May 18 - 24, 2011
May 18 - 24, 2011
9 N O . 36
contents MARK SANDRIDGE FOR SHERRIFF
JERRICK SMITH AND KEN GORDON
6 No Apologies Jackson gets no apology from a Madison County sheriff candidate for slamming the city in his campaign ad. TIM ROBERSON
Cover photograph Courtesy of MPB / Corbis
The Mississippi River’s rising waters promise the worst floods since the 1927 devastation.
17 Free Press Homage The Mississippi Free Press lent its guiding principles and historic name to the Jackson Free Press.
41 Green ‘Moons An eco-honeymoon can provide the trip of a lifetime. Plus, local bridal registries for unique gifts.
they have learned to a new generation of civil-rights activists. This has been, at times, difficult work. Mississippi arrested 329 civil-rights workers as Freedom Riders, and several more participated in the protests in other places. Many are no longer with us. “Our numbers indicate that 100 of them are deceased,” Luckett says, “and a number are infirm.” Surviving, healthy Freedom Riders, who range in age from 63 to 95, demonstrate considerable courage in returning to a Mississippi that, in many cases, treated them in a horrifying and traumatic way, she says. The arrests were often brutal experiences, and Freedom Riders’ treatment at the hands of Mississippi’s law enforcement system was not, on the whole, humane. “It was humiliating. It was degrading. It was violent,” Luckett says. “Some of them were beaten when they were in prison.” The event also gives Freedom Riders the opportunity to reconnect, sometimes for the first time, and to return to a city that has changed a great deal over the past 50 years. It’s likely to be an emotional week—for the Freedom Riders themselves and for those in attendance. For more information, visit ms50th freedomridersreunion.org or call 601979-1517. —Tom Head
Jeanne Luckett has a contagious enthusiasm for studying and preserving Mississippi’s civil-rights legacy. She put her passion and energy to use helping to plan the 50th anniversary Freedom Riders reunion in Jackson from May 22 through May 26. Luckett, 66, was a student at Provine High School when the Freedom Riders came to Jackson in 1961, and she came of age alongside Mississippi’s Civil Rights Movement. “The same year James Meredith integrated Ole Miss, I was a freshman at Millsaps,” Luckett says. After graduating, Luckett taught in the public-school system, worked at Mississippi Public Broadcasting (where she helped produce and film a documentary on the first Medgar Evers Homecoming) and, eventually, went on to start her own business, Luckett Communications. Most recently, she worked with Myrlie Evers on the Medgar Evers Home and Museum, where Medgar Evers was murdered in 1964, maintained by Tougaloo College. She calls her work there ”a great privilege” that “continues to be a joy and a challenge at the same time.” Luckett has worked on the Freedom Riders reunion event for 18 months, helping to locate surviving Freedom Riders, plan events commemorating their work and give them opportunities to teach what
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND HISTORY
4 ............. Editor’s Note 4 ................... Slowpoke 6 ........................... Talks 12 ................... Editorial 12 ..................... Chatter 12 ..................... Stiggers 12 ......................... Zuga 13 ................... Opinion 28 ................ Diversions 30 ...................... 8 Days 31 ............... JFP Events 32 ....................... Music 33 ......... Music Listings 36 .................. Astrology 38 ......................... Food 41 .................... Hitched 42 .... Girl About Town
editor’snote Adam Lynch Award-winning senior reporter Adam Lynch is a Winona native and graduate of Jackson State. He and his family live in north Jackson. Email him at adam@ jacksonfreepress.com, or call him at 601-362-6121, ext. 13. He wrote Talks for this issue.
Adam Perry Account executive Adam Perry is a local musician who lives in Flowood where he, his wife and daughter are herded through life by two supreme beings posing as unruly house-cats. He manages JFP distribution and sales accounts.
Andrea Thomas Advertising designer Andrea Thomas is a native of Ridgeland and is a recent Antonelli College graduate. She loves to sing, dance and write poetry in her free time. She designed ads for this issue.
Ashley Jackson Account executive Ashley Jackson is a Brandon native. She loves volunteering with youth, cooking, doing homework, wearing awesome shoes and dancing like a fool while playing her extensive vinyl collection.
Kimberly Griffin Advertising director Kimberly Griffin is a Jackson native who likes yoga, supporting locally owned businesses and traveling. In her spare time she plots how she can become Michelle Obama’s water holder.
Lacey McLaughlin News editor Lacey McLaughlin is a Florida native who enjoys riding her bike around Jackson. She is always on the hunt for news tips. Email Lacey@ jacksonfreepress.com or call 601-362-6121 ext. 22.
May 18 - 24, 2011
Events editor Latasha Willis is a native Jacksonian, a graduate of Tougaloo College and the proud mother of one cat. Her JFP blog is “The Bricks That Others Throw,” and she sells design pieces at zazzle.com/ reasontolive.
by Donna Ladd, Editor-in-Chief
saw an earth-shattering tweet yesterday. The Fairview Inn in Belhaven was tweeting the link to their blog post heralding the Freedom Riders’ anniversary. So what, you might respond. It’s just a nice hotel doing good marketing. Oh, but it’s much more than that. It is a statement that Mississippi has changed. You see, when I first moved back to Mississippi in 2002, I lived diagonally across the street from the Fairview. At the time, its long-time proprietor William J. (Bill) Simmons still lived there, and his family ran it as an inn. We’d see people of all races park in front of our house and pour into the Fairview for luncheons and weddings. It seemed like business as usual. But I also happened to know Mr. Simmons’ history. To put it mildly, during the Civil Rights Movement, he was a vicious racist who expressed beliefs in scientific racism (basically, the hokum that science “proved” black folks inferior to whites), and he was leader of the Citizens Councils of America. Oh, and he was editor of that angry hateful paper, The Citizens Informer. After we started the JFP, named for a very different paper from the 1960s called the Mississippi Free Press, I would stand in the window looking at the Fairview, glowing across the way. I would think about how I wanted my newspaper to be the worst nightmare of men like Simmons and his friends in the day, back when they did everything they could (and succeeded too well) to keep our schools segregated by setting up white academies and council schools for white kids to be “safe” from black children. And it was these same “citizens councilors” who came up with the idea of “youth indoctrination” after the Brown v. Board decision of 1954. Basically, they wanted to convince white children that they were superior, that blacks were more violent (ironic considering the violence committed against African Americans throughout our state’s history), that they couldn’t trust “the other.” Thus, it felt downright gothic for my paper to come into fruition across from Simmons and the Fairview Inn. I’ve always believed that God has a wry sense of humor. Almost everywhere I look, I see evidence that Simmons and his band of fools lost the battle. I live in a Jackson that is actively trying to heal its wounds, where young people (even many who went to those white academies) are inspired to be more than the sum of our upbringing. These young people are rejecting the
propaganda—and many are hungry for the adventure stories of the courageous Freedom Riders who helped save us from ourselves. Of course, we still have vestiges, and they are never nastier than in political campaigns where, inevitably, a handful of fools try to divide the rest of us for political gain. You can almost feel sorry for a young guy like Madison County sheriff candidate Mark Sandridge—it’s probably that no one ever taught him the history that might have stopped him from trying to divide our counties by a highway, the good people on one side, the violent on the other. Mr. Sandridge, this is the exact kind of rhetoric that Bill Simmons and others pushed to get white people to fear black people; hawking violence for votes is the tired and disgusting rhetoric of the Willie Horton-scientific racist crowd. What’s kind of lovely about the Sandridge throwback to a darker past has been the response, though. People of all races on both sides of the county line have spoken out against his hateful campaign ad. And some unexpected voices called it for what it sure did look like: racist. And I’m not talking about the usual “liberal” suspects. Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell, a young white Republican, didn’t mince words. The ad was racist, he said, with-
out any apparent hesitation. Now, understand that Whitwell holds a seat that is known to appeal to white conservatives, many of whom send their kids to seg academies, and one even apologized on the JFP website a few years back for campaigning in front of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Is Whitwell an anomaly? No. This kind of wink-wink race politics is not appealing to most younger folks, conservative or liberal or whatever. They’re just not into it, and as Whitwell proved—bless his heart on this one—they’ll call you out on it. So this is the Jackson the Freedom Riders will revisit this month. We’re not there, yet, folks, but we are a diligent work-inprogress. Riders, we pledge to blow your minds with our open ease with talking about race problems in Jackson and in our multiracial alliances that we have formed to make our city and state a place we can all be proud of. And we may still have small-minded bigotry—not quite as blatant as y’all experienced—but we also have white people, plenty of them, willing to call it out. Most important, you visit a city this time that welcomes you and thanks you for everything you did for us when you put your lives on the line and a mirror in front of the South. Thank you, Riders, and may God bless you all.
Ronni Mott came to Jackson by way of D.C. in 1997. She’s a writer, photographer and the JFP’s managing editor, where she practices her hobbies of herding cats and curmudgeonliness. She teaches yoga in her spare time.
Assistant to the editor ShaWanda Jacome is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a Christ-follower. She is learning to “be still and to let God be God” (Psalm 46:10).
Publisher Todd Stauffer is the author of more than 40 technology books on Macs, HTML, blogging and digital video. He grew up in Dallas and is a Texas A&M graduate.
Valerie Wells is assistant editor of the JFP and BOOM Jackson. She’s interested in covering the media in Mississippi and figuring out who controls the news. Email ideas to Valerie@ jacksonfreepress.com.
news, culture & irreverence
Thursday, May 12 NASA releases satellite images of the Mississippi River to show a clearer picture of the flood’s magnitude. … Regulators announce recent inspections have found serious problems with emergency equipment in American nuclear plants. Friday, May 13 U.S. natural gas rigs drop to the lowest level in 15 months, reports Baker Hughes, Inc., an oilfield services company. The flooding of the Mississippi River may also reduce oil and gas output. … U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell resigns from his post as a mediator between Israel and Palestine after two years of failed efforts. Saturday, May 14 Arts Alive! takes place in Smith Park in downtown Jackson to raise money for Stewpot Community Services. … President Barack Obama calls on Congress to shorten oil and gas leases on public lands and waters, and toughen penalties for companies out of compliance with environmental and safety regulations. Sunday, May 15 FIGMENT Jackson, a participatory art event, takes place at The Plant on Highway 80. … AT&T announces that many of its customers’ cell-phone models will be obsolete as of today due to recent network upgrades.
May 18 - 24, 2011
Monday, May 16 The documentary “Freedom Riders: American Experience” premiers on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. … President Obama meets with families in Memphis, Tenn., affected by the Mississippi River flooding.
Tuesday, May 17 Four journalists, whom Libyan officials have detained since early April, are scheduled for release after a judge rules in their favor. … The U.S. Supreme Court denies a stay of execution for Mississippi death row inmate Rodney Gray, making him the second man Mississippi has put to death this year. Get daily news updates at jfpdaily.com.
In May 1961, after Klansmen bombed a bus containing the Freedom Riders in Anniston, Ala., a 12-year-old girl named Janie Miller helped the victims by providing them water. After receiving threats for her act of kindness, Miller and her family were forced to move.
Bridging Sandridge’s Divide
by Lacey McLaughlin
ty from Madison County. The camera then stops on Sandridge. “Imagine for a moment this road was our county line,” the ad’s narrator says. “This side represents one of the most violent cities in the nation. Over here, on our side, one of the most desirable communities in America to raise a family. And there’s one candidate Jimmy Houston, former Ridgeland police chief and for Madison County sheriff candidate for Madison County sheriff, says crimes don’t that intends to keep it that occur just on one side of a road. way: Mark Sandridge.” Sandridge issued a statealco Grandview Theatre may not ment May 10 defending the ad. be running Mark Sandridge’s “For me to ignore the indisputable controversial campaign ad for facts of an overwhelming level of crime in a Madison County Sheriff any- neighboring county would be, professionmore, but his message has spurred debates ally speaking, irresponsible. I will not abanabout Jackson stereotypes and the respon- don my promise to Madison County voters sibility of law enforcement officials to unite to keep criminals out of our county, before the metro area. they can commit crimes in our county,” On May 10, Malco pulled the ad after Sandridge wrote without citing his crime residents of Hinds and Madison counties statistic sources. spoke out against it. Citizens made their Memphis-based Malco Theatres Didispleasure known through social-media rector of Marketing Karen Scott said the sites such as Facebook, and by calling the company requested that Malco Grandview local theater and its corporate office. remove the ad because screening political The ad showed an unspecified high- ads was against corporate policy. way, indicative of the small divide that sep- Screenvision, a third-party national arates the city of Jackson and Hinds Coun- media company specializing in cinema ad-
Wednesday, May 11 Officials announce that they expect the Mississippi River to break the all-time flood record of 1927. … A federal jury in New York City finds billionaire investor Raj Rajaratnam guilty of insider trading on Wall Street.
Objections to using a new lethal injection drug come too late for Rodney Gray. p 10
vertising, secures advertising contracts with Malco Theatres and pre-screens ads. The advertisements that appear before feature movies are part of a 25-minute prepackaged program delivered directly to theaters from Screenvision’s server. Screenvision’s website (www.screenvision. com) provides guidelines for advertising, and politics is on its list of 38 kinds of content deemed “inappropriate,” along with religion, fighting and “comedic bodily noises.” Screenvision representatives did not return calls for this article. As of May 11, Sandridge had raised $8,130 in total campaign contributions. His campaign-finance report shows payments to Screenvision for $450. The campaign’s disbursements do not show any payments to filmmakers or producers. Former Ridgeland Police Chief Jimmy Houston, who left that position earlier this year, spent 24 years as a Jackson Police Department officer. He noted a recent attempted burglary in Madison County in which the offender was from Mobile, Ala. “I guess we need to think about closing Highway 49 then, too,” Houston quipped. Houston, who is running for Madison County Sheriff, said crime does not just stop or end on one side of the road. “The saddest part about the whole ad is (that it) would sure be nice if crime was relegated to just one street,” he said. DIVIDE, see page 7
by Amelia Senter and Jordan Lashley
“What cause would you go to jail for?” “I would go to jail for my family. I would go to jail for injustice that I’m seeing in plain view, in plain sight.” —Kali Horner, age 30 “I’ve almost been to jail for the rights of the homeless, advocacy groups and also workers’ rights. (I would make) pretty much any of the same stances the Freedom Riders made as far as any racial discrimination, or anything where people were being oppressed or taken advantage of.” —Drew Mellon, age 28 “I would go to jail for children’s rights.” —LeeAnn May, age 24
“I guess we need to think about closing Highway 49 then, too.” —Jimmy Houston, candidate for Madison County sheriff, regarding his opponent Mark Sandridge’s political ad, which implied that County Line Road separates Madison County from Jackson’s “violent” crime.
“The two areas would be: religious freedom and … basic civil liberties just like the Freedom Riders dealt with. If society or the government starts to consign certain people to the status of non-being or ‘nothing,’ it’s just a matter of time before it’s genocide.” —John Farrar, age 62 “I would go to jail for religious freedom or religious tolerance.” —Isoke Washington, age 21
news, culture & irreverence
DIVIDE, from page 6
“To segregate the cities from one another with a statement like that, I think it shows inexperience.” Houston said that law enforcement officials must communicate with each other to stop crimes that cross county lines. He added that he’s seen progress with JPD in the past few years. “I am seeing more interest in crime and that’s our job,” Houston said. “Officers are doing more. It’s because of good leadership that it’s turning a corner. … So goes Jackson so goes the rest of the metro.” Jackson’s Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell called the ad “racist.” He also took issue with the ad claiming that Sandridge intended to keep things the same. “The image it created was offensive as well as the wording,” he said. “After degrading one side of the county and saying you
plan to keep it that way is to infer that one tends to keep the neighboring county that way and turn a blind eye to problems in their own county.” Whitwell said the solution is not to “turn a blind eye” to crime, but work proactively with local law enforcement to find solutions. Tyrone Lewis, a former JPD deputy sheriff who retired last year and a candidate for Hinds County sheriff, said he could not comment on the ad, but did say if he was elected that we would ensure that metro law enforcement had good working relations. Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin, who is running for his fifth term in office, declined to comment. Sandridge did not return multiple calls for comment. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
Public schools do more than educate children. They measure a city’s pride. They reflect community. They predict the social and economic well-being of a city’s future. For 20 years, Parents for Public Schools of Jackson has worked to keep our public schools strong, to empower parents as leaders for positive change, and to engage community support of our public schools.
Join us. For our city. For our children. For our future.
Council Battles Over Zoning
Ratliff Fabricating will not be able to expand under new zoning.
ackson City Council members agonized over how to classify newly annexed city territory during a lengthy zoning meeting Monday. Several zoning issues stymied zoning committee Council members, including a request by city business owners to retain an industrial-zoning classification for the territory around a south Jackson insulation manufacturing company. A majority refused to preserve the industrial-zone classification for the area around Mechanical Systems Insulation, on Mississippi Highway 18, after Council members discussed whether the classification would permit strip clubs. Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell and Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba were the only members who favored maintaining the industrial zone classification on that portion of Mississippi 18. Legally, the pre-existing factories must be grandfathered in, meaning the council cannot change the zone classification of factory-owned property. But Mechanical Systems Insulation owners Virgil and Jean Campbell cannot expand their factory
into the newly designated mixed-use territory around them. Nobody will buy their factory as long as it sits in the middle of a mixed-use zone, they claim. “The folks had a very good case in that their life savings and their nest egg is in that piece of property, and that by rezoning that area we essentially ruined their retirement plan,” Whitwell said. “That’s very tragic in my opinion.” On a second vote, a majority of the committee—this time including Lumumba—refused to maintain an industrial zone for a recently annexed portion of property containing factories on Clay Street, between U.S. Highway 49 and Interstate 220. Clay Street has been an industrial zone for decades. Ratliff Fabricating owner Spincer Harrell said his company generates almost $2 million in annual revenue and pays the city more than $20,000 in annual property taxes. Harrell said the zone change around his property, similar to the Mechanical Systems Insulation issue, will mean his company will have no room for growth. “It’s like the city treats me as some kind of enemy,” Harrell said. “We’re successful. We make money. I don’t understand why they want to kill what I consider to be a golden goose.” Lumumba, who presides over the ward containing Harrell’s business, said he voted to change the zone for the benefit of the factory’s residential neighbors. He added that it would not run Ratliff Fabricating out of business. Whitwell was not so confident: “We’re not a suburb. We’re a city that has a history of certain businesses operating in areas with residents, and as a result they sometime grow to abut one another, but they tend to coexist.”
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an estimated federal cost of $56 million and an estimated cost of $24 million for the local sponsor. The federal government even went so far as to pay its portion, with President Reagan signing the Water Resources Development Act authorizing the Shoccoe Dry Dam in 1986. Some former USACE members consider the dam to be the best project on hand. “In my opinion, it was the most viable option for preventing flooding in Jackson,” said Tom Pullen, a U.S. Army Corps of EngiAdam Lynch
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s the waters of the Mississippi River creep to a historic high, lapping at Vicksburg’s ankles, some local residents are getting nervous about how long the city of Jackson has before it suffers the next round of its own flooding. “What will the Mississippi flood have to do with us?” Gary Rhoads, Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District Board chairman, asked of engineers at the May 9 Levee Board meeting. The answer is that the water swelling the Mississippi River does not share the much smaller drainage basin of the Pearl River, and is not a threat. Nevertheless, in 1979, the waters of the Pearl, swelling from the run-off of a host of storms north of Jackson, topped levees between Hinds and Rankin counties and inundated the downtown area and neighborhoods in the river’s historic floodplain. Members of the Levee Board, charged with handling flood control along the Pearl, are moving into position to begin a feasibility study on a flood-control plan that may involve a combination of a levee expansion and water-retaining lakes along the Pearl, but the estimated $4 million study is only the beginning, as local sponsors will have to tweak their plan through the process of federal review. Their most recent endeavor, the Lower Lake Plan, is the latest survivor of five floodcontrol incarnations that bit the dust from lack of funding or support. The jury is still out on the cost of this most recent project, although the price could be anywhere between $200 million and $600 million, according to Levee Board members. The price depends on new expense requirements imposed by the National Environmental Policy Act process, through which the plan must pass before the feds will commit to co-financing. Out of all four previous plans, only one actually survived the federal government’s scrutiny. In 1984, the Corps jumped behind the construction of a dry dam near Carthage, Miss., as the most comprehensive flood-control option for the Pearl. A Corps report, dated March 17, 1986, said the total cost of the Shoccoe dam would be $80.1 million, with
This swamp sits near the proposed site of a dry dam that advocates say is still the most feasible solution for a Jackson flood plan.
neers retiree, whose Vicksburg branch peer-reviewed the Shoccoe project. “It wouldn’t have been perfect, but it would’ve prevented most of the floods that hurt Jackson.” The project involved creating a dry dam near Carthage that would only kick in and act like a dam when a 1979-style body of water was on its way to Jackson. The dam would close and create a massive, temporary 38,850-acre lake on forest and farmland in Leake, Madison and Scott counties that would’ve otherwise occupied the city of Jackson. The problem with the Shoccoe dam, however, was with area property owners. Pullen said the Corps would purchase an easement from landowners that would allow the government to flood the land, but that landowners would still own their land and could use it, so long as it was compatible with the levee. Most of the flooding was in forest,
meaning many of the growers affected were wood producers like the powerful International Paper Company, which Pullen said owned property in the area. “They would’ve been paid an amount almost equal to the land, but they’d still own it. But it would still be a problem for them because of the chance of infrequent floods,” Pullen said. “… Only a small part ... would be under government ownership.” Mississippi Sierra Club Director Louie Miller, who owns property that Shoccoe would affect, describes the set-up differently. “The Corps said, ‘We’ll pay you 20 cents on the dollar for a flood easement, but in the meantime, any structures on your property for human habitation would have to be removed at your expense.’ Anybody versed in eminentdomain proceedings said they’re taking away the economic value of your property,” Miller said last year. “Your property can’t be used for anything else but a flood pool. So they’re going to have to buy the title to your property. That increased the price tag of the project by about another $100 million.” Opponents to the Shoccoe project, including Rep. Bennett Malone, D-Carthage, and International Paper Company, managed to discourage the popularity of the local cost share of the project, despite the federal government’s backing. The Shoccoe Dam died in 1987, one year after Reagan’s signature, when the Mississippi Legislature voted down legislation authorizing the Pearl River Basin Development District to serve as the local sponsor for the project. Being the only project that has so far survived the NEPA process, however, the dam could see life again. All it needs is the backing of a local sponsor with the will to move it forward. “It could live again, but it’s been so long that they would have to update the NEPA process, probably with a supplement to the environmental impact statement,” Pullen said. “Either way, that was the only real solution we’ve come up with since 1979.” Comment at www.jfp.ms.
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Bracing for Destruction potential flooding. Richmond is a municipality conjoined to Tallulah, the two towns share a post office and zip code. The two towns flow together seamlessly, but are in fact separate municipalities with separate governments. Kivett said that Madison Parish, where the towns are located, have an extensive evacuation plan and warning network of more than 100 police cars to go out into the rural areas and warn of the impending flood The rising Mississippi River is threatening the towns of waters should the levees break. Tallulah, La., and Richmond, La., in Madison Parish. If the levee should break 20 miles south of Tallulah at a place called the K.C. Ranch, residents of the parish His prediction will be tested on May 19 would have three to four days to evacuate. If when the river is expected to crest. The Collins brothers, like other farmers it breaks north, they would have much less in the area, have taken steps to minimize the time. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has damage to their operation should the worst continuously updated the levee from Lake happen. They moved much of their equipProvidence, La., to K.C. Ranch over the ment to higher ground on an abandoned decades. The exit route from Tallulah and levy south of Tallulah, but the farm continRichmond would be west toward Monroe. ues day-to-day activities as if nothing out of Civil defense shelters would be activated in the ordinary is happening. “We’re still farming, just like the river’s Richmond and Tallulah at the civic centers. National Guardsmen would barricade the at 19 feet. We can’t just pack up and leave shelters from the flooding and bring in food. everything,” Dave Collins said. At this point, only several feet of water Although the Collins have crop inare expected should the worst happen, but surance, like most farmers in the area, the with waters rushing down from the north insurance would not cover a total loss of and rain expected, those estimates could their crop for the year. And total crop loss grow. The main concern, according to would not even be the worst issue: A flood Kivett, is that the levees were not designed could cover the entire area of fertile ground to sustain this water level for an extended surrounding Tallulah with layers and layers period of time. The state government has of sand. This would necessitate rolling the also reported concern about the speed with ground with heavy equipment and tilling it which the water will be moving through the to bring the topsoil back up—at great exarea as it passes near the town. pense to the farmers. Jason Trichell, 5th Louisiana Levee Dis- Collins is matter of fact about what he trict superintendent of operations, said that and other area farmers face. the levy is expected to hold, and that resi- “The land is going to get farmed,” dents should not be concerned about sand he said. “Farmland is going to be farmed, boils that occur when water seeps beneath whether you do it or somebody else does it. the levy. This process is expected and nor- No matter what.” mal. By all accounts, the levee system sur- Freelance writer Tim Roberson grew up in rounding the area will keep back the waters. the Tallulah, La., area.
ave Collins of Collins Farms in Tallulah, La., sits in his office, staring across his desk at his older brother Curt Collins who sits in a broad blue sofa, holding a phone to his ear. “Well, are you hurt?” Curt asks his caller. He sighs deeply and looks across at Dave. It seems one of their fertilizer trucks turned over into a ditch on its way back to Tallulah from Yazoo City. “Just what we need on top of everything else,” Dave says with resignation. The “everything else” he’s referring to is the rising Mississippi River threatening to flood into the surrounding Delta farmland and destroy what promises to be an amazing yearly crop for the Collins’ and many other farmers in the area. Tallulah is a small community nestled among the curving, levied banks of the Mississippi, a short drive across the river bridge from Vicksburg. Because of a heavy reliance on the surrounding farmland as their main industry, the residents of Tallulah are facing a crisis not seen since 1927. The floodwaters are coming, and as the Mississippi River continues to swell, the citizens of Tallulah brace for destruction on a scale not seen in many of their lifetimes. In 1927, the residents of the area experienced what was the last great flood for the area. Then, as now, the river waters threatened, but the levee systems were rudimentary and only built by the farmers to protect what little land they farmed, says Geneva Williams, coordinator of the Hermione House, the local Madison Parish museum. As the waters rose higher, and the levees began to overtop, local officials made the decision to cut the levee at a plantation north of Tallulah called Cabin Teal. This allowed the floodwaters to invade the town from the north. Williams recounts that the town was greatly submerged, but the citizens persevered and the town recovered. Richmond, La., Mayor Robert Kivett has been privy to the meetings with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and officials from the Department of Homeland Security concerning the
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ACLU of MS is proud to support the
50th Anniversary of the Freedom Riders. Your contribution changed the world.
Are you a card-carrying member of the ACLU? Join us as we take the lead in some of the most important civil rights battles of our time:
May 18 - 24, 2011
• Over Incarceration • Unchecked Government Spying • Reproductive Justice • The School to Prison Pipeline • Felony Dis-franchisement • Violence/Discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, • Discrimination against People living with HIV/AIDS
If any of these issues are important to you, contact us to see how you can get involved at 601-354-3408, www.aclu-ms.org, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inmates (left to right) Benny Joe Stevens, Rodney Gray and Robert Simon sued the state over a change to its lethal-injection drugs. Stevens was executed May 10, Gray was executed May 17, and Simon, too, will likely die before seeing the outcome of his case.
nce the drugs started to flow, it took only a minute for Benny Joe Stevens’ lips to stop moving. He slipped out of consciousness, and soon his heart stopped. At 6:22 p.m. on May 10, the 52-yearold man from Marion County—who had finally admitted to killing four people in 1998—became the first person the state of Mississippi executed this year. Stevens’ death was a procedure much like the nine other executions by lethal injection that the state has conducted since 2002, with one exception. The first drug to flow through Stevens’ veins, pentobarbital—the one that rendered him unconscious—was a replacement in the threedrug cocktail used to execute inmates. Pentobarbital, a barbiturate anesthetic, replaced another drug, sodium thiopental, which had been the standard anesthetic used in lethal injections across the country. In January, however, Hospira, the only American supplier of sodium thiopental, announced that it would stop manufacturing the drug. Left in the lurch, corrections departments across the country scrambled to find a new anesthetic to use in executions. Like many states, Mississippi settled on pentobarbital. A pair of advocacy organizations is challenging that decision, though. Mississippians Educating for Smart Justice, an anti-death-penalty group, and Mississippi Cure, a criminal-justice reform organization, filed a lawsuit against MDOC on April 14 arguing that the state failed to follow its own legal requirements for providing public notice when changing the combination of lethal-injection drugs. Along with the two organizations, three death-row inmates with impending execution dates also signed onto the lawsuit: Stevens, Rodney Gray—whose execution was Tuesday, May 17—and Robert Simon, scheduled for a May 21 execution. The state’s Administrative Procedures Law requires state agencies to publish any proposed changes to their procedures in a bulletin from the Secretary of State’s office for 25 days before adopting the rule change. If they are successful, MESJ and
Mississippi Cure would only be able to delay the change for those 25 days. The groups suffered an early defeat last month when Hinds County Circuit Judge Bill Gowan ruled against their suit. They then filed the suit in the Mississippi Supreme Court, asking for a temporary stay of any impending executions. The Supreme Court denied the temporary stay, denying the possibility of a temporary reprieve for Stevens, Gray or Simon. Jackson attorney David McCarty, who filed the lawsuit, said one of the reasons MESJ and Mississippi Cure listed themselves as parties to the suit was to ensure that there would be surviving plaintiffs when the Supreme Court finally hears the case. “We can win the civil suit, and it will not have helped Mr. Simon or Mr. Gray or certainly not Mr. Stevens,” McCarty said. “It’s one of the reasons why we included other citizen groups. We were worried that, to be perfectly grisly, we might run out of plaintiffs. Now, there are other people we think will have standing to request to intervene in our lawsuit, and there are other public interest groups that have expressed interest in joining the lawsuit.” In circuit court, attorneys for the state argued that MDOC’s death-penalty procedures qualified for an exception in the state law, which excludes rules “directly related only to inmates of a correctional or detention facility” from the publicnotice requirement. McCarty rejected that contention, however, saying that executions affect prison staff, families of the victim and the condemned, as well as the taxpayers whose money funds the execution. “At the very least the death penalty impacts every person in the state of Mississippi,” McCarty said. “It’s the highest exercise of the state’s power to execute a citizen. … It goes further: The taxpayers pay for this procedure, and it costs thousands and thousands of dollars. So to say that this somehow only affects the people being executed and doesn’t affect anyone else in the state, I think is beyond ludicrous.” Comment at www.jfp.ms.
by Ward Schaefer
Gifted education in Jackson Public Schools has shrunk to the bare minimum due to state budget cuts.The district says this will save teachers’ jobs.
tate budget cuts are forcing Jackson Public Schools to scale back its gifted-education classes to the bare minimum required by state law. With their emphasis on hands-on learning and critical thinking, classes for “gifted” students are among the highlights of any school district. As Jackson Public Schools has discovered, along with districts across the state, those classes are gifts themselves,
dependent on state education funding. State law requires districts to provide special classes to students designated “intellectually gifted” in grades two through six. For years, JPS has offered gifted classes beyond that basic requirement, though, into seventh and eighth grade and for each of the four years of high school. Starting in the 2009-2010 school year, cuts to the state education budget have
forced JPS to roll back its gifted offerings. The district eliminated the seventh- and eighth-grade gifted programs at all middle schools except one, Blackburn Middle School near Jackson State University. It also limited high-school gifted offerings only to Forest Hill High School. Now, with Blackburn poised to move into a brand-new building next year, the school’s gifted program is also getting cut back to the bare-bones requirement of sixth grade only. Forest Hill’s ninth-grade through 12th-grade gifted classes are also on the chopping block. Vicki Davidson, director of the district’s Office of Advanced Academics, said that the reductions were necessary to save teaching jobs after the state Department of Education reduced funding for gifted-education teachers. “For the upcoming school year, we were funded at a reduced level, which means essentially that if we want to save jobs, we have to no longer offer those services at those two sites,” Davidson said. “In order to secure jobs for our full-time gifted education teachers, we can no longer offer programs at those two sites.” JPS is doing all it can to retain its gifted-education teachers, Davidson said. Often, teachers of gifted classes are also
leaders of extracurricular activities and coaches on academic teams like quiz bowl, said Susan Womack, executive director of Parents for Public Schools of Greater Jackson. “Everybody stands a chance of losing if those teachers go away, Womack said. In fact, the district’s decision to preserve Blackburn’s seventh- and eighth-grade gifted classes for the past two years was, in part, recognition of the special role that the school’s gifted teacher, Bridget Harkins, plays there. In a statement, Davidson said that Harkins “is a pivotal part of the school’s leadership team” and helped plan the move to a new building. When state funding loosens up again, JPS will return gifted programs to middle schools and high schools, Davidson said. In December 2009, the school board adopted a policy stating its intention to provide gifted programs beyond sixth grade “based on the availability of program funding.” Offering gifted classes in more grades is a worthy goal, Womack said, but an even greater one would be to apply the curriculum and teaching techniques of gifted classes to all students. “All children should be taught like gifted children,” Womack said.
Revealing Heaven On Earth
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A Newspaper Is Born
ever in the history of journalism, as we know it in the State of Mississippi, has any newspaper from its inception had such bold aims and purity of purpose as the MISSISSIPPI FREE PRESS. This is a Mississippi paper and a free paper. ... This newspaper holds certain beliefs that are characteristic of free Americans. We believe that all men should be free—no man a slave. We believe in freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of movement, and freedom from intimidation. These, among others, are the rights of all Mississippians, regardless of creed, color or religion. The MISSISSIPPI FREE PRESS dedicates itself to helping to maintain these freedoms. But even more important, the MISSISSIPPI FREE PRESS makes a pledge of helping to secure these rights for those Mississippians who have been denied them. This newspaper will at all times champion the cause of justice. It will fight injustice. It will take no backward steps. Much will be written in the future in the MISSISSIPPI FREE PRESS about the problems of this State—and we have many. We will not hesitate in offering constructive criticism. We very definitely will have our say about our state’s fiscal policies, about our schools, about teachers’ salaries, about reapportionment, about voting and registration, and about desegregation. We urge all our leaders to take an active part in bringing about the redeemed community, a community in which men might live together in peace and harmony. This might be done by each citizen of Mississippi: 1. Putting forth an extra effort to respect the person and property of others. 2. Constantly reminding ourselves that we are only free to do those things which do not abridge the freedom of others. 3. Realizing that no matter how disrespectful an individual might become, this person is sacred because he is a creation of God and must be treated as such. 4. Using his influence to bring others in to the struggle for human dignity. In order that we might better serve and meet the needs of all the people of Mississippi, we encourage you to write letters of constructive criticism to the editor and to present plans by which we can work together to improve any given problem within our state. This editorial appeared on page of the first issue of the Mississippi Free Press on Dec. 16, 1961. The MFP was based in Jackson and produced and printed by a multiracial group of Mississippians. The Jackson Free Press, which launched Sept. 22, 2002, is named for the Mississippi Free Press, which ceased publication in 1973.
My Dog Bites Booty
May 18 - 24, 2011
r. Announcement: “This is your Operation Corporate Backlash Crime Watch Report News Brief, brought to you by the Association of Gated Communities and the My Dog Bites Booty Home Security Pre-emptive Strike Security System. The MDBB system comes complete with vicious pre-emptive strike attack dog, ‘My Dog Bites Booty’ warning sign and complimentary Dick Cheney autographed double-barrel shotgun (just in case the strike dog does not strike). “The Crime Watch Report News Brief is your source for information on suspicious individuals and activities in desirable suburban communities. Here’s your Crime Watch News Brief reporter, I. M. Scared.” I.M. Scared: “In today’s Crime Watch News, the Cootie Creek County board of directors unanimously passed the ‘Get out of Town by Sundown’ curfew law. This law enables law enforcement officers and security personnel to deter possible criminal activity by enforcing a curfew time (preferably sundown) for individuals who live outside of Cootie Creek County. “The law requires domestic workers, gardeners and other service staff from crime-ridden urban areas to show proper identification before entering Cootie Creek County during the day. After sundown, ‘outsiders’ must ‘get out of town.’ Failure to obey the curfew law will result in arrest, severe beat down or suspended work privileges. “‘We had to pass this law to maintain law and order within the boundaries of our safe and desirable community,’ said an anonymous Cootie Creek County board member. “This has been your Crime Watch News Brief for today. Remember: Be 12 careful out there.”
Noise from the blogs @jacksonfreepress.com
Sheriff Candidate Bashes Jackson in Disturbing Ad We saw this at the movies over the weekend and were horrified. Jackson may have its problems (who doesn’t?), but I’d move if Mark Sandridge lived on my side of the street. —Deirdra Harris Glover
don’t have a theater in Hinds but that’s OK. Send a message with the pocket book, and don’t go to a movie there. Let’s post on our FB pages and twitter. Ready? Go! —Langston Moore
I am so tired of this “us vs. them,” smallminded, bigoted mindset. What’s he going to do? Build a concrete wall to separate Madison County from Hinds? What an idiot. Especially when so many of the high-priced lawyers, doctors and business people who live in Madison work in Jackson in its courts, hospitals and offices. And where do they go for entertainment? Thalia Mara hall, the museums, the zoo ... all in Jackson. When are people going to learn that we all sink or swim together? —Ronni_Mott
He’s not what this Madison County resident wants. I sent an email to the man’s campaign website, letting them know I had considered voting for him and would definitely not be doing it now, thanks to this ad. If he wins with this type of message, how can he effectively work with JPD and Hinds law enforcement? There are plenty of criminals living in Madison County, and this type of thinking makes it a lot easier for those criminals to get away with it. —lls32001
Whether you like it or not … this fella is exactly what Madison residents want! They’ve not tried to keep it a secret. Those of us who really care about Jackson have been screaming their attitude to the top of our lungs but have been redirected by others who say we “have to work together.” Madison isn’t interested in “working together.” Every opportunity they get—on websites and media outlets—they are digging into the pulse of Jackson and spitting in our faces. They are bold and consistent. They don’t want anything to do with Jacksonian “thugs and criminals.” … Sarcasm off. —Queen601 If you have movie plans this week or weekend, go to Rankin County. It’s unfortunate we
I am adamantly opposed to attempts to paint any group (whether Madison Countians or Jacksonians) with the same brush, because that’s just as ignorant, but they do need to speak out against this if they care about living in a strong metro. This is divisive. We all need to speak out against these kinds of divisiveness. We all sink or swim together. The sooner we realize, the sooner our city, metro and state will get up off the bottom. And Malco needs to stop running that ad. It’s got to be bad for their business. I know the company isn’t a Mississippi company, but it’s based in Memphis, not China. They must realize that it is irresponsible to make money-goers pay to sit through something that bashes their home city. —Donna Ladd
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James L. Dickerson
Civil Rights Ainâ€™t Just History
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is a self-inflicted limitation that the rest of the world marvels at. People wonder why Mississippians continue to shoot themselves in the foot, content to be No. 1 in most major illnesses, obesity, mental illness and poverty. My final years at Ole Miss overlapped with those of Gov. Haley Barbour. I have written before that I played in a rock â€˜nâ€™ roll band and recall performing at Barbourâ€™s SAE frat house, where I witnessed him dancing the night away with a dance style that was similar to what a fire hydrant would look like if hurricane-force winds made it teeter back and forth. An unrepentant party animal, he was director of social affairs for the Associated Student Body and chairman of the concert committee, which I naturally paid a lot of attention to. That was one side of him. But I also recall a different Haley Barbour. When he ran for ASP president in 1968 as a progressive, the student newspaper, The Mississippian, quoted him as saying his platform was â€œto change the now unprogressive attitudes of most administrators. â€Ś Itâ€™s my feeling that the university has suffered from student apathy, which is caused by the ASBâ€™s doing little with which the average student can identify.â€? Perhaps indicative of Ole Miss in 1968 was a news story that bumped against Barbourâ€™s election announcement in The Mississippian and competed for a shallow news hole. Under the headline â€œHisses trump Ace,â€? the newspaper reported that Ace Carter, a speech writer for segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace, was heckled and hissed by Ole Miss students during a Q&A following a speech in which Carter said â€œthe recent centralization of powers in the federal government, along with increased suppression of statesâ€™ rights, is very compatible to the communist philosophy.â€? Barbour left Ole Miss for a semester to work in Richard Nixonâ€™s presidential campaign, perhaps feeling that Nixon was a flaming liberal compared to George Wallace. Indeed, 1968â€™s Nixon would be considered too liberal by todayâ€™s standards for him to qualify to be a Republican. The point in telling you that story is to remind you that humans are complicated. Now that he has returned to his progressive roots, I would like to see the governor finish what he started with the civil rights museum and shepherd the bond issue through to completion before he leaves office. Who knows? Later, if retirement gets to be a drag, he might want to volunteer as social chairman for the proposed all-star concerts to benefit the museum. James L. Dickerson is co-author of â€œDevilâ€™s Sanctuary: An Eyewitness History of Mississippi Hate Crimesâ€? and a former editorial writer for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn.
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