Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Magnolia State of Mind

M I crooked letter crooked letter I crooked letter crooked letter I humpback humpback I. Today I want to talk to you about one of my favorite things: Mississippi.

When I think of Mississippi I think of summer’s spent on the water fishing with my dad. I think of Friday night football games in high school and Saturday mornings in the Grove. I think of Southern Hospitality, magnolias, and sweet tea. When I think of Mississippi I think of home. Mississippi really is like your family, not without fault, but still loveable.

Kathryn Stockett the author of The Help said it best, “Mississippi is like my mother.  I am allowed to complain about her all I want, but God help the person that raises an ill word about her around me, unless she is their mother too.”
It is no secret that the world has a negative view of Mississippi. Some would even argue that this is justified. According to an article on Statemaster.com Mississippi ranks last in median family income, oral health, and percent of residents who have completed high school. But according to this same website we also rank among the lowest in binge drinkers, arson deaths, and average gas prices. It seems the world has decided to push aside all our state’s accomplishments in favor of publicizing our weaknesses. I don't know when it happened, but at some point the national media decided to start hating on Mississippi. We've become the butt of a national joke, and to tell you the truth I'm really sick of it.

On my last trip out of the state I encountered what I like to call a “Mississippi Hater.” These people know nothing of the real Mississippi; only of the sensationalized Hollywood version. If you ask them if they’ve ever been to our state they’ve usually only driven through on their way to the beach for Spring Break or to New Orleans for Mardi Grass.

This Mississippi Hater was from Alabama, and he made “well at least I’m not from Mississippi” jokes all night. The irony of this was not lost on me because really is Alabama any better than Mississippi? I've lived in both and I don't think so.

If you’re from Mississippi I’m sure you probably have a similar story about an encounter with a Mississippi Hater. You completely understand what a major issue this is for us. You know that not all Mississippians fit into this negative stereotype society has fed to the rest of the world.

William Faulkner, a fellow Mississippian once said “to understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.”

Part of Mississippi’s problem is that the world does not understand us, they do not understand that we can be both imperfect and still posses many positives. How do we fix this problem? The solution is really very simple; Mississippians should be vocal about our state’s accomplishments. As a state we are in need of an intensive public relations campaign, and we are the perfect ones to help carry it out.

Why aren’t Mississippian’s already doing this? Unfortunately many of us have bought into the picture pop culture America is selling us, and we’ve forgotten many of the accomplishments of our state. Mississippi is the state that brought you Pin-Sol, the Teddy Bear, Memorial Day, and 4-H clubs. We're the home state of Tennessee Williams, Elvis Presley, Oprah Winfrey, and Kermit the Frog.

Luckily I am not the only one who loves Mississippi and wants the rest of the world to take notice of our state’s achievements. After one too many encounters with “Mississippi Haters” a Jackson based PR firm decided to create the Mississippi, Believe It campaign in 2005.

According to their website, Mississippibelieveit.com the Mississippi, Believe It!™, campaign was designed “to inform and educate the world about the accomplishments, wonderful people, aspects and facts associated with the state of Mississippi. The campaign takes common Mississippi stereotypes and twists them to reveal the truth about the state.”

Today’s technology makes it the perfect time to show the world that Mississippi should not be the butt of our national jokes. You can go to mississippibelieveit.com to easily share one of their 17 different posters each honoring a different Mississippi triumph.  My favorite Mississippi Believe It poster is "Yes, we can read, A few of us can even Write" which features 14 famous Mississippi authors.

I hope you'll join me in my crusade for Mississippi. Together let's tell the world that Mississippi is more than what they see in movies or read in books; Mississippi is a great state with much to offer. Just think of how nice it would be if the rest of the world knew what I know, that Mississippi truly is a great place. I know I would love nothing more than to one day raise a family here in Mississippi and have them proud to call this state home. I dream of a day when I can tell someone I’m from Mississippi and they not question my intelligence. I pray for the day that Ole Miss is no longer associated with intolerant past, but instead revered for our outstanding academics, and maybe if I’m really lucky a national championship football team.

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