By Jyesha Johnson
When I was in elementary school in Illinois, my classmates and I competed to see who could spell Mississippi the fastest. It was just a long word to my classmates, but it was so much more for me. It was home.
One time, a new student, also from Mississippi, joined our class. I felt like it was my job to prove I was more of a Mississippian than he was even though my earliest memory was in Illinois.
This rivalry attitude stemmed from the fact that I always knew Mississippi was home, and it was a major part of my identity at a young age. As I grew older, I realized “home is where the heart is.” My heart was in Mississippi.
My mother wanted my brother and I to share the same beginnings she had, so we moved back to Mississippi. Mississippi was and still is part of my identity because it’s where I feel pure affections from family, friends, and even strangers.
I found comfort in a small Delta town. Nothing could compare to unexpectedly seeing an uncle at the gas station, taking his pocket change to the candy lady, having someone marvel at how much I resemble my mother, and walking on an old dirt road with my cousins. All these things and more made Mississippi home to me.
Even though I consider Mississippi home, I don’t appreciate Mississippi’s ugly past that is the blame for the perception many have of Mississippi. Mississippi has been unable to have a place in what some call “post racial America.” The university has experienced firsthand how hard it is to leave a racist past behind.
Many people questioned my decision to come here because of its racist past, heavily documented and vivid racist acts.
Nina Simone said it best when she said “Mississippi Goddam.” Most movies I saw as a child illustrated the racist past of Mississippi, like “A Time to Kill,” “Ghosts of Mississippi,” and “The Help.”
Not only have Mississippians been written out of “post-racial America,” they have also been seen as intellectually insufficient. This idea is extremely exaggerated in media.
Mississippi’s education system can use a little help. When I moved from Illinois back to Mississippi, I could tell the difference in the school. In Mississippi, we didn’t have an efficient number of textbooks, and someone had to hold the door for you to the restroom because the locks were broken. However, my classmates were extremely gifted and succeeded despite adversity.
Mississippi is Home is the name of my marketing campaign. That statement is true for every Mississippian, no matter how they feel about the state.
How can one possibly change the perception of Mississippi? It’s essential to focus on Mississippians. They have the authority and ability to combat stereotypes and perceptions with firsthand experiences and compassion.
This campaign will turn Mississippians into advocates for Mississippi. Although Mississippians love Mississippi, the goal is to get them to love it more. It’s important to connect with Mississippians on an emotional level.
This campaign should be a platform for Mississippians to share their love and hate for Mississippi. It’s important for this campaign to share the good along with the bad. Consumers recognize honesty. A one-sided campaign will only make consumers question the motive of the campaign.
The true purpose of the campaign should be to create solidarity between all Mississippians through shared experiences. Most importantly, the campaign should start a conversation about Mississippi as a home.
It is important to master the art of getting attention. This campaign will include many forms of media, such as social media, outdoor posters, and a website. It will give the audience a chance to “star” in the marketing campaign.
This campaign will emphasize the unique lifestyle of a Mississippian. Each story will emphasize why Mississippi is home to that person and share their backstory.
This campaign will be relatable to all Mississippians. A news story involving one Mississippian will run weekly. Photography of Mississippi will create share-worthy content for social media, especially for Mississippians who can relate to the stories.
It will be possible for the perspective Mississippian to become a viral phenomenon while promoting the campaign. Billboards will feature the Mississippian in his/her hometown. This will create prominence for the campaign. Once a conversation is started about Mississippi is home, the campaign will excel.