From Nothing to Something | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

From Nothing to Something

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If you're not one of the lucky ones to whom I've shown off the 6-inch scar on my right upper arm, you might not know that I've spent the last three months recovering from shattered bones and surgery. (Sorry: No fabulous story behind it; I tripped in my kitchen the day before we moved into a new house.)

Having never broken a bone, had surgery or been under anesthesia, it was quite the adventure. I call it my achy-breaky summer. I also consider it a remarkable Zen practice, at least in its better moments.

While I was out, I continued working from home—thanks to voice recognition on my iPhone and a remarkable staff—and got to think, rest, comb the cats and plan a lot. With non-essential tasks (such as driving) by the wayside, and very few outings, I was able to ponder my life, this newspaper, our business and the community as I recuperated.

My accident gave me a reason to pause and reflect a lot about Jackson—where we've been, how far we've come, and the steps we need to take to help our city and state mend and grow.

When I moved back to Mississippi 12 years ago, it felt as if the majority of people I met, especially younger ones, constantly had one foot out the door in one way or the other. They were helped along by terrible corporate-media outlets that pushed crime, crime, crime and allowed Jackson haters (many of whom had fled the city, causing the problems in the first place) to control the narrative. It was as if the center of gravity had literally moved from mid-city to north Jackson, with many folks trying to push it even further out into the strip malls of Flowood or the columned gas stations of Madison, leaving Jackson a shell they could disparage.

This made no sense to me then or now.

It also is absurd to deny the problems of the past that caused these problems, but so many of our younger people hadn't even been told about those dark days, at least not in a way that wasn't somehow rationalizing them or blaming the victims for the problems that inevitably ensued.

Today, this is starting to change. So many creative and determined people of all ages—but especially those young and diverse urban warriors who hold the key to the city and state—aren't fleeing. They are digging in, renovating, creating, conspiring, networking and making cool things happen. I've watched some of them leave, and then come on back within a year or two. Something really wonderful is happening here if we'll notice (and ignore local news that always leads with bleeding).

This was so clear to me last Friday night sitting in the Art Garden downtown—really, my first social outing since June—watching the documentary "subSIPPI" debut on the big screen. The filmmakers, whom I met when they set up in a Metrocenter storefront during the Best of Jackson party last January, exemplify the change we're watching unfold as well as anyone does.

It was a beautiful film with what I like to call "European pacing." That is, it wasn't constant talk or action. They told much of the story through powerful images from around Mississippi—from farm workers to artists on the Coast to young people playing in front of abandoned houses in Jackson.

It is a hopeful story, but not a hopelessly naive one. When they asked to interview me for it (I'm in it briefly, and not the part to see it for), I was straightforward with them as I am with all documentary makers and media these days who want to talk to me about Mississippi: We are not either/or. We have not recovered from our past, but we are not stuck there, either. We are changing. We are a work-in-progress, and we must use every tool, every history lesson to help us complete this journey. And we can't let the fools run us off.

What I liked about these young Mississippians is the fact that they knew that already. They just wanted someone to say it out loud. I watched them tear up as we all talked about what our state has been through and what is left to be done. They believe in their homeland's potential, just as I do. And they know there is much work left to be done.

My favorite part of the film spotlighted African American boys growing up on a blighted street in Jackson. One had learned to garden, and the film shows him planting in front of an abandoned house—one of so many that we cannot seem to figure out how to tear down so young people do not have to grow up amid such hopelessness. He explains how gardening helps keep him out of trouble.

We later see him making art and talking about why art is meaningful to him.

"We are coming from nothing to something," one teen says to the camera.

Then he asks about the house behind him: "How is this empty? How is 
this available?"

How, indeed.

Three days after watching and being inspired by the film, which leaves the viewer to ponder solutions for herself, I read the story Tyler Cleveland wrote for this issue about the debate over the Jackson Zoo possibly moving from its location.

Why does it need to move? Because many people, especially white ones if we're honest, don't want to go to it any longer because it's surrounded by a "bad" neighborhood. The condition of that neighborhood is, of course, the result of all the worst parts of Jackson's distant and recent history. When I and many of you were growing up, Jackson's perceived (and "safe") center of gravity had not yet moved so far north and east because whites had not yet fled much of Jackson, taking wealth and caring about the entire city with them.

So white people fled. Fast forward a few decades, and now many people say the zoo is supposed to pick up and follow them. There are people who claim to care for the city who believe the zoo should be out toward the flood plains surrounding Lakeland Drive because, they tell us, people will go to the zoo there.

The right people, the implication is.

I dare say the new Mississippi way, the "subSIPPI" way let's call it, is to not pick up and move the zoo (and probably leave a huge abandoned hulk in an already-challenged neighborhood). The smart and compassionate approach is to support the zoo in whatever way we can exactly where it is. I've been there many times and have never feared the drive to and from (sure we're not talking about the "I see black people" problem here?). The zoo has security. And it's beautiful and historic.

Go for a romantic stroll at the zoo, take your kids, book a party there. It's time that we become the type of city and state that does not run from our problems, but stays, digs in and works together to repair them.

We can do this, Jackson. Together we heal.

Thanks to all our new JFP VIPs!

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Comments

mrmeharry2008 6 years, 10 months ago

I love this article. I grew up here in rural Mississippi. I left for medical school and came back because I realized a lot of people in health care were leaving after being educated here. I said, if no one comes back, who's going to take care of my family members here? who's going to take care of aging teachers? who's going to take care of the village that gave me a chance? Since I've been back in 2008, I realize there is a lot of resourceful, talented people here. Once we really start working together and utilize our tools, we will see exponential growth! Good to see a news article with some positivity!

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Jaci17 6 years, 10 months ago

Great article! Jackson cannot be left to flounder in the wasteland of urban decay. This city has so much to offer Hinds County, Mississippi, America, THE WORLD. We have to believe that and work hard to make it happen. There may be problems, but we need to set ourselves on the positive solution side of the problem. We need to align ourselves with the silver lining of the dark cloud of urban retreat. We cannot look to others to fix our world if we don't care enough about our surroundings to beautify it ourselves. The ownership of Jackson, the pride in Jackson, has to begin with, stay with, be in the heart of, Jacksonians.

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justjess 6 years, 10 months ago

Great article, ladd. Sorry to hear about your fall resulting in broken bones and surgery. I can truly relate. I had a fall and broke two bones in my right foot. I continue to be reminded of the fall - especially when it rains. LOL!

Your positive ministry to the citizens of Jackson about what has been done and all of the possibilities has begun to take root. We simply must keep hope alive for our City!

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js1976 6 years, 10 months ago

"There are people who claim to care for the city who believe the zoo should be out toward the flood plains surrounding Lakeland Drive because, they tell us, people will go to the zoo there.

The right people, the implication is."

Donna, I don't think the lack of "right people" is the source of the zoo's problems. It is overall attendence that the zoo needs. Do I think moving it would increase attendence, yes I do. However, that would be a very costly move for a zoo that is already operating under a very tight budget. It's really a catch 22, lack of attendence is killing the zoo, but increasing attendence will be difficult due to the shrinking exhibits for patrons to view.

I've carried my family out there several times, but there just really isn't much to see anymore.

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

There is a reason for the lack of attendance, js. Don't be naive. And it's been a long process.

It's up to all of us to change it.

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js1976 6 years, 10 months ago

Donna, I'm very aware of the reason for the drop in attendance. Hence the reason I believe the Lakeland location would draw larger crowds. I honestly don't see how anyone could disprove that belief either.

I also don't think the move is feasable, so it isn't really a viable option to begin with.

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Scott1962 6 years, 10 months ago

I find your writing and your obsession to perceive any body who relocates to a place that is nicer and has a better school system as being racist very amusing. I've been coming over here occasionally over the past several years and for the most part choose not to comment. I've noticed that opinions that differ from yours are always met with ridicule and implications of.... you guessed it, racism and as such know there's no possible way to make a point with you.

But, after reading this article I started thinking. Right now my two teenage sons and 6 of their friends are getting ready to go to the fair in the other room. Now of those 6, 4 are black and live in our neighborhood. I know all of their parents very well as these kids have all grown up together. Since these people moved to Madison to escape the negatives of Jackson, which they felt outweighed the positives, are they racist too Donna? Now I'm white so naturally my decision to move was based in it's entirety on racial concerns according to you. The fact that it's a much nicer neighborhood with a hell of a lot better school system meant nothing to me at all. I'm incapable of doing anything that isn't racially motivated. But what of these people? Shall we label them "self haters" or say they're trying to be white? How do we label those many black families who have chosen to leave Jackson Donna? Your article made me wonder about that and your never ending references to your superior enlightenment having lived outside of Mississippi a few years leads me to believe you will know the answer?

To relocate the zoo to Lakeland Drive would create a financial windfall for the city or whoever reaps the rewards for it and it makes perfect sense to any sane person. Given the current makeup of the powers that be and govern the bold new city I'm not sure how you could call it racial to move it but you'd find a way. That's what I love about you Donna and that's why I come over here from time to time. The things I mentioned... standard of living, educational system, safety pertaining to individual reasoning or the positive financial rewards of moving the zoo, can always be exposed by you as thinly veiled attempts to cover up our racism.

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justjess 6 years, 10 months ago

@Scott1962

I know that your blog is directed to Donna Ladd; however, after reading it, I felt a need to respond.

The GERM (beginning) of Jackson's problem started with White-Flight. Whites did not want to live next door or down the street, for that matter, from Blacks. Whites did not want their children to go to school with Black children. From these thoughts and feelings came actions: 1. Whites moved to suburbs 2. Whites set up council schools. 3. Whites took money, text book and other school supplies to help with operational expenses. 4. Whites who moved to the suburbs continued to work in Jackson, but, spent their money in the suburbs. 5. Whites moved many business to the suburbs; just close enough for blacks to shop, i.e., North Park Mall. 6. Whites took an appreciable amount of the City's tax base -leaving a dwendling middle class of Blacks - to carry the load for infrastructure repairs/renewal, pay for our teachers, fire-fighters, policemen and women, streets, museums and yes, the Jackson ZOO. 7. Whites did not want their children to swin in public swimming pools with blacks. 8. Whites did not want to even sit in a restaurant where blacks were being served.

Now, you can call these thoughts and behaviors what ever makes you comfortable; however, for me, these were acts of racism and caused the following: 1. When Whites move to the suburbs, many of the properties did not sell. Many continue to remain boarded up or grass and weeds have taken them over. 2. When Whites left Jackson Public Schools, their money left for each child that was taken out. 3. When text books and supplies were taken from JPS, it took years to recover and even today, there is a shortage - some kids do not have books. 4. Whites and some Blacks and Others continue to work in Jackson but spend their money in the suburbs. Continued

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justjess 6 years, 10 months ago

@Scott1962

  1. When businesses leave - so do tax dollars. 6. The dwendling Black middle class can not afford to carry this City's bills. We had a Moyor who understood this and Jackson was slowly but surely coming back. You see, it's about RELATIONSHIPS. It is also about loving and caring for your city. When I read Mott, Ladd and others from the JFP, I feel the sincerity of their hopes and wishes for Jackson. 7. The re-opening of public swimming pools carried a hugh price tag because roots had destroyed the structures after being closed for 20+years. 8. Many of Jackson's restaurants either closed or moved to areas attracting white patrons. Again, these actions caused a severe decrease in the City's tax base.

So, when there are comments about how good your schools are; how safe your communities are; how beautiful your streets are, ect., It comes as a slap in the face when those of us who have stayed know exactly how, when and WHY you have become what you are ex.(Madison).

I do not say these things to begrudge your community: I only ask that you allow for our message. There are many good things that are happening in Jackson and for sure, there are many good people who are aware of our racist past and the events that have caused many of our present problems.

Jackson is healing. STOP scratching in our healing sore!

PLEASE?

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

Scott, I don't have a lot of time to respond right now due to meeting and deadlines, but I will respond to this sentence alone for the moment because it is a false characterization of what I have said, as is what follows it:

I find your writing and your obsession to perceive any body who relocates to a place that is nicer and has a better school system as being racist very amusing.

Patently untrue. I have never said that "anybody" who relocates to find a "better" school system is racist. That is some of the worst reading comprehension I've ever witnessed (and ironic considering your apparent request for better education for your kids).

White flight was a very real thing, Scott. It was a systemic and dramatic problem that means that thousands of Jackson white families fled the public schools (and much of Jackson) immediately after the public schools were forced to integrate. Up until the integration battle, few had issues with the public schools, as long as their kids didn't have to go to school with children of color. That is fact.

It is also exactly what led to the problems in much of Jackson. That is also fact.

These may be uncomfortable truths for you, but that in no way makes them false. Understanding this well-known and well-documented (and freakin' obvious) history will help us do something about it. Denying is just makes you part of the problem. And attacking me for saying it out loud just make you sound silly and naive.

Despite our history, there is a different way, which is what this column is about. Hell no, don't move the zoo. We need to reinvest our time, resources and energy into bringing our neighborhoods back, regardless of where you choose to live now. You can live in the burbs and still support the zoo. Be part of the solution.

With due respect.

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Scott1962 6 years, 10 months ago

My reading comprehension where you are concerned has been the result of coming over here the past few years and reading your endless articles that always, without exception, have racial implications Donna. I don't know when you came back but apparently you weren't around during the Kane Ditto years. I was a young man newly married and had just started a business. I lived and worked in Jackson or more specifically south Jackson and life was good. Then.... the Clarion Ledger discovered there were "gangs" in Jackson and you would have thought they discovered gold. Suddenly every headline and the lead story on the news at night was something about gangs or gang related killings and crime. There were several well publicized black on white rapes. Some people would call it coincidence and some would say it was bad timing but at the same time there were several black on white killings of people from out of town. Three I remember were pretty close together and all were while driving, and all were a black kid shooting white people.

At the same time Kane Ditto in his infinite wisdom chose to have a "summit" with these little thugs in the gangs and thus validate their existence while making every kid in Jackson want to be in one. This all happened during the late 80's and on into the 90's and that's when real estate in Madison and Rankin Counties became hot property. As the whites left the governmental structure of Jackson began to change.... enter the Kenneth Stokes of the world. If you think some of those people on the city council didn't show an open hatred for whites then you weren't listening. Now you have a mayor to match that general attitude and just as black people didn't like living under white rule, the same applies in reverse. Particularly hostile rule.

Prior to that and for almost 20 year after integration Jackson didn't see any flight to speak of and most of those council schools that had opened from the onset closed down due to low attendance.

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

Scott, you would be surprised what I know about you call the "Kane Ditto" years—largely thanks to my research on Frank Melton and friends. If I ever get this dang book finished, you might be quite surprised at the rest of the story.

Your understand of the realities of "white flight" seem very limited. Why do you do what I do when I'm curious about something that I don't know enough about and go a lot of research and be open to what you find. Or, have you decided what you want to believe and don't need to learn anything new? That's a sad place to be if so.

As for the characterization of my writings as "always, without exception, hav(ing) racial implications," that alone shows how willing you are to be wrong and hyperbolic, which doesn't help the credibility of your other posts. That is simply patently false.

However, I am certainly a white woman and newspaper editor who is willing to actually defy the rules many white folks think they set and enforce in my home state that say that I should honor my skin color and not talking about race, just as Hazel Brannon Smith and other inspiring white women have done. As such, do you really think you could possibly insult me or call me down by complaining about how I'm breaking the white code not to talk about racism and its implications for our city and state? I'm always amused and bemused by people who think that such complaints would have any effect on me whatsoever.

Do you really think I mustered up the courage and wherewithal to start a progressive newspaper in the middle of Mississippi to speak the truth and report facts other media skip and, suddenly, when someone who doesn't have the balls to use his real name on his comments shows up on my site or an anonymous blog and starts griping about it, I suddenly lose that gumption?

Y'all boys crack me up.

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Scott1962 6 years, 10 months ago

Your "research and reading" about the Kane Ditto years qualifies you to trump my views although I actually lived through them? You just lost the little credibility you had with me right there

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

You would be surprised how many people lived through the Kane Ditto, or better yet Ed Peters years, and had no idea what was happening in their city and county. Or they knew and didn't care. And very little of it had anything to do with Mr. Ditto as far as I can tell. He was in the right place at the wrong time.

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Scott1962 6 years, 10 months ago

Honey if I were sitting on your side of these comments I would gladly use my real name but you don't play fair. I'm damn sure not going to throw my name out in the middle of a journalism joke like JFP and let you do with it as you please. I didn't realize you were woman hear you roar to boot with being the only white person who knows more about blacks than they do. That's quite a combination Donna. Now.... if you had only been here and had a family of your own.....

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

"Honey," if you're trying to make an impression, you certainly are. We don't play fair. Right. We quote too many actual facts that y'all don't want out there. And that's not fair. It's not fair that I left the reservation as a white woman, either, is it?

It's nice to see you spend so much time trying to take down such a "journalism joke" as ours. Why bother showing up and trying to scold me into submission if we're such a "joke"? You don't have to answer that. I know why you're here. And you'll fail.

I don't know more about black people than they do (and why it is that white folks who blame them for everything love to say that so much? Hmmm. Another failed silencing technique, I presume.) Again, it's clear that you can't match my facts about all of our shared history with anything so you hurl something goofy like that.

Actually, I know more about white people, including folks with your attitudes. And methinks that's the part that makes so many of y'all bonkers. It's one thing if people of color don't agree -- that's to me expected of them -- but white Mississippians? We should be sacrosanct for y'all.

Finally, I rather doubt you would ever post under your real name, at least the kinds of stuff you say here. I've been in this arena long enough to know that people who post ugly things about groups of people using fake names don't have the courage of their convictions, and they're just lashing out. Meantime, over here, we use our names and our faces, and get called all sorts of names, and lied about, and disparaged, and belittled, and bullied, and harassed -- all because we are willing to stand by our statements and beliefs. And that has never stopped us. Once. So suddenly, 11 years into this paper, you think it will? Remarkable.

And it really is wacky what men like you try to do to silence women. You've tried a couple of times now to belittle me because I don't have children. You have no idea why, nor is it any of your business, but you think such a low attempt at a personal attack somehow makes me feel worse about myself ... I guess. It just makes me shake my head at your willful stupidity and lack of finesse at debating.

Darlin', anything that could be made up or hurled has been said about me because I don't follow the proscribed program of yesteryear. At this point, I'm especially Teflon because I've had such practice at getting a tough skin. And I'm spiritual enough to even have compassion for you even as I watch your arguments and attacks crumble into a heap of dust on the floor without you even knowing it. Let me be clear in case you're still confused: Your insults roll off me.

Put another way: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

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Scott1962 6 years, 10 months ago

Now, let me tell you about another factor I've never seen mentioned. I was in the insurance business back then, specifically property and casualty, so I had a front row seat to the decline of neighborhoods. It happened literally overnight thanks to the "non qualifying assumable loan" that so many mortgages were back then. This allowed anyone to take over payments on a home without having to forego a credit check of any kind. I don't know if it was a government thing or who created it but the devastation to property values in Jackson was unbelievable to say the least. This may be an uncomfortable truth to you but the people who took over these loans were primarily black and primarily sub standard credit wise. There are exceptions but credit is usually a pretty good indicator or what kind of person you are and the instant decline in appearance and very obvious increase in crime reflected that fact. So the original what you call white flight from Jackson but what is now simply the flight of a tax base came with very good cause. I blame the Clarion Ledger sensationalizing the gangs and related violence as much as anything but I do not blame the people who left to escape it at all. You do. I assume you do not have school age children or I imagine you'd be part of it. It would either be that or face the hypocrisy of sending them to a private school but either way your long standing self righteous view of white people would suddenly change drastically.

And this "work in Jackson live in Madison" anger so many of your readers have may be the stupidest argument I've seen yet. I worked in Jackson and I employed a lot of people who lived in Jackson who made good money. I paid what I owed to the city and the numerous permits etc and I contributed to the economy of the city. I have to wonder if any of them have? I frequented the restaurants at lunch and did my shopping there all of which helped someone out so you can all lose that attitude.

And last let me add that there were no fishermen killed at hotels in Madison this week.

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

Yes, Scott, but there were children sexually assaulted in Madison. That is really a useless point in this discussion and works to negate what you wrote above it.

There is no way to intelligently downplay the role of white flight (especially immediately after the schools integrated), which changed the landscape (and tax base, etc.) of Jackson and many other cities. You just can't rewrite that history with revisionist posts, and my trying to argue with people naive or gullible enough to think that is a waste of my time.

I also assume you're familiar with what redlining did to our communities? And, yes, that was race-based as well. Just because some people don't like this history to be discussed doesn't make it false. And if we don't learn that history and use it to solve problems, we will keep abandoning neighborhood after neighborhood instead of digging in and solving the problems.

Fortunately, younger generations have a different view on here, including here in Mississippi. THAT was the point of my column. They will very soon change our city and state, and it doesn't really matter what the revisionists have to say about it. That is very, very exciting.

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Scott1962 6 years, 10 months ago

What the hell does children getting sexually assaulted in Madison have to do with anything?

I realize that your views formed while you were off with the great thinkers of the world getting enlightened are much more factual and first hand than mine. But as I mentioned, having been working in the homeowners insurance industry and having purchased a home in Jackson at the time I would think my views would deserve something other than "naïve and gullible". Of course my views have validity to them and explain the flight without making every single white person who left Jackson look like a Klansman and that's no fun is it? I cannot imagine what you could tell us about that period had you actually lived here. That'd be something.

On the same scale since I have two teenage sons and I imagine a lot more black people in my home than you do then perhaps I'm more qualified to speak on the view of the younger generation than you? You think?.... Oh, ok you're right and I'm probably wrong but let me tell you anyway. These kids do not subscribe to the past or give a rat's ass about things that happened 50 years ago. They have been taught to ignore the so called "black leaders" who say they cannot succeed because the white man won't let them. They've grown up with parents who did succeed and who taught them anyone can. They are not victims and they do not want to hear about things that happened 50 or 100 years ago. They live in the present because they know to live in the past is to continue to blame present day for past sins, kinda like you do.

Again, you obviously do not have children because I too had all the answers about youth and education before I had any. I can tell you without giving it a second thought that if you did they would not attend the public school system in Jackson unless your pride was more important than your children.

As for downplaying the flight, I won't because the people committing the crimes and forming the gangs were black and that's what we were escaping. The difference between you and I though is that I see it as escaping the crime and the gangs while you see me as escaping the blacks. I've always subscribed to the opinion that I wouldn't be any less dead if I were shot by a 17 years old black kid than if I were shot by the class president at Jackson Prep. Therefore I'm not going to stay and try to "revitalize" a neighborhood and put myself at risk. Then again I'm naïve and gullible and should disregard my own life's experience and base my feelings on the fantasyland you live in.

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

Ha, got ya. That had as much to do with moving the zoo as your comment about the tourist stuck on the end of your post did. Crime is everywhere and committed by people of all races. Horrible crime.

Ah, I'm less informed because I don't have children. There are plenty of idiots with kids, Scott, and plenty of smart ones without them. And that's a shaky in a world where so many want to only blame crime "on the (black) family." By your logic, it sounds like having kids turns one from a moron into a genuis. Um, no.

Actually, my views were shaped growing up in Neshoba County around people like you who told little white boys and girls that we shouldn't talk about race and that "all that" was the fault of black people. I'm the person I was today that I became when I turned 14 and learned exactly what all those white people weren't supposed to tell us about our history. I've learned more since, but I am shaped and molded by the red clay of central Mississippi. And that bugs some of you the most, I know. You want us all with the program, and many of us are choosing a different path. Because, you know, it's our state, too. Get used to it. The younger generations are really going to prove it to you.

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

"As for downplaying the flight, I won't because the people committing the crimes and forming the gangs were black and that's what we were escaping. "

Can you be this naive??? You do realize that the first gangs in Mississippi where white, right? >They were night-riders, Klansmen and Citizens Councilors. They rode the streets of Jackson and the dirt roads of Rankin County terrorizing black people in my lifetime (and from your posts, I'm guessing yours).

People didn't flee the city of Jackson and its public schools because of "black gangs"; they fled because the federal government made us integrate schools. As for the gangs themselves, do you really not know who and what race created that culture and pumped the drugs into inner cities? When you first started posting, I honestly didn't realize how little you understand about our race history and, apparently, the drug war.

I really do recommend spending some time reading, doing research and thinking. Like many Mississippians (my own included for a long time), your education on these issues is lacking. No wonder you blame the victims. You don't know any better. And I say with compassion.

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tsmith 6 years, 10 months ago

If what I just read is true, the root cause of Jacksons problems is white flight, so then the solution would be to desegregate the schools?

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

Actually, the root cause is white supremacy, long before white flight. Supposedly the schools were desegregated, but most white families wouldn't stand for it and fled. Actually, part of today's solution is understanding these roots and then joining with others to dig them out. One way to do that is to live and do business and move around in the whole city as many of us do.

One of the most enlightening I've ever done was to spend the first year or so of the JFP driving nearly every street in Jackson first establishing relationships and distribution routes, and then distributing the paper ourselves throughout west Jackson every week for over a year. I've been afraid very few times anywhere in Jackson, and most of those times were when I was along on Frank Melton's joy rides.

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tsmith 6 years, 10 months ago

I meant segregate, my bad.....

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blackwatch 6 years, 10 months ago

Scott brings up an interesting point about the black middle class that also participates in flight from urban centers. The choices they have are indeed in a different context than the white flight that Jackson endures. For the black middle class, the ability to provide a better quality of life by moving is not a crime or “evil”, but it has a different effect. Black middle class flight to the suburbs weakens the ability of urban centers to create self sustaining, diverse communities. Suburbs never become mostly black in MS without eventually becoming blighted. The established whites just keep moving away when black families move in. I witnessed this as a resident in Byram.

Byram was on track to be thriving community, The Byram Town center plans were announced in 2009, with ground breaking in 2011. But in 2010, the census figures came out and showed that Byram, with it’s thriving middle class population with an average income and home ownership rate that was higher than Flowood and on par with Clinton, was shown to be over 50% black. Business development dried up, property values stagnated, and thus we see Byram, a mostly black suburb of Jackson, about to experience a decline in quality of life. So, the context of the black middle class family is quite different than the white middle class family. Flight for blacks doesn’t have the same effect as flight for whites. The market based economy dictates that economic development in communities is dependent on private investment. Too often in MS, private wealth in inexplicably bound to old, white money. White money that is not too keen on investing in black communities or black people. So, while I applaud you for staying in a neighborhood with 4 black families, most white Mississippians in the suburbs are not doing the same, and thus that scenario typically results in more white flight, and more urban and in the case of Byram, suburban blight. So, while the answer for you as a white person is to simply move to another community, for black people, that option fades quickly with more and black folks becoming more upwardly mobile.

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Scott1962 6 years, 10 months ago

First of all your "applauding me for staying in a neighborhood with four black families" is very offensive to me and tells me a lot. We all live in a cul de sac and have a history together with our children. We have watched them all grow up and in doing so care very much about what happens to them. Like me, all have worked hard and are successful and have rewarded themselves by moving their families to very nice homes in a very nice neighborhood. We speak openly about race relations in Mississippi and ironic doesn't quite capture their attitudes on some things.

More specifically, and your comment verifies this, they resent the attitude of so many blacks that since they are successful that they should somehow be responsible for saving neighborhoods. They resent the fact that so many blacks refuse to see other blacks as individuals and somehow feel that those who succeed owe something to those who didn't try. They resent the implications that all blacks should all be one collective voice with the same opinions.

I cannot speak for every neighborhood in Mississippi but I can speak for my own and the people in it and will say this. I get angry reading JFP and the general mislead belief and attitude so many of you have about people who have moved to the suburbs. Just as Donna didn't answer my question about what to call black families who fled Jackson, you do not address the feelings of those who have because you are not them, you don't speak for them nor is it fair to pretend that you can simply because they are black. I have yet to see anyone up here move away because a black family moved in.

And for the record Byram went down because of the years long annexation battle and the fear they would be part of Jackson not because of black white circumstances

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

Actually, Scott, I didn't see your comment about "what to call" black families that leave Jackson. I had surgery and haven't spent a lot of time in site discussion or even reading posts.

I would probably call them "black families" just as I would call white families who leave Jackson "white families." That kind of seems like a no-brainer.

I guess you haven't seen the various things I've written (and I believe in the column above) that talks about how economic flight of families of all races inevitably followed white flight, but that fact doesn't logically change the very real problem (racism) of what caused it in the first place and, often, keeps it going. It feels a bit like you haven't thought this issue through at all. I'm guessing you don't know where the phrase "tipping point" came from? It's a research phrase for the point that a neighborhood "tips" into being too non-white for whites to stay. Obviously, when whites flee and take historical wealth (and businesses and other services including the best-paid teachers and law enforcement), people of other races follow. Then, whites pick up and move again, leaving dead malls and closed businesses and such in their wake. Others follow until it tips again. It's still happening. Some white folks from Jackson are going to end up in Vaiden if they don't change their attitudes. (smile)

Again, though, it's younger generations who will and are changing this (the point of the column for all you folks freaking out over me daring to speak the truth about white flight). Midtown Atlanta is experiencing a renaissance in no small part because younger people want to live in cities and don't mind (and even crave) diversity that they're not often getting at home or at school -- a major characteristic of people born after 1980. They find suburbs boring (as do I). Meantime, many black families have moved to the suburbs there (and here), which is leading to race dust-ups in previously lily-white areas. (I was at a school-discipline conference last weekend in ATL where I learned that Gwinnett County is now guilty of using harder school discipline on kids of color than white kids; Gwinnett has become less white in recent years due to this demographic swap of sorts).

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donnaladd 6 years, 10 months ago

None of this changes why all this happened in the first place, and over-simplistic comments exclaiming the obvious "blacks leave, too!" in order to somehow change that history are just bizarre. And they have no purpose but to try to revise our history and, I'm guessing, make it sound like people of color are wholly responsible for the problems that white supremacy and Mississippi segregation laws and redlining and lynching reaped in their communities—from the inability to create wealth to creating a violent, fearful culture.

I simply don't understand people who don't get that if you refuse to look at the roots of problems the black community faces, then you are implying strongly that black people have problems just because they are black. And that would be a textbook definition of racism. Y'all can't have it both ways.

Don't you want to figure out what caused our problems and then fix them? Or, it is really all about casting blame, calling names and running from problems?

Thankfully, our younger generations are different, and there is immense hope in that. I applaud them.

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Scott1962 6 years, 10 months ago

Donna I just read about two sentences of your comment and decided I'm just going to concede to you and go away. To tell me I haven't thought things through is indicative of that self righteous arrogance you wear like a medal always. I have a business and a family and used to live in Jackson so I'm pretty sure I thought things through. And as I mentioned having lived here during that time I'm pretty sure my thoughts were based on reality and not a joint and a drum circle of equally clueless liberals who have the luxury of worrying about only themselves and not a family. Good luck with your future attempts to divide the masses. The next time I need a bit of wisdom I'll come to your cave and wait my turn for an audience with your all knowing, all seeing, example of journalistic perfection so many crave.

Just for fun have you ever spoken or written the words "I see your point and I hadn't thought of it from that standpoint... perhaps you're right"

I'm pretty sure you haven't but one day when you grow up you're going to find that peoples opinions are based on their life experience and it's going to vary from your own. Therefore not everyone can be summed up as wrong and racist because they refuse to give credibility to a woman who is so quick to point out the evil in their seeking a better life but who left the entire state for 10 years or so. In your mind that somehow qualifies you to always be right and I'll let you be that very thing. I promise you I will bother you no more.

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Knowledge06 6 years, 10 months ago

With all due respect blackwatch, not all upwardly mobile black folk are looking to move every time they 'think' their quality of life is being affected. Some of us choose to stay where we are and make where we are better for ourselves and for those around us (whoever they may be). As much as white flight and middle/upper class black flight is talked about, one can't be concerned or worry about those who choose to leave. There are more people in Jackson who pay taxes than those living in the surrounding suburbs combined. The taxpayers in Jackson have to continuously foot the bill for the wear and tear of the infrastructure placed on it by all those 'flighters' and their friends. None of those bedroom communities around Jackson have to deal with that truth. But yet they are always the people complaining. All the places that are mentioned as 'flight' havens are made up of populations (the majority of which) are employed by businesses in the City of Jackson. The only City in the the Metropolitian Jackson area where the majority of residents work in the City in which they live is Jackson. Further, if those that spend their time fleeing would learn to sit still, roll up their sleeves and do something constructive to benefit their community, they would perhaps have the 'private investment' among themselves to produce the things they want to see.

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robbier 6 years, 10 months ago

"There are more people in Jackson who pay taxes than those living in the surrounding suburbs combined"

Care to cite your source?

We talking state income tax? Federal income tax? Property tax?

Either way, my bet is you're wrong.

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blackwatch 6 years, 10 months ago

Know(the)ledge06, I agree that there are plenty of middle class blacks who are staying in Jackson and are fighting the good fight to save it. I agree also that by fleeing to the suburbs, middle class blacks, or anyone in the middle class for that matter, are not providing a collective solution to the issues of concentrated poverty and urban blight that have negative effects on the entire Jackson metro area. Jackson, as is any major urban hub, is the engine that drives development in every suburb in the area. No suburbs have the infrastructure- physical, fiscal, nor political- to drive their own development. So, the development of Jackson is vital for everyone in the Jackson metro area.

But here is a unique challenge, how do you convince a family to stay and sacrifice things like a strong education, municipal services, and in many instances, safe neighborhoods, in order to work toward collective social change that is very slow in coming and in many instances, is beyond their reach to obtain? For instance, you only have one shot to provide as strong an education as you possibly can for your children. Developmentally, there are skills and such they need to learn within certain time frames or there will be major challenges they will have academically later on in their schooling. Are we asking families to sacrifice that for the sake of fighting for better schooling for all children, when the reality is that there is little to no perceived incentive for decision makers to change the status quo?

In these instances, the private investment piece is vital. While I agree with Mayor Lumumba that economic opportunity needs to be more democratically dispersed, there is no public policy that can force a private company to invest in any municipality, when there are bigger profits perceived to be made elsewhere. The only real solution I see is to have city owned businesses compete with the private industry for revenue. Instead of partnering with Nissan to build a plant in Canton, why not develop “Jackson Motors”, and build and sell cars to compete with Nissan in the market with city resources, with proceeds going into the city coffers? I know that is farfetched, but I just do not see convincing these private businesses to do much in the way of investment in Jackson. Continued in the next post.

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robbier 6 years, 10 months ago

Wow, you and I were on similar wavelengths through paragraphs 1 2 and even the first few sentences of 3...then this:

"The only real solution I see is to have city owned businesses compete with the private industry for revenue"

Your ONLY solution is for the city government to become a producer of materials? I assume you support taking this idea and extrapolating into other areas of the private sector, right?

Hey, why doesn't the government take over all media outlets, too? We could have state run television, state run newspapers and censorship in lieu of free and private sector press!!

Sorry, Chairman Mao, that is remotely NOT the solution.

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blackwatch 6 years, 10 months ago

I was talking to a friend of mine who had a novel idea for economic development in Jackson. First, offer Donald Trump or Steve Winn prime real estate right there in Downtown Jackson to build the biggest resort casino in the US (hey, if Tunica can have Casinos, why not Jackson?). Of course, this would require a change in the laws, which would really be a formality considering the wealth of these men. Next, either the leaders in the state would have to yield to the development, or they would agree to really invest in Jackson, so that the infrastructure and economic development would again attract more professional class people, thus increasing the tax base and improving the quality of life of all Jacksonians. I know these ideas are “radical”, but progress has never happened by maintaining the status quo.

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Knowledge06 6 years, 10 months ago

Lesson #1 robbier: I'm not one of those people who cites information without having backup for it. You, therefore, lose your bet.

City of Jackson property tax revenue: $74,855,502

City of Ridgeland property tax revenue: $10,254,456 City of Madison property tax revenue : 9,205,440 City of Clinton property tax revenue : 7,350,759 City of Brandon property tax revenue : 4,896,625 City of Pearl property tax revenue : 4,816,942 City of Byram property tax revenue : 2,542,079

Source: (Most current municipal audit reports with the State Auditor's office)

And for the record robbier, the math would easily be the same for state income tax and federal income tax. No need to thank me!

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Knowledge06 6 years, 10 months ago

Blackwatch, you stated:"But here is a unique challenge, how do you convince a family to stay and sacrifice things like a strong education, municipal services, and in many instances, safe neighborhoods, in order to work toward collective social change that is very slow in coming and in many instances, is beyond their reach to obtain?

Your question assumes that a those of us living in Jackson sacrifice something because we choose to remain here. That is simply untrue. Where there are strong parents who are active in their children's schools and support them, you have 'strong education'. Just because one says that a certain education is weak or strong doesn't make it so. In college and in life, you compete against peers from varying backgrounds and circumstances. You may have gotten a head start but that doesn't mean you win the race.

Many 'safe neighborhoods' exist all across the City of Jackson. If you view is narrow, you will never see them. If the news is your map, you miss an entire City.

Finally, people tend to do what they want to do for various reasons. I don't try and convince anyone to do anything. But don't try and lift where you live up by putting down where someone else lives. My friends and neighbors remain in Jackson because they feel they have a great quality of life. The challenges that exist are met with optimism and a desire to be part of the solution.

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bubbat 6 years, 10 months ago

knowledge06- Don't think you won that bet. All you proved is Jackson has a higher tax revenue from property taxes, not there are more people paying the taxes. You said "There are more people in Jackson who pay taxes than those living in the surrounding suburbs combined" Not "Jackson brings in the most property taxes." The numbers you posted have nothing to do with the number of people who pay taxes. You need to come up with number of people who paid the taxes, property , income fed for each town before you start with the victory speech.

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Belvedere 6 years, 10 months ago

The zoo should be moved over by the Natural Science Museum and the Ag Museum where Jackson can have a big zoological/botanical/natural science area. Traffic patterns have changed greatly since the zoo was constructed. The interstate had not even been built then.

But the move should be planned simultaneously with a project to re-purpose the zoo property into something with real community value. It would be a great place for a park with walking, jogging, and bicycle trails, something more adventurous than a run of the mill city park, a real attraction for the whole city. I'm sure others would have even better ideas.

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blackwatch 6 years, 10 months ago

Knowledge, you state “Your question assumes that a those of us living in Jackson sacrifice something because we choose to remain here. That is simply untrue. Where there are strong parents who are active in their children's schools and support them, you have 'strong education'. Just because one says that a certain education is weak or strong doesn't make it so.”

I agree that a good education can be had in schools that are rated poorly by state accreditation, depending upon a variety of factors that include parental involvement, progressive leadership in the school, dedicated teachers and administrators, activities that the school can provide, etc. I am not merely going on the accreditation ratings, but on the factors that I previously listed. Parental involvement at a school that has poor leadership, uninspired teachers, and a culturally irrelevant curriculum and culturally unresponsive instruction won’t necessarily create a schooling experience for students that would be considered “strong”, regardless of the state accreditation rating. You can have a school like that in any district, in any community, with any rating. If a parent is in a situation where the school is actually poor because of the things I noted, they are sacrificing a quality education for their child to keep them there to try and fight and change the school. I’m not saying that every school in JPS is filled with those types of educators and practices, but there are schools like that in JPS, case in point, the big controversy over the charter push for Lanier.

Lanier has struggled with poor leadership for years, thus there is a push from alumni and the community to make it a charter school. A strong high school has to have the amenities that will allow for the students to be prepared with the knowledge and skills to be successful in whatever they plan on doing after high school. If they plan on opening their own business, does the high school provide entrepreneurship and co-operative education opportunities? If they want to go to college, are there true college preparatory classes, not just in name only, but are taught at the actual level of rigor, literacy, and accountability that would prepare them for college work? Are there science labs (for Physics, Chemistry, and Biology) that are fully equipped and utilized regularly by the science teachers and students? Are there foreign language classes offered at the advanced level (1st year -4th year)? Are there advanced arts classes, (including painting, sculpting, band, choir, individual instrumentation, theater, etc.) is the instructional technology being utilized effectively to help students be comfortable with using technology to produce research and new knowledge? Are there ample opportunities for leadership and community service (student government, interests clubs, DECA classes, etc)? Continued on next post

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blackwatch 6 years, 10 months ago

While true that these things may not be necessary for everyone to have access to in order to be successful in college, if they are accessible to anyone (and I can name 5 high schools in the metro area that offer all of these and more), then to keep a child in a school where these amenities are not available, I would consider a sacrifice, especially when one could move into a district where the high school offers these things. Nothing wrong with the sacrifice, I just won't hold any family accountible to do so, and have that as the only method for school and communtiy change.

I am not saying that people shouldn’t work toward making those schools better; in fact I truly believe that there is where we have a great chance to turn these communities around. But I will not ask any family to chance the education of their child in order to try and make that school better, even though I may chose to do so myself. Why aren't the school and community leadership already providing these things? Communities have to compete to keep the type of families they want to have in their communties. They simply can't rely on that level of civic engagement from individual families as the primary mode for community development.

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donnaladd 6 years, 9 months ago

OK, how about this for timing. In the midst of an explosion of whining about this column daring to mention the white flight that plagued west Jackson, expounding on how race isn't an issue in it all, a white man just came on the JFP Facebook under a post of this column and posted this. Under his real name, presumably, as Facebook rules require:

Mark Holder In my opinion it needs to move to a nicer safer area... for Mississippians and for Visitors. You support it where it is if you please. I grew up not far from the Zoo.. when it was clean, safe, drug free. The area is now a dump... like most of Jackson. You can blame whites for blacks not taking care of their homes,, kids, etc. I dont buy it. Ive worked hard all my life. My parents had a nice home in Willowood near Forest Hill. Blacks moved in & the Homes/Yards were not taken care of. The house across the street had a tarp on the roof & boards rotting... while they bought new Rims. SMH. In my opinion the Zoo would be better placed in Jackson near Pearl river on Lakeland drive... right at the Flowood border.

Can you be more blatant?? I rest my case.

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