Wednesday, January 31, 2018
The soles of our shoes make us feel confident and secure about each step that we take. Inevitably, they need to be repaired, whether it be from years of normal wear and tear, or years of neglect.
Try walking without your soles intact on asphalt or a dirt road, and it can become quite the uncomfortable, annoying experience. Try walking without your soles intact while wearing an evening gown or jogging suit, and the effort is futile, nonsensical and counterproductive. Jackson is the sole of Mississippi—and, Mississippi, we are uncomfortable.
Jackson is the only city in Mississippi referred to as the "capital," the only one with a star or some symbol that indicates its presence on a map, the largest city in our state, and the city that hosts the Mississippi Capitol. Jackson is special. As much as some would like to throw out the whole shoe, Jackson's sole is built strong and solid.
It could use some repairs, though.
At some point, everyone in the area has to travel to or through Jackson to access people, programs or services. We have a bond, by default. We are all kinfolk who are wearing the same shoe. So what do we do, Jackson? What do we do, Mississippi? Do we fix the sole? Sure, let's fix the sole because we have a lot more miles to cover and too many great opportunities to discover.
If we take the lesson from the recent opening of the Two Mississippi Museums, with special attention to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, we understand that the voices and choices of the past have really affected us. Let's be honest: We are all or have been victims of Mississippi's history. But we work with intentionality to gain the traction needed to remain viable. We move on with the knowledge, confidence and energy to make Mississippi a new, respected, competitive showcase of a state.
Jackson is our foundation, though. It's where the world stops to look first—from the soles of our state on up.
Education, economic development, tourism, community empowerment, race relations, poverty, at-risk people—we face challenges in it all. But Jackson cannot fight for its rightful place without arming itself for battle, or without a surplus of weapons from our allies.
For once, we can all be in the same war and on the same side.
My personal commitment is to walk with Jackson. To want, in my heart, for Jackson to do better, to be perceived better, to be better.
To act genuinely proud to be a part of Jackson, to speak with a smile here, to dissuade distrust here, to lift up the downtrodden here, to stay and pray here, to shop, sip, dine and shine here.
To listen to my fellow Jacksonians in an effort to capture a unified yet diverse perspective, to prompt and facilitate discussion not only about what our potential is as a city, but about what our actual power is right in this moment.
To know that Mississippi really wants Jackson to do well because to know that Jackson is loved is to expect that we do not have to fight alone. To know that Jackson is respected is to expect that we, ourselves, appreciate the alliances we have made and the resources that we continue to accumulate.
Mississippians can walk together, and Jackson's sole will ensure that we can stand upright, progress and be recognized.
Pam Confer is a professional speaker, writer and jazz musician whose song "Mississippi Beautiful" is featured in the "Where Do We Go From Here?" exhibit at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.