By Brantley Meaders
Mississippi is not a state you hear people dreaming of. Most people want to leave it.
It’s not a popular suggestion for a good vacation. The beaches are dark and gray, and the cities are small.
The landscape offers little to do or see, although its fields are beautiful and soils fertile. Agriculture is the only world-renowned industry you will find. The sprawling Mississippi River Delta features some of the richest soil in the world.
Grand antebellum columns can be found looking out over some lands across the state, haunting every beautiful sunrise with memories of a bygone Plantation era. History is land marked in every corner with statues and memorials.
Change has profoundly affected Mississippi on two major occasions over the course of its existence, with the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement 100 later.
Yet nothing ever seems to change.
Mississippi’s government is still dominated by traditional conservatives who reject progressive policies and stagnate its growth. Racial sentiments from past generations still linger in the state’s rural population, and whites and blacks are still segregated in some ways. Downtown Jackson lies in a picture of abandoned decay.
The truth is, Miss’ssippi (or Alabama, take your pick) is the butt of every joke in the country. It is perpetually stereotyped, and everyone seems happy using it as an example of the country’s worst side, even its own native sons and daughters. We are constantly trying to escape, jumping at any opportunity to join in on the joke that is Mississippi ourselves.
Growing up in Mississippi has made it my home. I’m attached by sentimental familiarity as well as childhood nostalgia. Although the stark reality of our state’s history has manifested inside me as cynicism and doubt, as it has for everyone from here, I have the necessary perspective to remain optimistic and recognize the fruit bearing potential of reform.
I have witnessed firsthand Mississippi’s redeeming qualities, including the generosity of strangers, the culture of family and food, the appreciation of music and literature, the “love of thy neighbors,” the desire for education, and the openness to diversity.
I know that the people of Mississippi desire a lot more. For many, it is time for Mississippi to be an example of re-imagining and growth.
As a marketing director, I would be perfect for showing the world another side of Mississippi. I would create a series for a streaming platform like Netflix or HBO that would give me the resources to film with creative control. I would hire a director, a film crew and writing staff for the project, with one mission: Make people rethink Mississippi.
I would use Mississippi characters and write a story set in Mississippi towns with Mississippians. I would show the modern-day millennial’s struggle with racism and religion in the South in a way that people haven’t seen before, while capturing the continued integration of white and black cultures. I would direct them to show all the redeeming qualities of Mississippi I mentioned previously.
My goal would be to create social media talk about the show, as modern television is considered the “new novel,” and bring attention to Mississippi’s situation with open-mindedness and interest. The state would benefit from an improved public profile, and residents would feel a special connection as their home is visualized on screen unlike ever before.
Personally, my goal with this elaborate marketing campaign would be to inspire the state government to act on issues that could be addressed with more progressive policy. As this almost certainly wouldn’t happen, however, the goal would have to be inspiring the constituency to vote for moderate-to-liberal candidates.
The Republican policies of the past decade have not worked for the economy. “Trickle down” economics have proven not to work in the state, as well as all over the country, and continuing to follow conservative policy, such as cutting taxes for the rich, is not serving the people.
More needs to be done both for the forgotten “silent majority” and for the poor neighborhoods of Jackson and Meridian, bringing us together and affirming our diversity.
As one of the poorest states in the country, we should have a government more open to entering the marijuana industry, which would bring much needed revenue in addition to new treatment for thousands of patients.
I believe that the heart of Mississippi is about love, acceptance, and prosperity, and that a show like the one I would run for my marketing campaign would inspire people all over the state to recognize this and create a new Mississippi.