing community service with her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Her favorite community service activity is visiting the Kids Kollege at JSU, where Byrd and her sorority sisters are able to help with homework, play games and perform strolls. When they are not active in their community service, the couple can be found working on internship applications, fighting over the thermostat and what to eat, building a pillow fort or taking a long drive or walk along the reservoir without being glued to their phones. “I feel like our souls have met before, and we’re just being reintroduced,” Nelson says. —Alyssa Bass
services every Saturday; operate an Angel Ministry through Samuel’s church in which congregants act as pen pals to parents in prisons and give birthday cards and gifts to their children; donate toys to Blair E. Batson hospital for children with cancer; and operate a diaper pantry that gives out free diapers for parents in need. The Williamses also adopted a two-mile stretch of highway in Canton in 2016 to clean with help from volunteers. They also pick up trash from the streets around Bibleway and New Rising Star. Bibleway operates a food pantry that feeds roughly 200 people on the first Saturday of every month and performs health checks for people in need on the same day. The couple also conducts medical fairs each month, where they perform blood-pressure checks and other preventive services. They have nine adult children from previous marriages. —Dustin Cardon
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Local real estate brokers Austin and Victoria Prowant each have unique talents they have combined to into a successful marriage and business partnership. Austin schedules contractors and works with clients to make improvements needed to improve a seller’s home on the market. Victoria adds staging and decor. Together, they present beautifully arranged new and existing homes for clients. “I (add) the feminine touch with the finishes in the end,” Victoria says. “He does the heavy lifting on the front end.” The pair own Southern Homes Real Estate. The business, which opened in early 2019, has listings across the tri-county area. After getting married, they decided to build a new home but found themselves struggling to sell their current one. Without a buyer, the pair decided to rent the home. The move changed the trajectory of their careers. Victoria earned her real-estate license in
2012, and by 2016 the couple owned more than 100 rental properties. The success allowed Austin to retire from car sales and join his wife in the real estate industry full-time. Victoria has a bachelor’s in business administration from Mississippi College and is working on her master’s in business there. She and Austin are active members of the Mississippi Association of Realtors and other organizations. The Prowants partner with St. Jude Research Hospital each year to host the open house for the St. Jude Dream Home. Along with showing the home, the couple coordinates with volunteers and provides office space for the campaign. They hope that the fruit of their hard work is a legacy that they can pass to their two children, 6-year-old Alex and 8-year-old Ariana. “We are hoping that one day they will inherit something great that Austin and I built and they can continue the success of the company,” Victoria says. —Torsheta Jackson
Austin and Victoria Prowant
2020 Power Couples
helping the community with events such as the Mistletoe Marketplace, for which Hayes-Williams was a chairperson in 2019, or taking care of their three children: Jordan, 17, Bryman, Jr.,15, and Hayes,13. Hayes-Williams remembers the day their first child was born. Hayes-Williams says her husband was so nervous he put soap on his hands instead of lotion. “He thought he was putting lotion on his hands, and he put soap,” Hayes-Williams says. “He just kept rubbing the soap and said, ‘this lotion isn’t going anywhere!’ We got to the hospital, but it was more and more bubbly and bubbly.” Hayes-Williams says he finally asked what was wrong with the lotion, and she had to tell him it was soap. “I was so angry,” Williams says. “We laugh about it now, but I was just panicking and not wanting to mess up.” —Caleb McCluskey
February 5 - 18, 2020 • jfp.ms
courtesy James and Natasha King
Ray and Monica Harrigill Brookhaven native Ray Harrigill and his wife, Greenwood native Monica Harrigill, met on the campus of Millsaps College in 1988. The two were both 18 at the time, but while Ray was starting at Millsaps as a freshman that year, Monica was a graduating senior. Monica skipped several grades in high school and enrolled at Millsaps in 1985 when she was 15. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1988 and began working as a restaurant manager for a Bumpers in south Jackson that her father’s hospitality business, Jackie’s International, owned. Ray graduated from Millsaps in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in business, then received his juris doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law in 1994. During his senior year, he began working for Jackies International. He purchased the Jackson Bumpers after graduating and became a franchisee for the company, operating 26 locations in three states. The Harrigills opened Sunray Companies together in 1996. Initially running Bumpers locations, the company grew to include Blockbuster video stores in 1999, then Palm Beach Tanning in 2005, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express in 2006, and Massage Envy in 2010. “Our focus in what we did with Sunray was on diversity of businesses because they come and go, like Blockbuster, for example,” Ray says. “Owning a variety of businesses lets us grow even when some-
James and Natasha King If you let James King tell it, his wife, Natasha, and her family moved from the Delta to Jackson to meet him. The couple met in third grade, but lost touch after elementary school. Ten years later, they reconnected at Powell Middle School, where Natasha worked alongside James’ mother. “Seeing her again, I knew exactly who she was. We grew a friendship from there,” he said. He and Natasha built a strong friendship, which they say is the foundation for their marriage. A year after getting married in 2012, they attended an event about self-development. Soon afterward, they resigned from their careers, she as a teacher and he in graphic design and ministry, and branded themselves as Mr. & Mrs. Gratitude. The couple are “marriage mindset” consultants who “build singles towards wholeness and couples towards partnership” under their platform of love, marriage and partnership. Together, they host workshops, run a magazine, speak at events and are published authors. “It’s something very simple and practical to do, to start
Bryman Williams and Brenda HayesWilliams met through mutual friends while working on their first degrees in 1990 and quickly became college sweethearts, which led to 23 years and counting of marriage. Now in their late 40s, the couple explain the key to a happy and lasting marriage is patience and communicating well. “A lot of it is communication,” Williams says. “We have the same types of ideals and morals, and we make up for each other’s strengths and weaknesses.” Williams, of Lake Providence, La., and Hayes-Williams, of Rayville, La., met on the campus of Southern University where Williams studied psychology and Hayes-Williams studied speech pathology and audiology. Williams explains that he and his wife ended up in Jackson after he had interviewed for a prospective job in the area. He had already planned for the move, but when he was not chosen for the job, he instead started a program for clinical psychology at Jackson State University, and the couple has lived in Jackson ever since. “Everything started (at Southern), and the rest is history,” Williams says. Williams is a clinical psychologist at JSU and Hayes-Williams is a speech pathologist who owns her own speech therapy company, Brenda Hayes-Williams & Associates, which also offers physical and occupational therapy. In the time the couple does not spend working, they are either
courtesy Bryman Williams and Brenda Hayes-Williams
Bryman Williams and Brenda Hayes-Williams
thing changes or doesn’t work out.” In addition to their work with Sunray, the Harrigills have donated to the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital every month since 2000 and also volunteer with the Jackson Ronald McDonald House. Monica also serves on the board for Canopy Children’s Solutions and the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and manages fundraisers for both organizations. “Ray and I are both passionate about community work and involvement,” Monica says. “We focus on Mississippibased organizations so we can do whatever we can to help our home state.” The Harrigills have lived in Madison for 25 years and have two children, son Max and daughter Tori, who are both 21. —Dustin Cardon
the day with a sense of gratitude. We practice it. It’s a blessing,” Natasha said. Their goal is to affect, inspire and initiate the lives of 10 million people. It’s a big goal, but one that allows for growth, James said. So far, they have influenced people in countries including Canada, Trinidad and Nigeria, in addition to the U.S. Natasha said the term “power couple” is not a label they apply to their union. “We call ourselves a God-empowered couple, being empowered to influence other people or bless other people in some form or fashion,” James said. Last year, they changed their last names from Roach to King, a name that was prophesied through various signs and circumstances over the years, James said. In the future, the couple has plans to give two different scholarship awards, the Ambition Award and the Natia Hutchins Service Award, to a male and female senior from Lanier and Callaway High School through their Our Good Foundation. “The main thing is for love, marriage and partnership to grow to the point where it’s beyond us,” Natasha said, “To give singles hope and make couples dope.” —Aliyah Veal
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