Lisa Palmer and
Raphael Semmes (tie)
It's not the way she looks, but her looks most men will tell you, don't hurt. Not in a she's-pretty-but-can-she-type kind of way. More like a she-can-sing-like-nobody's-business, oh, and she's-easy-on-the-eyes kind of way. Or, to put it another way: When she plays, some aren't sure if the puddle of drool on the floor is due to the fine-sounding music or the fine-looking woman. Eh, we know it's the music. Lisa Palmer—jazz singer, mother, wife, interior designer and member of Shirim Choir at the Beth Israel congregation—sings the standards like they're brand new; she makes her version of "Unforgettable" truly unforgettable. If you've somehow missed her, check out her recently released self-titled CD (available at Musiquarium and BeBop). Then go hear her live.
While you're there, you'll probably hear Jackson bassman Raphael Semmes backing Palmer up as part of the Knight Bruce Trio. To say that this man enriches the musical texture of Jackson is putting in mildly. He has a musical texture all his own. Semmes, also a solo musician and vocalist, plays bass: electric (fretted and fretless), seven-string, acoustic upright. He plays guitar and keyboard. He's played drums, trumpet and baritone. He plays funk, oldies and everything in between. We love him for his jazz and blues, though, and the fact that he's not only technically capable, but he's expressive to boot. The man plays what he feels, feels what he plays and makes Jackson all the richer for it.
Second place: Ironing Board Sam
Third place: Eddie Cotton
Staff pick: Special props go to young, sexy bluesman Eddie Cotton who is ready to rip the Year of the Blues to shreds. We saw Eddie light the stage on fire at Mikhail's anniversary party and will go hear him anytime, anywhere.
Best Curator: Turry Flucker
Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center
Best Curator: Turry Flucker
The JFP staff believes the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, the city's first African-American public school, is one of our best-kept secrets. We meet way too many people of all races who have never been to the art and history exhibits there, seen the powerful painting by Paul Campbell of the bullet-riddled Jackson State dorm, sipped punch at its festive openings and studied the permanent exhibits upstairs that document the city's very difficult race history. So imagine our surprise when Smith Robertson curator Turry Flucker won the "Best Curator" category hands down. The city is catching on. Flucker is one of the most charming, sophisticated and vibrant young gentlemen in the city, bringing art to the city that forces us to face our history and improve on it, and we're thrilled as punch to present him this award. (We are, though, seriously in awe of the Mississippi Museum of Art's effort to bring in a variety of art and more diverse and younger crowds. Kudos.)
Second place: Betsy Bradley, Mississippi Museum of Art
Third place: James Patterson, Gallery 119
Best Artist: Wyatt Waters
Best Artist: Wyatt Waters
Wyatt Waters, the critically acclaimed watercolorist, is an artist of the people, for the people. His evocative watercolors of Mississippi scenes—on view in homes and businesses and books—reveal his own passions for this place and similarly touch their viewers. Painting on location or in his studio in Clinton, Wyatt is an accessible and engaging artist—and about as likable a person as you'll ever meet. He's ours, and we're proud.
— JoAnne Prichard Morris
Second place: Anthony DiFatta
Third place: Susan Ford and Felandus Thames (tie)
Best Disc Jockey: Scott Steele
This is one of those categories that we probably should have broken up more; now we know. We got a few votes for about every club and radio disc jockey in town. In the end Y101 morning jock and promotions director Scott Steele squeaked it out. Formerly with 95.5 The Beat, he's one of those guys a lot of sleepy people listen to on the interstate in the morning in between Top 40 songs they know by heart. Nothing wrong with that, mind you: We all need comfort radio during stressful times (after all, this editor and music snob is listening to "Boogie Fever" on some cookie-cutter Clear Channel outlet at this very moment). So, no judgment here.
But we must admit that we're more enamored with the readers' third choice: DJ Phingaprint, a classic hiphop jock who spins at spots like Seven* where you can bury yourself in a sofa with no sloppy drunks puffing cigarette smoke in your face and just groove to the beat.
— Donna Ladd
Second place: Perez, Arrow 94.7
Third place: DJ Phingaprint
Best Public Servant: Ben Allen
When six-year Ward 1 Councilman Ben Allen refused to accept a council pay raise in spring 2000, opting to donate the money to charity, he won the support of many citizens of his Northeast Jackson district. Allen has passionately served his district while also being a peacemaker and bridge-builder both on the Council and with suburban communities. Allen hosts a talk show on WJNT-1180 AM every Tuesday morning. But Jackson might lose him soon; the Republican is reportedly considering running for state treasurer.
Second place: Isaac Byrd, Ronnie Musgrove,
William Winter (tie)
Third place: Mike Moore, Chip Pickering,
Kenneth Stokes, Jackson Free Press (tie)
Staff pick: This category drew a variety of responses, showing the diversity in opinion and ideology of our readers (and we were amused that some see the JFP already as a "public servant." We'll take that.) We, however, are extremely partial to former Gov. William Winter, a Jacksonian, a gentleman, and a hero for his time who defied the status quo and brought the first substantive education reform to Mississippi. He turns 80 this year. Happy birthday.
Best High School Band:
Murrah and Lanier (tie)
Led by drum majors John Brown and Roderick Little, Lanier—the first black high school band in Jackson—was practicing on a tennis court at the school last Friday afternoon in
preparation for this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. Brown told the cold group of 88
students that if they couldn't dance they could go home. No one left. Who's the best High School Band in Jackson: Murrah or Lanier?
The voters had as hard of a time deciding as I did. Similar in many ways, these two bands know how to get crowds on their feet, dancing and clapping at football games and competitions. With heavy bass beats and great selections of music, they both implant a smile firmly on your face when you see them march in area parades, including the annual MLK, Christmas, Alcorn and Jackson State homecoming parades, among others. We're proud of them both.
— J. Bingo Holman
Second place: Callaway
Third place: Clinton
Best Poet: Jolivette Anderson
"Black women cry and make rivers out of strings" is a line from a poem written by Jolivette Anderson that made her, when reciting it, move rigorously, sing and throw her wrap from her head. It made her scream. It made her laugh. It made the audience shake. She is boisterous and lively. She is unmistakable in her wrap and calorie-shell earrings dangling from her lobes. How many ways are there to describe a woman who can in one breath speak to you seriously about a poet's responsibility and the forefathers of Black Art and, in the next, make you tremble with laughter. Her artistry extends to her conversation, which is filled with her personal "edutainment" philosophy. The owner of She Prophecy Entertainment and founder of Mississippi Eyes includes literary and grammar trivia between readings at her Open Mic Night at Soulshine Pizza Factory, now held every Wednesday starting at 8 p.m. Go hear Jolivette for yourself.
— Shannon L. Buckley
Second place: David Williams
Third place: Greg Miller and Ken Stiggers (tie)
Best Newscaster: Maggie Wade
If you watch WLBT-TV3, you know the familiar face of a woman who is small in stature and height. Yet, Maggie Wade's presence on television and in the community is large. She is one of the main reasons many viewers tune in to the 6 and 10 o'clock news reports. Both her laugh and smile are familiar and make viewers feel comfortable when she reports the news without an air of superiority. But it is her work with foster children in Jackson that makes her shine above the rest. In addition to reporting the news, each week she spotlights a different child or family of children who need a home, or follows up on children adopted after she spotlighted them. The mother of two, committed more to what matters than sensationalism, is the type of newscaster Jacksonians clearly would like to see more often.
— Shannon L. Buckley
Second place: Howard Ballou, WLBT, and Gene Edwards, WAPT-TV16
Third place: Wayne Carter, WAPT
Best Educator: Bob Moses
Here's another winner that makes us blush with pride. Our readers know that Robert P. Moses spends his weeks in Jackson—and his weekends with his wife in Cambridge, Mass.—so that he can teach young people here the value of math literacy. Moses first came to Mississippi in the 1960s from a cushy private-school teaching job in New York City to fight for civil rights, and he ended up as a primary organizer of the soon-to-be violent, but ultimately successful, Freedom Summer of 1964 that led to blacks in the state winning the right to vote. He was beaten and dragged to jail by bigoted police officers, and had the full wrath of the worst of Mississippi turned on him. But he's still here, along with his son and daughter, leading The Algebra Project at Lanier High School, and making the difference that many of us only dream of making. Read his book "Radical Equations" (Beacon Press, 2001) to learn more about this hero.
Second place: Cleta Ellington, St. Joseph Catholic School
Third place: Limmie Flowers, Clinton High School
Best Bartender: Cotton Baronich
"There's other ones in the race?" Cotton Baronich says when I tell him he's in the running for Best Bartender in Jackson. Cotton (as he's known to everyone) has been in the business for 53 years starting on the "Golden Gulf Coast," where he's from. Born to Croatian Catholic parents in 1929, he moves around the bar with confidence and ease. Every one who comes into the Edison Walthall Hotel bar shakes his hand and knows his name; he knows what they drink without having to be told. He was recruited to work at the Sun 'N' Sand in 1960 and has been in Jackson ever since. Dressed in black pants, crisp white shirt and black bow-tie, Cotton speaks with an accent reminiscent of a Tennessee Williams character. He calls himself "160 pounds of bone, muscle and romance." His method for success? "There's a lot of bartenders in Jackson who can mix ya a drink, but they can't say hello to ya."
—J. Bingo Holman
Second place: Dustin Higginbotham (Fenian's)
Third place: Beau Miller (Martin's); Bingo Holman and Tom Zuga (Hal & Mal's) (tie)
Best Reporter/Columnist: Bill Minor and Orley Hood (tie)
Bill Minor (right) has been a one-man alternative journalism outlet since he showed up in Mississippi back in 1948 to cover this crazy state. He's taken on all the Goliaths—from the old demagogues to the daily newspaper, where he now appears as a columnist. His old Capitol Reporter newspaper helped improve the old Clarion-Ledger, and his columns are refreshingly honest, meticulously researched and necessary in a state where, historically, good journalism has been lacking. He doesn't fall into the so-called "objective" trap; if something's wrong, he exposes it without counting how many words he gives to each side. His recent book, "Eyes on Mississippi" (Prichard Morris Books, 2002) is a vital and entertaining history of Mississippi politics and race wrangling. Read it.
Our other winner, folksy Clarion-Ledger columnist Orley Hood, has also been here a long time and is what one freelance writer calls an "acquired taste." We at the JFP aren't sure we're going to acquire that taste very quickly—he's a little fence-sitting for our taste—but we do appreciate a journalist who seems to truly care about people in his community and cranks out several columns a month about them. And a bunch of y'all like him, so who are we to quibble?
Second place: Sid Salter, The Clarion-Ledger
Third place: David Hampton and Sherry Lucas, The Clarion-Ledger (tie)
Best Community Activist: Rims Barber
In 1964, fewer than 2 percent of the black students in Mississippi were enrolled in integrated schools. In 1964 two different juries failed to convict Medgar Ever's murderer Byron De La Beckwith. In 1964 literacy tests and poll taxes prevented most Mississippi blacks from voting.
In 1964, the Rev. Rims Barber moved to Mississippi in response to a call from God. The National Council of Churches sent the young reverend to join in the fight for civil rights in Mississippi. For almost four decades now, Barber has been discomforting people who are comfortable with injustice. "I guess I am the designated agitator around here," he says from his Congress Street office. Officially, he is a minister-at-large with the Presbyterian Church. He is an advocate for the poor and for children and for racial justice, badgering state legislators to do the right thing. He showed up at a peace rally last fall urging the Bush administration to use caution and patience in its efforts with Afghanistan, pacing silently with a cigarette in one hand and the Bible in the other. Keep it up, Rev. Barber. We need your honesty, and we need your agitation.
Second place: Landon Huey
Third place: Lynn Evans and Tritta Shine (tie)
Best Church Choir: St. James Episcopal
What makes a good choir great? Is it the way the many voices are woven tightly together? Or is it the strength of the super soloists who lift our spirits skyward? Maybe it's the church building itself. Does the lofty ceiling make the sound more heavenly? Whatever IT is, St. James Episcopal Church has found it. Choirmaster and organist Robert Lee leads two choirs during two morning services. He is accompanied by a magnificent new organ with 2,532 individual pipes. The tallest pipe is 16 feet long; many pipes are smaller than a pencil.
The choir is just one way St. James has helped people of Jackson escape the mundane . The gothic church is nestled like an old English monastery among the grand homes of Woodland Hills. However, the church is by no means cloistered. For several decades now, the people of St. James Episcopal Church have led other churches in outreach to the metro community. With a choir like this it's no wonder the worshipers are motivated each Sunday to get out and make a positive difference beyond the stain-glassed walls of the church.
Second place: First Baptist and Cathedral AME Zion (tie)
Third place: Mississippi Mass Choir