Rows and rows of plowed earth await attention, while endlessly curvaceous streets leak secrets of struggle and anguish. Stiff winds wrap intensely against all that interrupt its peace, announcing itself with firm determination.
Hello, Mississippi Delta, it's an honor be in your presence.
Driving through the idle countryside of the Delta usually doesn't offer much to the uninterested individual. But for me, a ride down Highway 61 or Old Highway 49 holds much more than just a view of plowed fields, deserted factories and small, economically challenged towns.
It is here, deep in the core of Mississippi, that I connect with more of me than Jackson can ever offer. This well-traveled road is not just a means to get from one destination to the other, but a symbol of hope, of strength and a symbol of resurrection.
One could easily pass this stretch of highway completely unaware of its historical treasure. One could miss the faint voice of the hard-working man, pleading for a break. It's not easy to feel the wayward mother traveling with her children as they search for a meal. One may simply overlook the lack of confidence reigning over the children who call the Delta home.
I have been all over this state, driving, looking, exhaling. But recently, as I traveled to Cleveland, Miss., I began to realize that this trip would be different from those before.
A short while into my journey through the Delta, a mesmerizing sense of pride and accomplishment started to infringe my hard-sought peace. It began with a recap of a conversation I had with a dear friend who has lived in Mississippi for many years, but is originally from Louisiana. She told me that when she rides through the Delta, she feels connected with the its history.
I immediately thought, "No, it's depressing." Obviously, my spirit was not content with this statement, but I have continued to think about it.
"It's ridiculous, the way they live in the Delta," I've often thought. I pass through towns like Belzoni, Isola, Arcola, Midnight, Silver City, even Rolling Fork, and think, "Have we forgotten about the Delta, the nucleus, the heart of Mississippi?"
Most of the people in these small towns have never left. They have no idea what they are missing because they've not seen much that will offer them the opportunity to want more.
Is that the fault of those who reside there, or is it the fault of those who know better and do nothing?
Regardless, in this time of change, we must not fail to heal this entire state. We must begin to serve those who are unaware, unable to reach out and seize opportunities that many of us take advantage of daily.
Mississippi has a horrid reputation that began before many of us were born. It remains, and it must be addressed. Strength, skill, ability and talent all live in those dusty, lonely Delta streets. In those small towns are children who are not being offered skills and trades. We are failing these towns. We are not preparing those children for life outside the Delta. We are not presenting avenues for success. We are perpetuating the norm; leaving them to make a life from the life they've been thrown.
These children need to be encouraged, guided, educated, equipped to live the dream that all of us deserve. We must cultivate their talents and offer activities that will assist them in gaining confidence and pride in themselves. We, who have more awareness of how to get out and get ours, must share that with our brothers and sisters who live in what seems to be a totally different world than ours. The element of separation does exist, and it must die.
I love Jackson. I am all for a thriving Capital City; it's about time we welcome that change. However, what good is served if we don't place a considerable amount of focus on our people statewide? What good can there be to have a City with Soul that doesn't recognize that the soul it so proudly claims was born in an area that the state seems to have forgotten and left to its own devices, that no one seems to want to heal, no one seems to want to save.
The Delta isn't the core of this state just because it's the home of the blues. It's the spirit that lives in this area that birthed the blues. It's the strength of the people in these towns that made the blues real. It is the genius and the pain of Mississippi living attached to the Delta that makes this our core. It is the reason that our blood is so rich with the power that only comes from overcoming adversities.
We must cherish it and welcome it to join the rest of the strides made to push us onward. We cannot proceed leaving any part of us behind, be it good or bad.
I am disappointed that I had to be reminded of the treasure the Delta knows by a friend who willingly allowed the energy of Mississippi to guide her through the area. I am sure that depression I felt came from a place within me that knew that we can all do better.
About a hour or so into my soul-searching drive, I noticed a small town called Onward, Miss. It rests between Cary and Redwood; it's very smalldon't blink or you'll miss it.
On this day, "Onward" is not just the name of a town in the Delta. It's a statement, a plan, a lifestyle. We are moving onward, Mississippi. We must take the entire state with us. We can't pick and choose what part of us we want to keep and what part we can do without. This is Mississippi, poor, hurt, strong and determined. This is who we are, and we must learn to appreciate it in order to change it. Why not begin in the place that offers our souls song? Let us care for our own.