They can be found at the grocery store, in bars and at your local eatery. If you miss them in those places, you're sure to find one in your Sunday school class or at work. What are they?
The mouth is the only truly active thing about an armchair activist. They strike up impromptu meetings in stores or at work. During these gripe sessions, they complain about problems ranging from the war in Iraq to the war on drugs, offering a myriad of solutions.
Beginning sentences with phrases like "what they need to do is...," they solve all the problems ailing society and get a headstart on the problem of world peace. Interested and knowledgeable about everything, you can always count on them for a solution to any problem you have.
Except that the armchair activists who only activate their mouths are at the root of our problems here in Jackson. I encounter these conversations daily and participate in more than a few. However, along with many others who care, I involve more than my mouth in the effort to find solutions.
A glaring example of our contribution to the problems in Jackson is the closing of the Kroger grocery store at the corner of Raymond and McDowell roads. This news brought great frustration to the residents of the area, or so they said. They told every city official they encountered from the mayor to the meter maid what they should be doing to solve Jackson's problems and how the closing of Kroger was just one more example of their failure to do their jobs properly.
In response to the pending closure and all the griping about it, several local entities including Buy Jackson Inc., the Association of South Jackson Neighborhoods and Ward 6 Councilman Marshand Crisler called for area residents to show support for the store by meeting there one Saturday morning to participate in a buying campaign.
Mayor Frank Melton and Councilmen Charles Tillman and Frank Bluntson, along with other community leaders, came to lend their support and their dollars to the buying campaign.
Large numbers of supporters going into the store to purchase goods could have sent the message that South Jackson valued the store's presence and was willing to work with them on any issues fueling the decision to leave.
Imagine my surprise and disappointment when only a handful of people showed up to make the effort to keep the Kroger store in their neighborhood.
It is high time for the citizens of Jackson to stop contributing hot air and instead contribute warm bodies to those causes they claim to be concerned about. We sent a message, but it was the wrong message. The lack of participation from the community told Kroger in no uncertain terms that it did not matter if they left the area—we would just follow like sheep wherever they went.
The exodus has already started as they knew it would. Time and time again, we have proved that if they build it, we will go. Northpark, Home Depot and Dogwood Festival are three of the more obvious examples.
We offer the same lame excuses offered by former white residents of Jackson even while we lambaste them for white flight. Excuses about crime, lack of merchandise, cleanliness issues and more. We sing the same song as the folk we say were wrong to run away from Jackson and then do exactly the same thing as we shop in surrounding areas for basic necessities that are readily available in the Jackson market.
I am not advocating a boycott of surrounding areas, but rather a return to common sense. If we continue to leave our tax dollars in other towns and cities, those cities will be able to offer better services to their citizens, paid for by our tax dollars.
Why on earth would I, a Jacksonian, want to pay for the streets in Madison, Brandon, Clinton and Byram to be paved? Why would I want to pay for their police force if I really believe I can't shop in Jackson because the crime is so bad?
No! I want to pay for our police force, our streets, our stop signs and everything else we need first! If anything is left over after that, then let's spread the wealth around. Let's start by spending our dollars where we spend our lives. Let's contribute something besides hot air. Let's contribute some cold hard cash by shopping in Jackson first. When you're done with that, contribute your presence to a cause you care about.
The next time you're standing at the water cooler solving the problems of world peace, think about the piece of bread you'll have to travel further to buy because you didn't show up when it counted.
The city of Jackson is currently accepting applications for the position of solution-providers—community activists rather than armchair activists. It's time to engage much more than just your mouth.
Renee Shakespeare is vice president of Buy Jackson Inc., a member of the Association of South Jackson Neighborhoods and the Jackson Association of Neighborhoods and president of the Ventura Drive Block Club. E-mail her at [e-mail missing].
Amen, amen, and amen! I can't believe I didn't see this article sooner.