By Nicole Henderson
Being from New Orleans, living in Mississippi was a huge transition for me. I came to Ole Miss on an athletic scholarship with another teammate, who is also from New Orleans.
Everything was different – food, accents, music, traditions, etc. Some of the things I’ve seen in Mississippi, I would have never imagined seeing back at home.
Even though being here is nothing like home, the experience so far has not been troubling as I thought it would have been.
I think almost half of the world’s population would have something negative to say about the state of Mississippi. In high school, I learned a lot of bad things about Mississippi. I wasn’t taught any good, so my perspective of Mississippi was bad before I got here.
When deciding to attend the University in Mississippi, I knew I would have to deal with all the negative thoughts that came with it. In high school, I never imagined myself visiting Mississippi, let alone going to school here. I always thought about a lot of unused land, farm animals and racism.
In high-school, I learned about Emmett Till. He was a teenager who was lynched in Mississippi. After watching that documentary, I made the decision that I would never step foot in the state of Mississippi.
While other things make Mississippi seem like a discomforting place, the story of Emmett Till is the most memorable. Racism is the first thing that once came to mind when someone mentioned Mississippi. The media portrays Mississippi as uneducated.
When I said I was attending the University of Mississippi, I received funny looks from people, and I knew the reason why, but I didn’t think people would be so open about it. I would always hear negative comments like: “You know that school racist, right?” or “Why you going to school in the middle of nowhere?”
I would like to start a campaign that uplifts Mississippi. The state isn’t the most beautiful or luxurious place there is, but they do have the most beautiful people in it with amazing souls.
Since in 2014, the state of Mississippi legalized gay marriage, I would create an apartment complex for the LGBT community. The name of the campaign will be “Living Happy.”
The purpose is to make the LGBT community feel safe, wanted and welcome. Everyone wants to feel comfortable at home. No one wants to feel like they’re being judged in their living space.
The message is self-explanatory. Members of the LGBT community would have a place where they can be themselves and not be judged. They would not have to hide who they really are.
To get the message out there and execute this campaign, I would use social media, news stories and video. I would go to different colleges around the state. I’m sure everyone visits YouTube throughout the day and has a Pandora music app on their smartphone. I would come up with an advertisement that you cannot skip so people can hear my message.
I’ve asked a few people about this idea around campus and in local stores. Several people thought the idea would be successful, and that maybe someday this can become possible.
Asking random people who I don’t know about their sexuality was challenging, because I did not want to offend anyone. Some people agreed with the decision to support this movement, and some people didn’t.
I took a trip to Walmart to buy groceries and decided to ask a random person there. This was the response I got, and I quote: “I think idea is cool, but why do we have to baby homosexuals. They chose that life, and so they have to deal with the consequences.”
I couldn’t do anything, but respect this person’s right to have an opinion, even though I did not agree with it.
I also received positive feedback. I posted a survey on Facebook, so I believe I got the message across to others. If I had more time, this would become a worldwide project.
Regarding the state’s perception, I learned that you cannot believe everything you hear. I was told a lot of negative things about Mississippi, but when I came to the state, I did not experience anything. I was told that I was going to experience racism, but I haven’t.
Mississippi accepts you as you are. They are open to same sex marriage. This is a positive aspect about Mississippi that people tend to overlook. There are good things that come out of this state. You just have to look into it.