Men We Love | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Men We Love

In honor of Dad's day, we want to spotlight just a few of the Jacksonian men we love.

Former Gov. William Winter, 81, is such an obvious choice for the "Men We Love" issue that we almost feel silly including him. But, as politics get uglier and more divided in the state, it's a perfect time to honor a man who brought integrity, dignity, and a devotion to progressive ideas and helping the poor of his state to the governor's mansion, a combination that has seldom crossed its threshold, before or after Winter. We especially love Winter for his tireless devotion to squarely facing the state's race past and, damn it, doing whatever it takes to right the wrongs.

For Kamikaze, being a rap artist means remembering that he's a father while he's composing his raps. Named Brad Franklin by his parents, Kamikaze knows his two kids are listening, so he writes "responsible" lyrics—lyrics that aren't perfectly pure but set good examples while entertaining listeners. He's been a full-time father since 1994 and a full-time rapper since 1997, when he and David Banner started a group together. His latest album, "2 Broke 2 Ball," hits the streets in July and represents "the every day 9-to-5 man." Though he's got a loyal, diverse fan base, Kamikaze's still a working man, and he wants to speak for others just like him. — CP

Jessie Pennington
Jessie Pennington, 65, is a Mississippian to the core, but he left for many years and moved to Chicago when he was only 15. It wasn't until he visited the "Without Sanctuary" exhibit at Jackson State this spring that he unlocked the memory of why he had left back in 1954: He was almost lynched, and was saved by hiding in the disgusting pit in his family's outhouse. Today, Jessie—who was director of the business graduate program at Jackson State—is an attorney, a writer (who is beginning to explore his past in poignant narratives) and an all-around nice guy who believes that brutal honesty, but not paralyzing anger, will take the state where it needs to be. — DL

Felder Rushing
Gardening king Felder Rushing, like all Southern artists, reminds us that where we live is part of who we are. The 51-year-old's personal appeal springs from a feisty, elfin nature; if someone hadn't already manufactured a yard gnome in his image, we'd be compelled to do so ourselves for the comforting iconography of a bearded, sprightly genius loci who makes us feel as if we, too, can feel good about what we do with where we live, even if it offends the neighbors.
— JY

Al Stamps
Even vegetarians love Al Stamps; his vegetarian burger at Stamps Super Burger is arguably the best in town. And it should be. Stamps himself, along with his wife and two kids, is a vegetarian, so he knows the value of a good meat-less burger. But that doesn't stop him from fully committing himself to his job. He's not a typical owner/manager—after over 10 years in business, he still works the grill and only takes off two weeks each summer and winter. He's busy, but he always finds time to hang out with his kids, both of whom are dreadlocked just like Dad. During vacations, he and his wife take them on dream adventures to places like Africa and Jamaica. — CP

Robert St. John
Robert St. John, 42, writes delightfully about eating road kill, fried pickles and boogers, all by way of convincing people that food should be fun as well as good. His astounding cuisine is an original synthesis of Creole recipes, the traditional seafood preparations of the central Gulf Coast and the farm-style cooking of the rural Deep South. His is serious food served in a not-so-serious manner; you just have to love a man who might serve you brochettes d'huitres on sterling skewers in his cut-offs. — JY

Darius Williams
Darius Omar Williams, 32, ain't misbehavin' one little bit, when he's Peckin' and Truckin' his pin-stripe-suited self across the floor at New Stage in their end-of-the season production, "Ain't Misbehavin'." Williams has this darlin' dimple, twinklin' eyes, and, oh, that smile—well, you get the picture—he's captivating. Whether he's singing a Fats Waller tune or dancing the Charleston or the Lindy Top, Williams' talents fit the show perfectly. The multi-talented young man teaches theater at Jackson State and is also artistic director of the Sangha Theatre Company. So yourself a favor: Catch Darius and the show before it ends June 20. —LH

Jamie Franks
Rep. Jaime Franks, 31, is not really a Jacksonian, but this year the young Mississippi legislator from Mooreville did hang here a good five months, what with the extra time spent in the special session. The Ole Miss grad got our attention during the special session as a firebrand populist—arguing without hesitation or fear that the Legislature should help the poor and work to keep insurance companies from gouging Mississippians. You don't see this every day, but would like to. Franks is an energetic legislator who could re-invigorate our faith in the political system if he keeps fighting the good fight. (No, he's not speaker pro tem ... yet). — DL

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