JAC K S O N
VOL 19 NO. 16 // JUNE 2 - 29, 2021 // SUBSCRIBE FREE FOR BREAKING NEWS AT JFPDAILY.COM
FREE PRESS MAGAZINE REPORTING TRUTH TO POWER IN MISSISSIPPI SINCE 2002
Violence in the City: Families Seek Closure, Police Outreach Crown, pp 6-9
Summer Arts Preview 2021 pp 24-27
Father’s Day Gift Fix Smith, p 30
Guys We Love Hathorn, pp 14-17
CELEBRATING 18 YEARS OF THE JFP
June 5 KENT BURNSIDE Band June 12 KEITH JOHNSON and BIG MUDDY Band June 19 CALVIN DUNCAN, Jr. Band June 26 The DELTA FLYERS Band
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of the month
June 2 - 29, 2021 Vol. 19 No. 16
ON THE COVER Devin Winsett Photo courtesy Devin Winsett
3 jacksonian 4 editor’s Note 6 Talks
8 Special Session? Following the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Initiative 65, Gov. Tate Reeves could call a special legislative session to remedy the issue. Or, maybe not.
12 Opinion Ryan McElveen
14 guys we love
up to the Delta and down to the Gulf Coast. It’s all different, but the one thing that unites us is that we are the hospitality state—and I think we do embody that nickname.” Hill cites the numerous cities in Mississippi that have passed non-discrimination ordinances as evidence of the state’s willingness to change, although he believes there is much work yet to be done. “We need the state to do something similar and say no matter who you are or who you love, you belong in this state,” Hill posits. “We want you to stay in this state and thrive in this state. That’s the message we need to send, and it can be sent by legislation.” In spite of the mountains that Mississippi has yet to climb, Hill is glad that he and his partner, Ryan McElveen (and their cat Margot), decided to remain in the state. “The main reason we chose to stay here is that Mississippi is home,” he concludes. “You shouldn’t have to leave your home because of who you are. A lot of people do, but I found in Mississippi—and in Jackson in particular—that a lot of people are very welcoming.” —Taylor McKay Hathorn
The local cooperative bakes unleavened breads and pastries each week, with goods available for preorder.
19 music 20 do gooder 21 education
22 Shellheads Read about how and why metro natives Sergio Lugo II and Jeff Hubbard started a podcast on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.
24 events 28 Puzzle 28 Sorensen 29 astro 29 Classifieds
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ob Hill spent 12 years as a United Methodist minister in Mississippi, passing 10 of those years behind the pulpit at Broadmeadow United Methodist Church at the top of Fondren before choosing to leave the pastoral ministry. “It was a great church, and they were very welcoming of me as a gay man, but it was hard for me to be a gay man in the larger United Methodist conference,” Hill says of his decision to leave the vocation. “My partner and I wanted to find a place where we could be more authentic about who we are,” Hill reflects on their journey “We thought about moving to New York, but we decided to stay here to make Mississippi a safer place for the LGBT community.” To aid in that work, Hill took a position with the Human Rights Campaign’s Mississippi outpost, which he admits felt “scary” at first. “I said it was a new ministry for me,” he recalls. “I just got a larger congregation so that I could preach the message of love and inclusion to all of Mississippi.” The Mississippi State University graduate insists that inclusion is nearer than some may think in the Magnolia State. “I think a lot of lawmakers underestimate the acceptance in our state,” he says. “We’re a diverse state on so many levels. I can go
18 Sunflower Oven
by Nate Schumann, Managing Editor
Mississippi, Stop Stacking the Deck. Listen to Your Constituents.
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Our leadership held onto this ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card.
process is outdated. For some, this rationale, while disappointing, may sound plausible. Those who did not want the initiative to pass at all may see this decision from the court as a victory and thereby defend the supposed reasoning behind such action. But let’s frame this choice in its historical context. During the 1990s, Mississippi had five congressional districts. Thus, when Section 273 amended the Mississippi Constitution to allow the public an initiative process, the language dictated that initiative proposals receive one-fifth of signatures from each district. The Census in 2000 reduced Mississippi to four congressional districts, a mathematical technicality that attorneys latched onto when appealing to the state’s Supreme Court earlier this year. I have two issues with the Supreme Court majority’s argument. For one, in the two decades since Mississippi’s initiative process became “outdated,” legislators have proposed seven (seven!) bills to update the language of the Mississippi Constitution to accommodate the change in number. That makes seven times the people that
Mississippians themselves voted into office refused let their voices carry weight. Secondly, despite dissenters’ claim that Initiative 65’s passing would be unlawful because of the congressional numbers debacle, two voter-approved initiatives in 2011 went into effect without issue: one limiting the use of eminent domain and another requiring government-issued photo identification before voting. Why, pray tell, did those petitionbased initiatives go unchecked while medical marijuana got nipped in the bud? If this numbers issue is such a big deal, is the court going to retroactively invalidate those previous initiatives? It would only be fair. Except that’s just it. That’s the operative word: fair. No matter how the bigwigs try to spin it, “fairness” is not the reason Initiative 65 has been impeded. Our leaders had the opportunity—make that seven opportunities—to remedy this situation before it became a problem. Their choice to not do so and to instead wait until this specific moment to invoke this deus ex machina seems intentional. Like a player in a game of Monopoly, our leadership held onto this “Get Out of Jail Free” card until they felt it most tactical—and then used it to halt a change in law that a majority of other states have implemented by this point, a law that could help many suffering from conditions that cannabis has routinely proven it can alleviate. With one Supreme Court decision, the chain of dominos have begun their collapse. Without a functional ballotmeasure process, groups who have been campaigning to land other forward-
ast fall, approximately 766,000 Mississippians voted to pass Initiative 65, which would have called for the Health Department to launch a medical-marijuana program in the Magnolia State by August 2021. With nearly two-thirds of the popular vote, the initiative marked a step toward progression in an otherwise socially stagnant state. On Friday, May 14, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled to pull the rug out from underneath its constituents: It overturned Initiative 65, effectively nullifying the many emotional and financial investments people have already made in the medical cannabis endeavor. If you weren’t aware, you may be asking yourself why? Reports relay the message that the court’s justices circumvented the voice of the people because Mississippi’s initiative
The Mississippi Supreme Court used a technicality, which lawmakers knew about for two decades, to overturn an initiative that should be moving forward.
thinking possibilities to upcoming statewide ballots will be forced to redraw their plans until two-thirds of lawmakers can agree to a constitutional amendment. Some officials like House Speaker Philip Gunn have suggested that an amendment could make it to the November 2022 state ballot, after which citizens can reignite their social efforts. However, delaying the grassroots movements that Mississippi’s civilian leaders have boldly set forth feels intentional. I mean, Mississippi is known far and wide for its eagerness to evolve and change, isn’t it? Facetiousness aside, if lawmakers cannot settle on a renewed ballot measure, the citizen’s voice will continue to go unheard. And that’s what this column is
Taylor McKay Hathorn Taylor McKay Hathorn enjoys binging TV shows, watching the sun set over the Mississippi River and tweeting her opinions @_youaremore_. She wrote the Guys We Love package, Jacksonian and music story.
Michele D. Baker
City Reporter Kayode Crown recently came to Mississippi from Nigeria where he as a journalist for 10 years. He likes rock music and has fallen in love with the beautiful landscapes in Jackson. He wrote about parents losing children to gun violence.
Michele D. Baker lives in Belhaven in a restored 1920s bungalow with three cats and too many books. She enjoys world travel, reading and all kinds of bread. She wrote the food story on Sunflower Oven.
about—not medical marijuana, which has largely become a nonpartisan topic in recent years, but the will of the people. No matter where you stand on the issue of medical marijuana, or Medicaid, or other divisive subjects, if we believe in democracy, if we believe that the people’s voice should carry weight, then we should push our leadership to tie up this loose end as swiftly as possible. To the state’s credit, a handful among our leadership have voiced that they believe the court should reconsider its decision or that they would approve of Gov. Tate Reeves calling a special session so that the Legislature could set the wheels in motion for a medical marijuana program sooner rather than later. But the proof of those convictions in our lawmakers as a whole will be in the pudding, as it were. For the Mississippians who will play a role in the decisions ahead, I present a challenge in the form of a quote from H. Jackson Brown, Jr.: “Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.” Leave the agendas at the door. Forget your individual opinions on political subjects. Respect your constituents and their constitutional right to propose ballot measures that reflect their often fervent wishes for this state that they choose to call home as much as you do. They want to make this state better, and they are willing to put in the efforts to build a stronger Mississippi. Are you?
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storytelling & re, ir tu
“Oren was a young child that was put on drugs by the government.”
—Shannon Anderson on her son Oren’s social and learning difficulties in school
ce eren rev
Violence in the City: Victims’ Families Seek Closure, Police Respect by Kayode Crown
How Police Should Respond Oresa Napper-Williams was taken aback when she learned that a victim’s family may not know the detective in charge of their child’s murder case in Mississippi. Napper-Williams, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., started the nonprofit Not Another Child Inc. in New York City after she lost her own son to a stray bullet there. Her own experiences with the New York Police Department weren’t ideal; she recalls the officer who first called her on Aug. 6, 2006, to tell her that her son, Andrell Daron Napper, was shot. He actually said to her: “We’ll let you know if he was innocent.” Napper-Williams, now an expert on gun violence who works with both families who experience gun violence and the NYPD to help officers better help families, explained in a phone interview on Monday, May 31, what should happen after a family loses a loved one to violence: “So ideally, what happens is when there is a shooting, 911 is called. The local police arrive there along with a detective. Most of the time that detective, whoever’s on duty, is given the case at that time.” “And so the detective contacts you. They let you know that they are the detective with the case,” she added. “I have never heard in any other city or state that a person
doesn’t know who their detective is.” Napper-Williams said the quiet part out loud about how families of color are too often treated when they lose a loved one, whether it is being ignored by police or a false implication that your deceased might have been at fault somehow. Sheneika Green
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he tears kept rolling down the face of Shaneika Green, 42, as she spoke to the Jackson Free Press in her house on Colebrook Avenue in Jackson on April 30. She was talking about the July 17, 2020, murder of her son, Tramaine. Green had participated in a gathering at Jackson City Hall on April 25 where families of gun-violence victims came together with city leaders and law enforcement officials to decry the spate of violence in the capital city, which has recorded more than 50 homicides in the first five months of 2021. At the April event, the mother-of-six said people came to her son’s house, chased him from there around 3 a.m. and shot him seven times. He later died at about 3:30 p.m. that same day. “It was several boys that chased him down. He was shot seven times,” she told the crowd at city hall. “All I want is for my son’s killers to be (caught) so that I can get justice, so that I can get peace, So my kids, his siblings could get peace. So his nephew could get peace. That’s all I want.” “All I want is for them to find the killers. I want justice. It’s been almost a year; I have not had a good eight hours of sleep since this happened.” The mother mentioned her disaffection with the police’s handling of the case and how the Jackson Police Department is not communicating with her about her son’s case. Green does not even know the name of the detective presently in charge of the case, and she has asked Radio silence from local law enforcement is a common and historic complaint the Jackson Free Press has long heard from family members who lose their loved ones to gun violence in Jackson. “It’s almost been a year. I hadn’t heard any update about what’s going on with his case; this was my firstborn. When they took my son away from me, they took a piece of my heart,” Green said.
Assailants gunned Tramaine Green down in the early morning of July 17, 2020, in Jackson.
“A lot of the lack of communication and no responsiveness with detectives and things of that nature is because of the stigma that comes along with Black and Brown gun violence,” she explained. “Any Black and Brown violence, they attribute it to what was that person doing? You know, were they in a gang? Were they selling drugs? You know, anything like that.” “So that stigma that comes along with the lifestyle that’s lived in our communities is what makes detectives push back their hand, like, ‘we don’t have any information for you, nobody is saying anything,’” she added. “So it’s easy to sweep things under the rug and never have to really identify anything or any next steps or anything.” Napper-Williams’ comments track with studies that show that law enforcement often treat both victims and suspects in a crime in Black and Brown communities like they are both guilty, thus inhibiting thorough investigations and resolution. The Jackson Police Department, at 9:47 a.m. on the day of Tramaine’s murder, posted on Twitter: “#JPD is investigating a fatal shooting after an adult male was found just before 4 a.m., near the intersection of Belvedere Dr. and Freemont St. Victim suffered multiple wounds. No suspect info or motive currently known. Anyone
Black-Owned Business Spotlight With Juneteenth celebrations on the horizon within the metro area, let us take a peek at a handful of Black-owned businesses that call Jackson home.
I Got It MADE: This family-owned apparel brand seeks to promote selfawareness and community involvement. Find them on Twitter and Instagram @iGOTitMADEus.
Harris Home Improvement: Owner Timothy Harris’ company specializes in drywall hanging and finishing for both commercial and residential spaces. The business, which has operated out of Jackson for 20 years, also offers services in home repair, floor installation and carpentry.
Brice Media: Husband-and-wife duo Charles and Talamieka Brice run the full-service photography, graphic design and fine-art studio. Visit brice-media. com to learn more about the company’s services, which also include web design and social-media packages.
Find more Black-owned businesses in Mississippi at msblackpages.com.
Catering by Andrew: This Byrambased caterer offers services for wedding receptions, family reunions, baby showers, office parties and many other occasions. To browse their menu and package options, visit cateringbyandrewlee.com.
violence Shannon Anderson
with info, call #CrimeStoppers at 601355-TIPS(8477).”
‘Momma, I Love You’ Justin McNeal, 24, drove to Madison on March 26, 2021, to interview for a nursing-assistant position in a nursing home there. On his way back, a not-yetidentified person shot him on Interstate 220. One month later, Crime Stoppers announced $11,500 for tips on his killer. “After the shooting, Justin McNeal’s car wrecked in the median between Medgar Evers Boulevard and Industrial Drive,” Central Mississippi Crime Stopper wrote
Oren Anderson had a welding certification from Hinds Community College. He died on Dec. 9, 2020, after suffering several gunshot wounds.
in an April 16 Facebook post. “It is believed that the shooter was possibly in a dark-colored sedan that fled the scene.” McNeal, a 2016 graduate of Provine High School and a Hinds Community College electrical technology student, succumbed to his injury two days after being shot, and the family buried him on April 10. The Jackson Police Department is continuing the investigation. Justin McNeal’s parents, Jermaine McNeal and Melinda Walton, wonder what could have caused such a tragedy. In separate sit-down interviews with the Jackson Free Press on May 2, they tried to make sense of the sudden loss. “March the 26th of 2021, when I woke up, I had three kids and two grandkids, and now I only have two (kids). Because they took a part of my heart away, that’s my firstborn, and it was wrong,” Walton said in an emotion-laden voice. It was doubly painful because her son suffered gunshot wounds on her 45th birthday, days after his 24th birthday on March 18. Her son’s Madison interview (he got the job) was around 10:30 a.m. on March 26. He called Walton 30 minutes before that to wish her a happy birthday. She had hoped he would take her out later in the day to celebrate. “He said, ‘Momma, I love you,’” Walton recounted. “Justin called me; he was happy; he was trying to sing ‘happy birthday.’ I said, ‘Justin, you know you can’t sing.’” That was the last conversation she had with him until the police came to her house hours later to tell her what happened to her son on his way back from his
‘What Did They Do It?’ Jermaine McNeal, Justin’s father, said he is struggling to understand the motive for the killing. “What happened? Why did they do it?” he said. “Because he wasn’t into anything that would’ve resulted in this. We raised our children to go to school, to mind your own business, to work and try to have something (for yourself).” The father said Justin had no criminal records except speeding tickets. Melinda Walton, who also complained of police’s lack of responsiveness, said that grief counseling might help her to deal with her pain of loss. “I think it’s a good idea, but no amount of counseling in the world (is) going to bring my son back up alive; I’ll never get to see him walk into the door again, I’ll never get to see him say, ‘hey mama.’ I never get to hear him say, ‘hey, mama, how was your day.’ I’ll never get to hear any of that or see Justin’s face again. I’ll never get to hear Justin smile or laugh or any of that no more.” She doesn’t know if her birthday will become sour from now on. “We’ll normally go out to eat or something, but I don’t know if I want to celebrate another birthday. I don’t know how I’m gonna feel,” Walton said. Napper-Williams said Not Another Child conducts youth events, family retreats and parent workshops, helping not only those families who are victims of violence but those whose children are the perpetrators. “We talk to siblings and the children that have lost parents and things of that nature,” she said. Her unconventional method transforms activities that seem familiar into successful therapy, she added. “So even our youth services, they may be familiar services like outings and things
of that nature, but it’s the dialogue that we have with youth while doing it,” NapperWilliams added. “We have a basketball tournament where we allow the players to put up pictures of those that they have lost to gun violence, in the hopes that they would use that as a ‘retaliation,’ as opposed to actual gunfire.” Her Second Son, Oren Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, will not be the first time that Shannon Anderson will work on a deceased’s hair in preparation for burial. But on that day, it was her second son, Oren Anderson, whose hair she was cutting. Anderson died on Dec. 9, 2020, at 22 years of age, from gunshot wounds. His murder remains unsolved. “[I] cut my son’s hair, braid his deadlocks down and all of that myself,” she told the Jackson Free Press in an interview at her Jackson home on May 1. Anderson, 43, graduated in 2016 from Traxler’s School of Hair on Suncrest Drive the same year that Oren graduated from Wingfield High School before studying welding at Hinds Community College. Crime Stoppers
‘My Son’s Case Will Go Cold’ Nine months later, Shaneika Green’s frustration is palpable about her son. His mother is particularly irked that those who killed his son “are still walking around.” She explained that after the previous detective handling the case left the Jackson Police Department, nobody had informed her of who is on the case now. “I wasn’t notified that the (previous) detective was no longer there,” Green said. “The last time I talked to the (last) detective, he told me that my son’s case will go cold. Right now, I am afraid because nobody’s contacting me, and I don’t feel like they’re doing anything.” Napper-Williams said her organization bridges the gap between victims’ families and New York law enforcement by facilitating a monthly meeting leveraging its relationship with the New York City political and law enforcement leaders. “Now we have a monthly Zoom (meeting) with the chief of the detectives and the assistants, and you have to RSVP prior because they will make sure that the detective that is on your case is a part of that Zoom with an update,” she said. Green said that since her son (was) murdered in Jackson, she is constantly monitoring her kids to see where they are, worrying about their safety as the impact of the loss continues to linger. “Right now, I don’t trust anybody, and (my children) really don’t trust nobody,” Green said. In April, she successfully reached the police and spoke with a sergeant. “I let him know that I haven’t been contacted about the detective (who is) no longer employed with them, and I want to know (the) detective on the case,” Green said. “And he told me that he was going to call me back at one o’clock that evening. One o’clock came; I haven’t talked to him since. That was two weeks ago.” The Jackson Free Press interview was on April 30.
job interview in Madison. Walton described her son as a happy person who “always had a smile on his face whenever he came into the room,” and she expressed hope for a quick resolution of the murder. “Whoever did this, I want you to know that God sees everything. We are hoping that we get some answer soon and let the truth prevail,” she said. “You may have thought that you have gotten away, but you haven’t gotten away, and the truth will prevail, and you will get what’s coming to you,” she added, to whoever killed her son. “Some days, I feel like driving my car off a bridge,” Walton said. “You robbed me; you deprived me. I feel like I was violated, and should no parent had to go through this, should no parent had to bury their child.”
Justin McNeal died eight days after his 24th birthday. He was shot on March 26, 2021, as he drove back to Jackson from a job interview in Madison.
“When I was in trade school, the trade school had a contract with Westhaven Funeral Home. They used to send students over there. Like when people got killed, and the State was going to bury them, they used us over there to do their hair, and they pay the hair school, and the hair school will give us a percentage. So I had already been familiar around dead bodies before,” Anderson said. more violence, p 9
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Initiative Process Rests in Governor’s Hands by Julian Mills
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Leadership Support Since the ruling, State leadership has expressed varying degrees of support for a special session. House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said in a May 17 statement that the governor should take action. “We 100% believe in the right of the people to use the initiative and referendum process to express their views on public policy, Gunn said. “If the Legislature does not act on an issue that the people of Mississippi want, then the people need a mechanism to change the law. I support the governor calling us into a special session to protect this important right of the people.” Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann also confirmed his support for not only the ballotinitiative process, but the state’s medicalmarijuana program. “Citizen-driven ballot initiatives are an important part of policymaking, and I support reenacting the ballotinitiative process,” Hosemann said on May 18. “I also support a medical-marijuana program, as evidenced by the Senate twice passing back-stop legislation which did not survive in the House. We are in the process of talking to Senators about the Supreme Court ruling as it relates to both issues and how to proceed.”
Hosemann stopped short of a call-toaction, however, supporting a more “organized” approach in order to reduce costs. “If the governor chooses to call the Legislature back into special session, the Senate will be ready,” Hosemann said. “Because special sessions are expensive, my preference is to approach this situation in an organized fashion so when we do return we can minimize costs to taxpayers.” Watson has also called on Gov. Tate
whelming support from voters.” Sole Arbiter of Session Gov. Reeves himself is the sole arbiter of the decision to call a special session, and what the Legislature can do in it. The governor has been slow to address the issue. “It’s certainly a possibility,” he told conservative blog Y’all Politics on May 18. “There’s good reasons to do it … and reasons to consider it a not-so-good idea.”
on conservative SuperTalk radio to suggest that perhaps income tax could also be on the session menu. “(Income tax elimination) could be combined with a medical marijuana plan. It could help pay for some of the cuts ... all of those things could be addressed together if the governor chooses to call a special session,” Lamar said. Killing Medicaid Expansion, Again The Mississippi Supreme Court’s ruling endangers not only past initiatives, but Rogelio V Solis for ap
he deadline for Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson to petition the state Supreme Court for a rehearing regarding a popular votermandated medical marijuana program has come and gone. That left a legislative special session as the only option to restore not only the initiative to law, but the ballotinitiative process itself. Seventy-four percent of Mississippians voted “yes” on Initiative 75 last November, but the Legislature declined to pass any statute that would keep the program alive in case the Court struck the initiative down. In comparison, legislators did enact parallel legislation to change the state flag, ensuring that the process would be unhindered. Watson declined to petition the Mississippi Supreme Court by May 28, stating that the petition would have only “delayed the inevitable.” “While I strongly considered petitioning the Supreme Court for a rehearing of its decision, my team and I reached the conclusion doing so would simply delay the inevitable,” Watson said in a May 27 statement. “Based on previous case law and the 6-3 margin of the decision, we believe the request would be an unsuccessful effort.”
Protesters gathered outside the Mississippi Capitol and Supreme Court to demand that Gov. Tate Reeves call a legislative special session in order to bring back the medical-marijana initiative voters passed last November.
Reeves to call a special legislative session in order to restore Initiative 65 to law and, faced with a now-shaky legal foundation, ensuring past initiatives go unchallenged. “Rather than giving a sense of false hope and spending taxpayer dollars to no avail, I strongly encourage the governor to reconvene the Legislature in an effort to quickly preserve the will of Mississippians on a few important issues,” Watson said. “Not only should the Legislature address medical marijuana, but it should also take steps to make moot any possible legal challenges to Voter ID and Eminent Domain, both of which passed with over-
Reeves was insistent that his calling a special session was entirely predicated on the Legislature agreeing on their decision beforehand, saying he is concerned after the cost of previous, long special sessions. Curiously, in discussing the special session, Reeves alluded to his plans to eliminate the state’s income tax. The governor did not suggest that a plan to eliminate the income tax was a precondition of a special session, but he is not the only political figure to invoke the idea. Earlier in the month, Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, went
any that were underway at the time of the decision, such as Initiative 76, which sought to expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of Mississippians had it succeeded. Initiative 76 would have circumnavigated a Legislature and state leadership that have rejected the idea since it became budgetarily optional in 2012. In that year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, and in its ruling struck down the mandate requiring states to accept Medicaid expansion in order to receive any program funding. Since then, Mississippi has been
STATE MISSISSIPPI HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION
one of 12 states that have yet to expand Medicaid, due in large part to lukewarm support or outright rejection by State leadership who have been historically reluctant to appear to support Obama-era health-care policies. In light of the recent state Supreme Court ruling, Healthcare for Mississippi suspended its campaign, Yes on 76, to bring Medicaid expansion to a vote next year. “Yes on 76 is reluctantly suspending our campaign to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot in the wake of Friday’s State Supreme Court decision—until there is once again a functional ballot measure process in Mississippi,” a statement from the campaign said after the ruling. “We fully support the call for a special legislative session to restore the constitutional right of Mississippians to
Mississippi Hospital Association President and CEO Tim Moore and other health-care professionals started Healthcare for Mississippi to bypass a state Legislature that has been resistant to Medicaid expansion for over a decade.
vote directly on issues of importance, including Medicaid expansion, and we will pursue every avenue possible to restore the rights of voters in this state.” ‘Action That Is Long Overdue’ If successful, Ballot Initiative 76 would have expanded access to Medicaid for upward of 200,000 people across Mississippi. Medicaid already covers more than 750,000 Mississippians, almost a quarter of the state’s population. “We are disappointed to once again face obstacles to providing working Mississippians access to care,” Moore said in a statement to the Jackson Free Press. “With the strong support for expansion across the state, we encourage the Legislature to take action that is long overdue and address an issue that has been passed
over for a decade,” Moore said. Moore insists political stances should not affect the state’s ability to help insure more Mississippians in need. “This is not an entitlement program,” Moore said in an interview. “It is an insurance program. For those individuals that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, and they don’t make enough money to be able to buy commercial insurance, whether that’s on an exchange or not.” The fates of voter-led 2021 initiatives to tackle issues like medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion now lie in the hands of the governor, who will alone decide whether the Legislature gets a chance to revisit the initiative process this year. Send story tips to Reporting Fellow Julian Mills at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VIOLENCE, from p 7
Mental Health Challenges At age 8, Oren was at Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare in April 2007 and transferred to the University of Mississippi Medical Center the following month. He was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder and put on a central-nervoussystem-stimulating drug. He was back in the UMMC child psychiatric unit on June 11, 2007, for aggression, and health officials added an antipsychotic drug to help him. On his “discharge disposition,” the hospital wrote, “the patient is currently much improved with decreased impulsivity, decreased oppositionality and defiance, and has exhibited no physical aggression throughout hospitalization.” When he was 11, the State of Mississippi ruled that Oren had emotional disability (EMD). “The psychologist observed the student, reviewed all data gathered during the comprehensive evaluation, reviewed
and interpreted all of the tests administered, reviewed the Mississippi Department of Education’s eligibility criteria for an emotional disability, determined that the student does meet all criteria for an emotional disability ruling,” the State document in December 2009 said about Oren. Anderson has a prescription leaflet for her son dated Feb. 11, 2011, for another central-nervous-system-stimulating drug for ADHD treatment from a pharmacy in Magee, Miss. In the 2011-2012 school year, in grade 8, Oren was put on the Individualized Education Program at Millcreek School of Clinton, starting December 2011. “The severity of Oren’s disability of emotional, mental disability impedes his ability to function in a regular classroom setting and affects his involvement in the general curriculum as evidence by the following behaviors: oppositional/defiant behaviors, noncompliance with rules, mood instability, problem concentrating and academic difficulties,” school officials wrote at the beginning of his stay there. “He was at Mill Creek Clinton; Jackson Public Schools had to pay for him to go to (that) therapeutic school, a private school that was for children with special needs,” Shannon said in the May 1 interview. “(Before then) Oren was in a therapeutic facility down there at Pontotoc, Mississippi—Millcreek of Pontotoc—then he got switched to Millcreek of McGee. Then he got switched From the residential side to the therapeutic group home; he came home to the therapeutic group home. Then they sent him to school at Millcreek of Clinton over there on Fortification (Street).” “When he came back from Millcreek
of Clinton, when they transitioned him to the house, they trained me how to get him the medicine.” Police Contact, 39 Days Later Like other families, Shannon Anderson criticized the police handling of her son’s death, saying that it was 39 days after her son’s death that she spoke to someone from the police department. “The first time I ever spoke with somebody (from JPD) was January the 17th, Martin Luther King’s birthday.” She said in the May 1 interview. “Why did you wait over almost a month and a half to reach out and contact me? And I had been calling, asking for my son’s property, where his car was located, and stuff. They just let his car get rained on and sat in the impound on four flats, just mildewed and molded.” Not Another Child founder NapperWilliams said that having to wait for 39 days for a police contact after someone’s child is murdered is plain wrong. “That’s sad when you don’t know what happened to your child in 39 days, and that’s (the police’s) job, that’s what they’re paid to do, no matter what they feel the situation is or was, or anything to that degree,” she said. “They get paid by the tax dollars of the citizens to find this information; that’s disheartening,” Napper-Williams added. In April, Oren’s mother said a detective assigned to the case called her. “She called around April 8 (and) told me that she was going to call me back, ‘give us some time.’ I wonder how much time you need?” Anderson said. “That detective has not called me back.” “I know my son was not a perfect
person, but he did not deserve to die,” she added. “They told me that he was in a fight, and they said it looked like he was walking away, and they started shooting at him, and he got in the car and tried to drive away.” “My tears that I shed are for justice for my son cause I just don’t want nobody to think that they got away with killing my son.” Anyone with information about the cases can call Crime Stoppers at 601-355TIPS(8477) or submit a tip online at www. P3tips.com. Email story tips to city/county reporter Kayode Crown at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kayodecrown.
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The mother-of-four was proud that her son, born on July 26, 1998, had “two welding certifications” after a troubled K-12 education, marked by learning difficulties. He was on Attention Deficit Disorder drugs as early as 2007, documents Anderson shared with the Jackson Free Press revealed. “(He was) a child that had social difficulties, learning disabilities and all the stuff that everybody labeled as a bad kid because he had a learning disability, (but) he beat the odds and still graduated from high school,” the grieving mother said. “Oren was a young child that was put on drugs by the government.”
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e seem to be of two minds when it comes to the size of government in America. A recent example comes to mind: U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker introduced a restaurant revitalization amendment to the American Rescue Plan then making its way through the Senate. The measure passed with 90 votes and provided $28.6 billion “to support independent restaurants and small franchisees devastated from the coronavirus pandemic,” as The Hill reported on Feb. 5, 2021. Hattiesburg’s own Robert St. John was a leading figure in generating nationwide support for this measure. Thank you, Robert! Here’s where the debate gets interesting. Sen. Wicker did not vote for the overall American Rescue Plan that contained his amendment to aid the restaurants. He said it was not needed. Nevertheless, he claimed credit for the much-needed assistance to restaurants provided within the bill. The Mississippi Center for Public Policy is a conservative, legislative lobbying group. Its weekly email on April 24 opened with this scary headline, “Big government is growing. Radical progressives are determined to expand the power of the administrative state.” And a little further down in the same issue, it announced,
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We could just help people when they need it.
“The Mississippi Center for Public Policy is in the front line in the battle to preserve liberty and limited government.” Sen. Wicker, conservative Republican that he is, also believes in “limited government,” except when he doesn’t: as when he successfully pushed spending $28.6 billion to aid all those struggling restaurants across the country. He is no “radical progressive;” he just saw a need and addressed it. I agree with Sen. Wicker that such an expenditure was a good idea. I also believe that those $1,400 checks that millions of citizens received through the American Rescue Plan were also a good idea, but the senator did not. So, there’s the debate, it seems. Help-
Size Matters: Mixed Conservative Messages Pervade Mississippi amid Pandemic
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U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker believe in “limited government,” except when he doesn’t, columnist Richard Conville writes. Plus, he says, it hasn’t worked.
ing restaurants hurt by the pandemic is a good thing, according to Sen. Wicker, but directly helping individual American citizens is not a good thing. Is that it? Individual citizens who had dropped out of the labor force to stay home with children not in school; individual citizens who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic; individual citizens who had put off needing medical care due to the pandemic. Instead of battling “to preserve liberty and limited government,” we could just help people when they need it. Look around at your family, friends and neighbors whose lives were upended by the virus. All those of modest or meager means whom the pandemic pounded needed a leg up to get back on their feet. So, what’s wrong with the government lending them a hand? The unique nature of the restaurant industry made it especially vulnerable during the pandemic. However, many other kinds of work remain vulnerable even after the pandemic. The very nature of work is changing—robots are at work across the spectrum of the economy, from manufacturing to McDonald’s to medicine; online transactions are taking the place of person-to-person interaction; capital is chasing cheap labor overseas; the
electric vehicle market is booming; and the need for agricultural workers continues to decline. We can expect continuing displacement of workers and therefore continuing, modest levels of unemployment as certain job sectors disappear, and it takes time for labor markets to adjust to such changes. Since the nation has chosen capitalism as our default economic model, we owe it to those so displaced to support them financially when they need it and to support their retraining. Only governments at all levels have the resources to deal with such population-wide challenges. So, by all means, let’s have a robust debate over the appropriate size of government. In Mississippi, we’ve tried “limited government” at least since 1980, and it has landed us at the bottom of just about every quality-of-life measure you can name. Maybe it’s time to question some of our past decisions and take a different path. Dick Conville is a retired college professor and long-time resident of Hattiesburg. Email him at Rlconville@yahoo.com. This column was previously published in the Pine Belt News in Hattiesburg. This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the JFP.
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