By Grayson Baird
Mississippi has always held a special place in my heart. Being raised in Dallas, it was always so refreshing when we traveled to visit my family in the beautiful Mississippi Delta.
My friends never understood my love for the Magnolia State, because to them, Mississippi is a poor state covered in plantations stuck back in time. Their views were not completely wrong. Mississippi did have all of these characteristics, but there was much more to the state.
There is a unique kind of beauty seen while driving down miles dirt roads with snow white cotton on either side of you as far as you can see. My dad grew up in a stereotypical Mississippi town, crammed in a three-bedroom home, which somehow held his family of seven. My dad was never aware his family was poor because everyone around him was in the same financial situation.
It is interesting to me that Mississippi is perceived as an uneducated state, because some of the smartest, most rational people I know have come from Mississippi. Citizens and business owners in Mississippi are some of the hardest working people, because they must work against the stereotypes and misconceptions about Mississippians.
So, how can a state with such a poor educational system produce such intelligent people? Having grown up in Dallas and living in Mississippi for the past two years has made the answer to this question very clear.
People from Mississippi know what it is like to work hard for what they want, and they do not expect anything to be handed to them. Hard work is an ethic and a principle. Whether it is money, education, or even the perception of Mississippi that makes things harder for Mississippians, they have shown time and again they are resilient. They realize it takes hard work in order to elevate themselves socially and professionally.
For years, there have been misconceptions that people from Mississippi are uneducated or raised in the backwoods. Mississippi citizens and businesses are starting to confront stereotypes about living and working in Mississippi.
Over decades, there have been many negative connotations associated with living in Mississippi. In fact, many of these stereotypes are indeed just the opposite.
For example, after conducting random surveys, one company discovered that a majority of people believed Mississippians live as if it were still the 1950s with segregated areas and communities throughout the state. However, the Mississippi Development Authority and the State Chamber of Commerce shows this to be clearly untrue.
As a representative of the state of Mississippi, I feel it is important to launch a strong campaign that will educate both the children and adult residents in and around Mississippi.
First, I propose we approach the Department of Education and create large posters or boards that depict pictures of our famous residents. These posters would serve as a visual reminder that there have been brilliant scholars, writers, doctors, and athletes who have hailed from Mississippi.
Teachers can place these posters of the great writers, including Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty in their classrooms while developing a mini lesson around the theme of education and Mississippi.
Coaches can put up posters in locker rooms of great athletes, including Brett Favre, Jerry Rice and Walter Payton.
Secondly, we should reach out to media outlets and run commercials or public service announcements praising our state. Perhaps some stations will donate airtime towards this campaign.
Third, it’s important to reach out to the commercial business and factories headquartered in our state. Not only have they profited economically, but they have brought thousands of jobs to our state, benefiting numerous families.
Fourth, I would contact the transportation department to remind drivers every couple of hundred miles that there are multiple attractions in proximity. This can be promoted through the use of billboards and various signs to alert the driver that an upcoming attraction is just miles ahead of them, which may encourage them to detour and visit our attractions.