By Brandon Hardaway
Being a kid from California, the transition from the West Coast to the South was drastic. From palm trees and beaches to tractors and dirt roads, it felt like I was dropped into a foreign place.
Mississippi has a negative image due to past events. After living here for more than six years, I’ve obviously grown accustomed to certain parts of the state. But now I receive the same comments I used to give about Mississippi from those who live in different states.
Others look at Mississippi as this country, blubber-filled, racist state and often let that dictate whether they would want to visit. I’ve had people ask me questions about Mississippi like: “Do they really walk around barefoot?” or “Why do you have this deep Southern drawl?”
I’ve literally had people use the phrase, “Oh, he’s from Mississippi,” like that makes me different from any other person, or that I do certain things a particular way.
The media is at the top of the criticism. They portray Mississippi in negative ways, but forget a lot of positive details. They feed off of controversy.
There might be some accurate things said, but mostly inaccurate stories start an uproar. I feel the media should use their connections to help instead of badger.
For my marketing campaign, I want to showcase millions of voices about Mississippi. The name will be 50 Shades of Mississippi, and its purpose is to hear voices of Mississippi residents about issues that may arise or positive events.
I will execute my plan by using social media. Secondly, I’ll tour and talk to classes and groups in Mississippi to explain my message.
I’ll set up a website dedicated to my campaign so those who didn’t speak or had more to say can join a forum. They can share the website with others, or share social media content so others can become more involved and woke about Mississippi.
Hopefully, it reaches politicians and the state legislature attracting more support and sponsorship. I’d eventually do a video with big names from Mississippi backing the project and offering their opinions about the state.
I asked students and professors their own perceptions of Mississippi. The answers I received differentiated throughout the day. Some poured their hearts out about the love of their state, and others expressed anger about the negativity Mississippi has received.
They gave me ideas to use for my campaign, such as getting the chancellor involved to emphasize the importance of education. That way, different schools across Mississippi can fight the critics.
The end results of my campaign were surprisingly successful. I went back to my high school, and some of my favorite teachers let me run a test on their classes and ask questions. They praised me for taking steps to evolve Mississippi as a whole.
Some of the kids had never been out of Mississippi before, so that’s all they knew, while others have taken trips and wish Mississippi offered certain attractions like other states.
I learned so many perceptions about Mississippi, I could probably write a book. But that’s why I called my campaign 50 Shades of Mississippi.
There are so many different faces in Mississippi, you’ll never get the same response. Some said Mississippi is still considered one of the most prejudiced states around, while others feel Mississippi is slowly evolving into something better for all.
I learned no matter the issue, this state will forever be divided, and I hate to say it, but right now that’s how it should be because there’s no such utopia in Mississippi.