Dorothy Triplett and Shirley Tucker became friends as they began navigating through small, intertwining circles in Jackson. Finding they had similar passions for several things—the city of Jackson, empowerment of young people and leadership in the community—the two women have maintained contact over the years.
Triplett, who says people close to her have given her the middle name "Networking," moved to Mississippi with her husband in the '70s, first settling in Louisville before coming to Jackson.
A Yankee from Wisconsin married to a black man, Triplett found it difficult to get a job when she first arrived in the South. The only job she could get was working as the education director for Head Start, but today she remembers it as her favorite job, probably because she was fulfilling her desire to invest in the community by helping others.
Tucker, who is the executive director of leadership development at the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, recognizes Jackson's potential as a city and a community, and focuses her work with the education system.
An advocate for the Montessori program in Jackson Public Schools, Tucker says that raising children in a positive environment is important. That priority extends to the social climate of the city.
On March 1, Triplett and Tucker will be honored at Jackson 2000's annual Friendship Ball, when the city comes together to celebrate its diversity and progress, and recognizes two people in the community who exemplify these characteristics and work toward bridging the gap between races.
Tell me about the Friendship Ball.
Triplett: The Friendship Ball is fun. It's not a ball with a capitol 'B,' but you have a ball. It's a benefit for wonderful organizations that are doing things in the community, and it's a way for people to come and celebrate, and have fun together.
What was your reaction when your found out about your honor?
Tucker: I got a call that afternoon from Sean Perkins, and he was so ecstatic, and he was like, 'I just want to let you know it's been confirmed, and I put your name up a couple times, and it finally made it.' So I was very much elated.
Triplett: I was humbled. I really was. Because I never, as Shirley will tell you, never seek the spotlight. I don't care if I can work really hard on something, and if somebody else gets credit, I don't care as long as it happens. I really don't like to be the person up front.
What are you doing that is promoting diversity in the city?
Triplett: Everything I do. … I love to bring people together who wouldn't normally be together, and to get something done. I mean, that's a basic community organizing tool that you bring people together around a common issue, a common goal. And then they find out, 'Wow.' A lot of those stereotypes fall away, and you find out, 'I can work (with people of other races); this is fun, these are my friends.'
Tucker: I truly think that all people are equal, and I don't buy the stereotypes. I really enjoy getting to know a person for who they really are and appreciate that relationship.
As a parent I've learned, just being in the capacity where I am, the importance of encouraging diverse relationships. Of course, kids emulate their parents, and so my kids see what we do, and they do the same thing. You have to model for your kids. … When we had our facilitator for the diversity session go around and poll everybody and ask them when they first encountered racism, it was so amazing that most people said, 'at home.'
Triplett: We've got to take it beyond the individual. There's so much institutional and systemic racism, and if we just talk about the one-on-one relationships and the feel-good stuff, it's got to go beyond that. Because Shirley and I can be good friends … but if we're not doing things to make the businesses and the governments and the churches and the temples and the mosques—all of the institutions in our civilization—more accepting and inclusive, then we're like the (resounding) gong.
What progress has Jackson made, and what work is left to be done?
Tucker: I think progress has been made, but certainly much more needs to be made.
Triplett: Shirley and I were talking yesterday about how so many people go from home to their place of work and back home, their home to their church and back home. And they never go anywhere else in the city. … There's some big things going on—not just what's in downtown, but if you drive through the city and all parts of the city, you see a lot of new things going up—new construction, new rehabilitation.
The Friendship Ball is Saturday, March 1 at 7 p.m., at Hal & Mal's (200 S. Commerce St.). Tickets are $20, $10 for students, and include hors d'oeuvres and music by These Days with Jewel Bass. Casual attire. Call 601-940-4950 for more info.