Souls of Young Folk | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Souls of Young Folk

As I approached Lanier High School one morning in April, I mused over the fact that I only traveled to that part of Jackson for stories. After parking my car in the lot across the street from the school's front entrance, I was reaching for the door handle to get out when I stopped.

"Should I leave my iPod in the car?" I asked myself silently. I had, after all, seen people milling around the area just moments before. "Is it safe?" I continued.

Chastising myself for falling victim to a stereotype that I claim to detest, I defiantly unplugged the device from the audio cable connecting it to the stereo and placed it into my cup holder. I opened my car door, stepped out into the street and walked toward the school's front doors.

I stopped in to the front office to check-in, telling the office attendant that I was there to see art teacher Candy Cain. After a brief wait, a student led me through a maze of hallways and staircases and into an art room on the second floor of the building. As I walked through the door, students who were attending to their paintings as they sat drying in the hall followed behind me. My youthful face seemed to startle Cain when she first saw me, but confusion quickly turned into excitement. We had talked on the phone the afternoon prior to my visit as she packed her car with art from a show in Hattiesburg. Her clear blue eyes lit up as she led me around the room, pointing out gifted art students she had told me about earlier. "This is the one I was telling you about," she told me as we approached several students. She couldn't wait for me to talk to them.

The students, on the other hand, seemed to shy away from my advances, answering my questions as simply as possible. Besides, they were intently working on art pieces to show in the Jackson Public Schools student art auction.

As I moved around the large classroom talking to different students, Cain intermittently beckoned me to her gargantuan pile of student art projects. "Isn"t this just great?" she would ardently ask me with each piece she picked up and handed to me. Three-dimensional still lifes made of model magic depicted students' favorite foods. One student's sushi roll looked so real, my stomach fought off a growl. Another student's self portrait, made of Paper Mache and magazine clippings, enchanted me as it jumped off its anchoring matte board.

After circulating about the room, I approached a table where two young men sat painting, one using acrylic and the other caulk. At first, each student paid me no mind, trying to wish away the inquisitive reporter, but soon they were opening up about their talent and ambitions. One of them, Djuan, was an award-winning artist on the state level, placing in the Scholastic Art Competition. The other, Paris, had won the district-wide Martin Luther King Jr. art contest and was an aspiring art teacher like Cain.

As I listened to them speak about their passion for art and how Lanier's negative image affects it, I became inspired. "People wouldn't expect Lanier High School to have students who do art so well," Paris told me.

I left Lanier High School that day with the intention to tell everyone I knew about the student art auction. I wanted to support the students and their art, and I wanted other people to feel the same way. Why should Lanier be characterized by basketball and juvenile delinquency? The students have more to say, I told myself.

The evening of the art auction, which coincided with Arts, Eats and Beats, I walked around Fondren telling people to stop by the auction and "support the kids." When I arrived in the lobby of Rainbow Co-op, people were milling around, but very few were looking at the students' art. There was less than an hour left for the auction, but fewer than four names appeared on each bidding sheet, if any at all. I was appalled.

When I found a piece that I liked, I weighed the chances of my actually winning the bid against my broke-college-student budget. I passed up the ones that were astonishingly brilliant; someone else would yank those up for a pretty price, anyway. I ended up taking my chances, however, on a beautiful scene of a snow-topped cabin by a Jim Hill student and a portrait called "The Prayer" by a student from Lanier. I knew someone would outbid me, I knew it.

When a JPS representative called me the next morning to congratulate me on my two winnings, I was excited to acquire two pieces of art by two promising students, but I was also disappointed. Where was Jackson when its youth was putting a positive face on its schools?

I know that this is just one incident, and that there are other ways to support the arts in the city, but the arts is under-funded, under-acknowledged and under-appreciated in this country's schools already. It hurts me to imagine that some students have yet another reason to dismiss their faith in the community's concern for them. These are our future leaders - whether on Wall Street or Broadway, City Hall or the Museum of Art. They need our support, and even if they won't say it, they crave it.

Students want a pat on the back. They light up when someone tells them that they've done well. Jackson has its problems, but discouraged young people breed needy adults. Let's uplift our young people. Let's show them that we care about their accomplishments and future goals. Art gives way to genius; it's cathartic therapy for troubled hearts and inspiration for hungry minds. Art is a path to self-discovery and good work for idle hands. It is beautiful, just like the souls of young folk. Embrace it and support it. In doing so, we embrace and support Jackson's young people.

Previous Comments

ID
130268
Comment

This is the sort of thing that ticks me off. If any of those talented students were to shoot or carjack someone, they would be on the news for days. You hardly ever hear about the good these kids do, and when it is mentioned, it's during the last fifteen seconds of the program.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-05-29T07:32:22-06:00
ID
130271
Comment

Speaking of good things coming out of JPS, a Murrah student was elected governor of Boys State.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-05-29T08:23:47-06:00
ID
130294
Comment

Folks, to the point, look at the most-commented-on stories on the Ledger site right now; see a theme? Explore Commented Articles Convicted killer executed; family has ?received justice? (198) Man arrested in connection to Memorial Day shooting (183) Decomposed body found in apartment (166) Greenwood officer who clashed with student resigns (112) Coroner: Body that of missing banker (97) Little left to block tonight's execution (91) Killer pays for crime with life (84) Officer fights for carjacking victims (83) Explore Recommended Articles Coroner: Ginn died in suicide (65) Officer fights for carjacking victims (30) Coroner: Body that of missing banker (83) Convicted killer executed; family has ?received justice? (24) Killer pays for crime with life (19) Little left to block tonight's execution (19) Man arrested in fatal holiday party shooting (18) Madison Co. mom: 'I knew I was innocent' (17)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-05-29T15:21:24-06:00
ID
130297
Comment

Yep, I see a theme. Some folks crave, as one person would say, mayhem and foolishness. I guess the good stuff isn't as exciting, or doesn't validate stereotypes enough. I was happy to see WAPT mention a MS student who participated in the National Spelling Bee in D.C. I'm also glad they showed her face - an adorable black young lady. That reminds me of when I got third place in an essay contest in the sixth grade. My name was mentioned, and that was it. The first and second place winners had their pictures and their essays in the paper. They were both white, but the possible race factor didn't enter my mind until just recently. I don't know if there really was racism involved, but it sure looks that way to me.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-05-29T16:31:43-06:00
ID
130299
Comment

And can I speak to the content of some of those comments for one moment? They really make me believe that Mississippi is not yet ready for "open comments" sections under major newspapers. It SCARES me what people think of Mississippi when they read the comments under some of those articles.

Author
Lori G
Date
2008-05-29T20:39:42-06:00
ID
130301
Comment

Meh. Sometimes it's nice to know what people REALLY think. Just confirms what I always suspect are people's true thoughts about Jackson rather what they think they should say in mixed company.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2008-05-30T07:09:02-06:00
ID
130310
Comment

"- an adorable black young lady. That reminds me of when I got third place in an essay contest in the sixth grade. My name was mentioned, and that was it. The first and second place winners had their pictures and their essays in the paper. They were both white, but the possible race factor didn't enter my mind until just recently. I don't know if there really was racism involved, but it sure looks that way to me." We used to raise our fist and sing, "Young, Gifted and Black"...LOUD...with tears in our eyes...but the people stopped, and the message got lost.

Author
willdufauve
Date
2008-05-30T12:15:20-06:00
ID
130311
Comment

As a marketing and economics major, I may be biased to think that maybe the marketing piece was not done properly. Before you can get demand for a product or service, you must first build awareness and appreciation of it. That is where JFP is playing a great role. The CL could probably do a better job --- of making people aware of some of the good products, services and talents originating from the depressed areas of Jackson/Hinds. Self-knowledge is important also. Too often disadvantaged people, especially those "of color" are not aware of or appreciative of their own talents and abilities. I know Marcus Garvey is viewed very negatively by many; however, his cry of "Up you mighty people, accomplish what you will!" still needs to be heard. He preached that it made him sad to see people "who look like me" sitting around crying about not being able to get a chance or "about others keeping them down" and not believing in themselves and working to realize their God-given potential that he referred to as the Divine power within each of us.

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-05-30T12:50:00-06:00
ID
130314
Comment

We used to raise our fist and sing, "Young, Gifted and Black"...LOUD...with tears in our eyes...but the people stopped, and the message got lost. That's one of my favorite phrases. I even designed a T-shirt with that on it. I'm thankful that I didn't think too hard about what may have happened at the time and just enjoyed winning. If I did, I probably would have been bitter. I know Marcus Garvey is viewed very negatively by many; however, his cry of "Up you mighty people, accomplish what you will!" still needs to be heard. He preached that it made him sad to see people "who look like me" sitting around crying about not being able to get a chance or "about others keeping them down" and not believing in themselves and working to realize their God-given potential that he referred to as the Divine power within each of us. True. One favorite saying of his: "Don't remove the kinks from your hair. Remove them from your brain!"

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-05-30T13:55:11-06:00
ID
130366
Comment

Hey L.W, my favorite saying also... With 2 children in JPS schools, including one who attends Lanier, I have observed this... there is not a good connection and a serious lack of communication between JPS and the general community. Typically district officials don't reach out to the community until they want something, like a bond issue passed. They could do a much better job of marketing student extracurricular activities and programs to the Metro Jackson community. They could also do a beter job of supporting their own activities. Maggie, I bet that they were few if any JPS officials at that auction. I have attended several art & musical events sponsored by JPS and there were not any officials, administrators or principals represented there. But as you can imagine, they do support the athletic events. Go figure....

Author
lanier77
Date
2008-06-02T12:42:16-06:00

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