Most people make vows when they're married about forever and never parting and loving through sickness and health. You know all that jazz.
Well, I made that vow. But I also promised my husband that I would not leave Mississippi. I looked him in the eye, and I told him that Jackson, Miss., would forever be my home, come what may. I would fight, with him, for Jackson as long as it took, I promised.
Through the years, I've had my doubts about where the city was headed. I've wondered if I could be more successful in another state. I've fought the urge to move back to Atlanta. But never has my heart been so pierced with embarrassment and shame as it has in recent weeks as I watched state leaders' efforts to erase any and all the progress made in Jackson over the last few years, while ensuring that progression doesn't continue in the future.
I had thought the fight for removal of the Confederate flag to come down was a tragedy. I figured, yeah, there are more racists than I'd like to see rebelling against changing the flag. I'd like to see more black folk bothered about it. But I wasn't particularly surprised. I mean, it's Mississippi; you can find a racist here about as easy as you can find a rock on a gravel road.
I fully expected the flag lovers to fight for that flag. They want to maintain their history; we want to create a future. We, black people, don't hold Mississippi's past in such high regard. So our only hope is to change the future. That flag flying in the Mississippi wind does not garner such hope.
Now we face the takeover of the Jackson-Evers International Airport. To the unknowing eye, I suppose that could have the look of progression, that the State now wants to work with us.
But be very clear: The outlying cities don't want anything to do with Jackson. Jackson is poor and black.
The airport is a "good thing" that Jackson owns. If they take the control of the airport and make it easy enough to avoid ever coming into Jackson from surrounding areas, I suppose we'd just become sort of like an island, set apart from the "good parts of town." Sound familiar? It's called segregation.
Now you have a thriving business district in Fondren. Right in the middle of it sit a booming medical industry and Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Suddenly, Gov. Phil Bryant is concerned about the stadium where Jackson State University holds its home games now. Bryant wants to give "them" back "their" stadium. Why sit this stadium, for a black university, in the middle of all this money and economic power? Send them to their side of town: the west side, the black side. Se-gre-ga-tion.
In the legislative session that just ended, we even had a bill to allow firing squads for state executions. What? How have we traveled so far back in time to where this is even fathomable? Who do you think will be the ones who are demolished this way? I can tell you who it would not include—rich, white men. Had it moved forward—thankfully, it was killed—the firing squads would ultimately be like stacking black communities with heroin and crack. It was just another attempt to kill off black men (and a few white ones who don't contribute to the society they want to see and control).
The governor also signed a bill that would give "good" white folk the right to legally discriminate against people based on their religious beliefs. That law is designed to allow Christians to discriminate in this largely Christian state, certainly not Muslims or atheists who lawmakers probably see as part of the ultimate plan to control us. And, of course, the bill allows for refusal of service to LGBT citizens, just as segregationists could legally do until the 1960s. LGBT citizens don't fit into the old way of thinking so may as well throw them into the bag to discard their rights.
Is all of this not enough for one to consider packing up and high-tailing it out of this backward state? Sure it is. The audacity of those who find righteousness in any of the aforementioned actions is mind-boggling. Still, my father taught me, and my husband has reinforced in me, that the only way to make things better and to evoke change is to stand firm, to fight back.
I love Mississippi. I bleed Jackson. No one has the right to come into my backyard and run me away from my home. I'm staying, and I'm fighting.
Funmi "Queen" Franklin is a word lover, poet and advocate for sisterhood. She has a weakness for reality shows.