It's almost Father's Day, which means that it's time to celebrate the men we love, and we're not just talking about fathers. Many men in the Jackson metro area are contributing to the community in different ways, from highlighting the state's positives, to helping Jackson become a better city, to making us laugh. Here are some of this year's Men We Love.
One of the first projects Greater Jackson Arts Council Project Specialist David Lewis coordinated for the organization are some of the recently painted traffic boxes in downtown Jackson.
Lewis graduated from Mississippi State University in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in architecture and is currently working on his master's degree in urban development at Jackson State University.
"My design background really influenced the reason why I stayed in Jackson," Lewis says. "As I was going and travelling a lot—with architecture school you get to go on a trip every year—that allowed me to see a bunch of different cities. When I went into college, I thought, 'I'm just going to go out and do architecture somewhere.' But the more that I saw other cities and saw other places, I just want to see that happen in Jackson."
In 2015, former Team JXN Chairman Ben Allen invited Lewis to join the organization, which is dedicated to entrepreneurial and community growth in Jackson. Nine months later, Lewis took an internship opportunity at the Arts Council in summer 2016, and the internship developed into a job. As the project specialist, Lewis handles the social-media accounts for the Arts Council, runs Food Truck Fridays, orchestrates mural and public-art projects and looks for new public-art projects to bring to Jackson. —Cam Bonelli
Jackson native Shon Harris, 38, has been bartending since 1999. His favorite part of the job is that it allows him to meet people from all backgrounds.
"That's probably the most rewarding part," Harris says. "And everybody likes me because I got all the alcohol. ... I've been behind the wood for so long. I have a passion for it. It sounds generic, but I really like what I do."
Harris has worked at businesses such as Last Call Sports Grill in Jackson. In 2011, Harris combined his love of bartending and entrepreneurship to create Good Spirits Bartending Service. "I wanted it to have value to this community, as well as provide the state with something nice that residents can be proud of," he says.
Good Spirits Bartending Service provides professional bartenders for party functions. So far, he says it has been smooth sailing, but he looks forward to the obstacles that might arise because they mean that he's making progress.
"When they come my way, I know I'm not stagnant," he says.
Over the course of his career, Harris has worked all kinds of events, from AARP functions to the Jackson Hip Hop Awards. When he's not bartending, he enjoys trying different types of bourbons and scotch whiskey. —Devna Bose
Jermaine Sims, 33, has many titles, including award-winning massage therapist and deejay, but the one he holds closest to his heart is his position as the offensive coordinator for the Wingfield High School football team.
The Jackson native is the oldest of four, and he held football in high regard while in school, he says. "Growing up here, of course, every Jackson kid will have the same story," Sims says. "It's hard times. There's a lot of single-parent homes, including mine."
Sims says that older boys he looked up to in his neighborhood played sports, and once he got to high school, he was determined to do the same. He played everything from wide receiver to quarterback on the gridiron and continued playing at Coahoma Community College and Jackson State University. After graduating from JSU in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in physical education with a concentration in recreation administration, he knew he wanted to give back to Wingfield.
"Remembering how I was shown the way by those guys, it made me want to come back and give back," he says. "I always wanted to be a coach. It was almost like a dream-come-true to be offered a coach position at my alma mater."
Sims says he couldn't imagine his life without football. "Football changed my life," he says. "I definitely wouldn't be in this position had it not been for those football players who showed me the way, so I just want to give back." —Devna Bose
Sean Michael Cornwell
For 11 years, Sean Michael Cornwell has been living in Mississippi as a mortgage banker with RedRock Mortgage. Cornwell, who is a 37-year-old native of Enid, Okla., attended the University of Central Oklahoma and graduated with a bachelor's degree in graphic design in 2002.
Immediately after college Cornwell moved to Denton, Texas, with a friend to start a graphic and video design company. While the venture did not pan out, it did lead him to move back Oklahoma and get involved in the mortgage industry.
As a mortgage banker, Cornwell says problem-solving is a necessity when it comes to helping people get the house they want.
"With graphic design we were taught to be problem-solvers, and mortgages are similar. I sometimes consider myself a 'mortgage designer,'" he says.
Cornwell says that he likes to use his design talents to inspire others. For instance, if a couple of people are starting a business from the ground up, he does not mind making a logo for free.
He says that his life goal is to be a better man every day and to always be there if people need him.
"I want people to remember me as Sean, the man who made the world around him better," Cornwell says. —Khadijah Brandi Belton
Utica resident Carlton Turner, 42, is an active member of the Jackson arts scene and the executive director of the community-arts organization, Alternate ROOTS.
Although Turner attended the University of Mississippi and Alcorn State University, he received his bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut in 2014 and returned to Utica to start his family with his wife, Brandi.
He is also the co-founder and co-artistic director of the Mississippi-based performing arts group M.U.G.A.B.E.E., which blends jazz, hip-hop, spoken-word poetry and soul music together.
Turner describes Alternate ROOTS as a member-service organization that supports artists working at the intersection of arts and activism. He first got involved as an artist. He started working with ROOTS in 2004 as a regional development director. He also serves on several boards and committees in the community.
"As an artist working around the Jackson area, working with other socially conscious artists, I always wanted my artwork to have an impact on society and community," Turner says.
Turner became executive director in 2009. "We've been able to provide resources to artists all across the southeast and build a network of artists and cultural workers that are supporting each other," Turner says.
Through creating a relationship between the arts, activism and community, Alternate ROOTS works to support artists who are doing work for social justice. "It is very much an organization that is run by artists to support artists," Turner says. —Devna Bose
Storytelling runs in Julian Rankin's blood. He is the current director of media and public relations and soon-to-be director of art and public exchange for the Mississippi Museum of Art—and story is an integral part of his job.
Rankin's dad, Tom, who is a photographer, folklorist and documentarian, came to Mississippi from Atlanta when Rankin was 1 to live in Shaw in the Delta.
Because of his dad's profession, Rankin grew up exposed to the state's rich cultural heritage, he says. For example, his father's friend, author Willie Morris, would perform magic tricks by pulling a dollar out of Rankin's ear. Morris would tell him and other children, "I just want you to know kids there is a gold mine between your ears," which Rankin says was a reference to the creativity in Mississippi's art, writing and storytelling.
Rankin's family moved to North Carolina for his dad's work around middle school, and he went to high school and then college there. In 2009, Rankin graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor in creative writing.
"(With) access to Mississippi storytelling and all the stories that we have, it was just a natural thing to pursue," Rankin says about his degree.
As the director of marketing and communications for MMA, Rankin works to engage the community through outreach and partnerships. His work with the museum, he says, allows him to weave together various art forms in the state.
Rankin, 30, lives in Fondren with his wife, Caroline, and their son, Julian. —Kristina Norman
Patrick Jerome, 35, has honed a multitude of talents, including being a stand-up comedian and Rainbow Natural Grocery Cooperative's community outreach director. He graduated from Millsaps College in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in political science.
As Rainbow's community outreach director, Jerome works to inform shoppers about products and keeps shareholders in the know about company changes.
Jerome is also a comedian, photographer, blogger, website developer, humor writer and self-described "low-level adventurer" in his spare time.
"There's enough absurdity out there that all you have to do is take a close look," Jerome says on his comedy. "Relay that information to people, and it's going to be comedy gold."
In his spare time, he takes photos along the Pearl River for his personal website, Pearl River Flow.
"Garbage," he says of his approach to photography. "I take pictures of garbage. ... I think that not only do people view the world as disposable, they see the world as their trash can. ...
"I think that if people saw the items as art, as things that would be evocative and memorable, they'd remember them for longer—and maybe be a little more mindful about dumping them in the river."
Abandoned shoes are what started his interested in the river's conservation, Jerome says. His uploads to Twitter capture attention because he points out what he sees in the environment.
Jerome also serves as a board member for the Mississippi Humanist Association. The organization does things such as brings guest speakers to Jackson, and does school-supply drives and a book drive for Big House Books. —Jack Hammett
Jackson native Daniel Ball, who is gay, has been involved in LGBT advocacy since he was a teenager, volunteering with peer support groups and serving on the board of directors for the advocacy group CNAC at age 19.
After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in business management, he went on to work as a human resource manager at the Nissan plant in Canton.
"I enjoyed the job, and I was good at it, but I didn't love it," Ball says.
In 2015, he changed his a career path to do professionally what he had been fighting for most of his adult life—a job with the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights organization, as the faith and outreach organizer.
"I left Nissan and was offered the job with the (HRC) on the day of the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality," Ball says. "I took the biggest pay cut at the time, and said 'God, please give me a sign that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing,' and I think that was a sign."
Ball, 27, has a 13-year-old nephew, who is bi-racial and was in foster care for two years in Alabama. He got custody in November 2016, and the adoption was finalized in February of this year.
"I try to keep him engaged in different issues so that he's always aware," Ball says. "He comes to the rallies we have, he volunteers at the office, and we go to the coffee shop together and play chess."
His nephew is a huge part of why he feels so honored to be named a Jackson Free Press Man We Love, he says.
"It's these little forms of affirmation that remind you people are always watching," he says. "This is something I can show my nephew and show him that this is what you can accomplish through hard work and being a good person."—Tyler Edwards
While Christopher Lomax was working to develop an app, he noted that at the time, Mississippi didn't have many technology incubators or co-working spaces. That gave him the idea to found Mantle, which is a technology incubator and co-working space for creators and entrepreneurs to work and receive guidance on launching their creations, in April 2016.
Lomax was born on the Gulf Coast in Pascagoula, but he was raised in Mobile, Ala. He received his bachelor's degree in journalism in 2004 from the University of Mississippi and then graduated from UM's law school in 2009. He received his master's of business administration from Millsaps College in 2013. Lomax moved to Jackson in 2010.
He named Mantle after the part of an oyster that produces a pearl from sand and debris that get trapped inside, with the idea of creating a proverbial tech sandbox in Jackson.
On the business' future, Lomax, 37, says, "We are in the process of transforming from more of a focus on co-working and working to what we're calling 'Mantle City Club,'" he says. "... You're not precluded if you have an office elsewhere, but we still want all those creatives, entrepreneurs, those types of people to have a place that is their clubhouse so that they can run into other people that are doing the same thing to hopefully spur innovation and entrepreneurship in Jackson and Mississippi." —Maya Parker
Kamel King, a Jackson native, is a practicing entertainment attorney, educator and proponent for Mississippi tourism who loves music. He says his work as the special projects manager for Visit Mississippi allows him to share the state's gems with others. "We just have so many resources," he says. "First of all, we're the birthplace of America's music. And our culinary history has influenced the entire world. I get to help proliferate Mississippi's brand to the rest of the world in the right way."
King's company, The Copyright King, brings together his love for music and the law. "I've loved music since I was a kid following my father, Lee King. He was a promoter and radio host who toured with James Brown out of high school," he says.
Kamel King attended Tougaloo College. He received his pre-law degree and bachelor's degree in international relations in 2003 and his law degree from Mississippi College School of Law in 2006. From 2006 to 2016, he was director of operations and in-house counsel for Terminal Recording Studios. From 2007 to 2013, he practiced at Frascogna Courtney PLLC. He started his business, Copyright King LLC, in 2012. Starting this month, King will teach an entertainment law class at Mississippi College.
"I look forward to sharing my experiences and giving young law students a bird's eye view on what it's really like to be a part of this industry, that it's real work," he says.
In addition to his many professional hats, King is a father. "I have a 4-year-old daughter (Kennedy)," he says. "She keeps me very busy. Fatherhood is about time. It's about having a relationship where your children can be honest with you. I can talk to my parents about anything, and that has given me the self-esteem to feel like I can do anything." —Kendra Wright