The Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Mississippi is one of 10 museums and libraries awarded with the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Services. StoryCorps Facilitator John White and I made the trip south to provide the museum with one part of their reward: three Door-to-Door recording days.
We had a great time wandering inside the museum during our lunch hour, lucky to enjoy its many exhibits, like The Orient Expressed and Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Freedom Riders. But while walking the halls of The Mississippi Story, an ongoing exhibit, we got a surprise: Hanging on the wall was the portrait of one of our own participants, called “Tee.”
Facilitator John White (far left) has got the blues, knowing he and fellow facilitator Michelle Swinehart (second from right) will transition off the tour in just a few days. The Mississippi leg of our journey was almost over. Before that however, we spent a little time jukin’ at Clubland 2000, Ground Zero Blues Club and generally taking in all of the sights, sounds and stories of Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Even the kids learn to play the blues at the Delta Blues Musuem.
A Vicksburg native and co-director of the city’s only African American history and culture museum, The Jacqueline House, community partner liaison Yolande Robbins single-handedly planned five full days of interviews for the Griot D2D team’s visit.
THANK YOU MS. YOLANDE!!!
Griot Door-to-Door’s first stop in Ole’ Miss was Vicksburg. The Confederate flag greets you as you enter this historic Civil War city. With generous help from Ms. Yolande Robbins (center), founder of The Jacqueline House, we fearlessly forged ahead – collecting many stories and histories from this slowly evolving town.
After preparing the Booth in Holly Springs, we splurged for a tour of Graceland in nearby Memphis. StoryCorps facilitators John White and Michelle Swinehart stand alongside their fearless leader, Griot’s Senior Coordinator Jennifer Carr. Snapped before the launch of the tour stop, this picture exhibits our extreme excitement.
Walking through Graceland, we experienced many moments of inspiration along the way…
By September 24th, the GriotBooth team completed our road trip from Oakland, CA to Holly Springs, MS with a quick detour in Little Rock, AK. By chance, we happened on a beautiful southern sunset and celebration for the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine.
Nick and Alex finished up their time in Jackson at a bon-fire weenie roast hosted by one of their most dedicated participants, Jody Gore. There was music, s’mores and 20ft bamboo poles for roasting the weenies. Later they visited the home of two participants, Lucky and Debi Osborne, and they were each given bullets shot by Confederate Soldiers during the Civil War. That last night, plus the 930 Blues Club, fried pickles, copious amounts of catfish, and lots of great interviews will provide the facilitators with wonderful memories of their time in Mississippi.
Participant Doreene McCoy, featured in an earlier blog with her sister, Evelyn Palmour, stops by to wish the facilitators fare well.
We noticed several themes that reoccurred in many of our interviews in Jackson, MS. One of these themes was racial segregation and integration. Many participants who came into the booth relayed their personal experiences of the Civil Rights era, whether they were activists or students affected by desegregation. One of the participants was James Meredith, the man who integrated the University of Mississippi (‘Ole Miss). Meredith initiated The March against Fear that started in Memphis, Tennessee, and finished in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1966. This march is also known as “The James Meredith March.” Mr. Meredith is pictured above with his interview partner and fellow ‘Ole Miss graduate, Leannna Range Owens.
Mr. Meredith’s grandaughter, waiting outside the recording booth, listened in.
Having come to StoryCorps to interview his mother, Mr. Keyes Hayes invited us to have lunch at the Chick-fil-A he owns and operates. Standing here in front of an advertisement in the restautant are Alex Wright, Nick Pumilia, and Keyes Hayes.
Three interviews were conducted thanks to the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Participants talked about many things, including growing up in Mississippi, their childhood understanding of the Holocaust taking place in Europe, and whether or not they felt and/or were treated differently because of their religion. Pictured above are Beatrice Gotthelf, a life-long resident of Jackson, MS, and Stuart Rockoff, a historian with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life.
Pictured above are Melvin Jones, right, and his friend Ross Olivier. Mr. Olivier is a Methodist pastor from South Africa, and was an active participant in the anti-Apartheid movement there. In the StoryCorps MobileBooth, Mr. Olivier described his spiritual awakening and the difficult transformation South Africa has undergone. He now lives in Jackson, Mississippi, and is the senior pastor at Galloway United Methodist Church, in downtown Jackson.
Ms. Doreene McCoy, age 83, brought her sister, Ms. Evelyn I. Palmour, 84, into the booth on Sunday the 14th, so the two could “visit with each other.” Ms. Palmour, who lives in Oklahoma, is in Jackson, Mississippi for the month of January. The two covered topics such as catching jumbo-sized catfish and the importance of giving three compliments a day. They ended the interview by debating “environmentally friendly” cremation vs. “old-fashioned” burial. Alex and Nick look foward to spending more time with them at their family weenie-roast.
Before he left us to our own devices, Terry Scott, our Moblie coordinator, introduced us to his friend Jocelyn Luckett and her uncle, James Powell. Last night James graciously welcomed the two of us into his home, showing us his collection of African American art, taking us through the history of his legendary Afro – Centric home (featured in Home and Garden magazine) and feeding us great West-African-inspired southern food. Over dinner, James and Alex were suprised to find out they had a few friends in common. Alex is orignally from South Carolina, and James has spent time in St. Helena, South Carolina, doing research on Gullah culture in the area. Some of his good friends from there, Emery and Emma Campbell, have known Alex since she was a little girl.
StoryCorps MobileBooth East has arrived in Jackson, Mississippi.
Facilitators Alexandria Wright and Nick Pumilia have been exploring the city, and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, featured here in the background.