[Greggs] The City Sleeps Tonight | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Greggs] The City Sleeps Tonight

For the past week I've had one song going through my head. It's stuck. I usually hate it when this happens. I also happen to know that when it does occur, the best way to get rid of it is to afflict someone else with its repeating tune. So, here goes …

In the city, the mighty city
The lion sleeps tonight
In the city, the quiet city
The lion sleeps tonight

Near the village, the peaceful village
The lion sleeps tonight
Near the village, the quiet village
The lion sleeps tonight

Hush my people, don't fear Frank Melton
He finally sleeps tonight
Hush my people, don't fear Frank Melton
We all can sleep tonight

Yes. I changed the words a little. I have a strong urge to start "weem-a-wopping" when I hear that song. I find it a fitting introduction to a column where I finally speak about all the craziness that's occurred in this mighty city the past few weeks. In this usually sleepy city by the river, the past few weeks have teemed with uncertainty and upheaval. If you don't know why, you should probably take your head out of your butt and look around. Some mighty crazy stuff has been going on 'round here.

A mayor indicted. A house destroyed. A city seemingly lost.

My grandmother once told me that in the darkest night there is always one star that comes out to show you the way. That might have been her parable for the whole Jesus story, but my grandma is a smart woman. Instilling an unyielding sense of hope in her children and grandchildren was her way of making sure we were totally annoying to the rest of the cynical population. She happened to help raise an eternal optimist. It's the only way I can explain my long career in social services.

A friend once told me that he enjoyed knowing me because in the middle of a rainstorm I would find the one patch of blue and point to it. I, of course, blame this on the same grandmother who would help us chase rainbows when we were little—knowing we would never find the end. A grandmother who would sit with us for hours in a field until we found at least one four-leaf clover to take home for the day. Because of these actions, I have always been a "half-full" kind of person. (Except on bad hair days; then you should probably get ready for the half-full glass to be flung violently at your face.)

I sometimes think that maybe Frank had a grandma like this as well. Always thinking that over the next hill—or in the next house—there was the answer to all the problems he thought afflicted this great town.

Over the past few weeks, I've heard nothing but negative comments about how Jackson is now headed to hell. How this city is nothing but a jungle. How we will never recover, and we should all pack up and head for those aforementioned hills.

I disagree. After all, if Mary Hawkins-Butler is over one of those hills, she's probably bricking up the other side right now. I feel differently. I've decided that I'm looking for that star, people. I hope you come along with me. Frank may have found his ending. The lion may have been muzzled, but this is still our town. This is still our patch of Earth.

From a city called "Chimneyville" after three burnings in 1863 during the Civil War, we will come back again. From comments I've seen on Web boards in the past two weeks bemoaning our fate and calling us a "cesspool," we will come back again. From a place that makes people frightened to come to the city because our streets come alive at night, we will come back again.

For Eudora Welty, who lived her life in Belhaven, a neighborhood our detractors would say is going to hell, we will come back again. For Richard Wright, who told us how horrible it was to be African American in Jackson in the 1920s, we will come back again. For Medgar Evers, who fell on these streets 50 years ago, we will come back again. For the Freedom Riders who never made it past our town in their quest for racial equality, we will come back again. For James Meredith, who fought for his life to speak in this town he still lives in, we will come back again.

We will rebuild the King Edward. We will finish Farish Street. We will rise up and be the great and mighty city that we have always been. One man can't take away all the things that 200 years of history have left us to enrich our lives. One man can't ruin the beautiful and sordid past that has led us to the streets once again. One man can't steal the meaning of all the people who gave up both their lives and their voices to these streets in the hope they could change them for the better. One man cannot take away a history that has taken thousands to build, burn and love. One man cannot stop these thousands from helping this city to rise again.

One man does not have this power—not unless we willingly hand it to him and do not invest ourselves in our home again. So, sleep well my people. Tomorrow is a brand new day. And maybe, just maybe, somewhere out there in this mighty jungle … help is on the way.

Now, commence to weem-a-woppin', people. I finally see a patch of blue on the horizon.

Previous Comments

ID
73538
Comment

Thanks, Ali, for the words of optimism. We neeeeeeeeeded that. I definitely needed it. Also, thank you for that song because it reminds me of "The Lion King", a movie I find inspirational and hilarious. The experience of the past several days has left me with throbbing headaches and frazzled nerves. I've been tempted to turn off the TV and the PC for a week so I don't have to hear about this mess for a while. However, just like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, I feel compelled to keep up with what's going on. The hardest thing for me to deal with is the division in our city. The pro-Melton/anti-Melton atmosphere is stressful to me, and stressful is not even strong enough to describe it. Once again, thanks.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2006-09-20T23:29:52-06:00
ID
73539
Comment

L.W.-I'll tell my grandmother you said that. She turns 75 this week and this was part of her birthday present. Or rather, something she gave me that I could give back to her. :)

Author
Lori G
Date
2006-09-20T23:38:41-06:00
ID
73540
Comment

Great column, Ali! I'm gonna go Joe Namath and say "I wanna kiss you!" Seriously, Jackson isn't going nowhere but up. Momentum is on its side with all the new things happening downtown. This city has survived through the Civil War, two major floods and Katrina. It was surviving before Frank and it will survive after Frank. And if we can get Gloria Gaynor to be mayor, Jackson will definitely survive.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2006-09-20T23:59:45-06:00
ID
73541
Comment

I'm gonna go Joe Namath and say "I wanna kiss you!" BONUS! I wasn't looking for that response, but I'll always take it!

Author
Lori G
Date
2006-09-21T00:23:39-06:00
ID
73542
Comment

Thanks for the 'BOOST' Ali; I needed that!

Author
ChrisCavanaugh
Date
2006-09-21T13:24:51-06:00
ID
73543
Comment

Very inspiring, Ali. If copyrights laws/regs permit, get one of the TV stations to read it to to their audience.

Author
Philip
Date
2006-09-23T23:23:00-06:00
ID
73544
Comment

I'm not even sure the television stations are acting as if we exist at this point. :) But thanks for the compliment!

Author
Lori G
Date
2006-09-24T12:34:04-06:00

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