By Isaac Harrelson
All my life, my father told me stories of the fond memories he held of his home state, Mississippi. He told me about the beautiful hills he and his brothers rode bikes and played football on, the beautiful country roads they tore down in the cars they fixed at the family body shop, red and blue weekends in the Grove surrounded by good friends and gorgeous Southern belles, but mostly he thought about the people.
He told me of his nannie, Miss Janie, a black woman who he claims practically raised him. This woman’s kind heart had such a profound affect on my father that when he watched the film “The Help,” he wept thinking of her. I’ve never seen my father cry but this once.
He also educated me about the rich artistic culture of the state. He told me of the nights he watched B. B. King at Paris Yates Chapel, and the evenings spent shooting pool with R. L. Burnside and his son Cedric.
I was raised on Mississippi music, and it is my main influence and inspiration for becoming a musician. When I was older, my father took me to Mississippi to meet the characters and settings of all the stories he told me, and I was blown away.
Today, I walk outside, and I am astonished at the beauty of this place, the kindness of the community, especially the black community. All of these people I have gotten to meet treat me like family, even though they owe me nothing. Each time I sit down for a cup of coffee or stop by their places, I hear stories of legendary musicians, writers, potters, and indie artists from the state. It’s funny, when my friends back home hear me talk about the state, they are unable to look past the stereotypes, some to the point that they refuse to visit.
The media’s portrayal of Mississippi is a very one-sided one. It’s impossible to ignore the negative history and the negative statistics of the state, but apparently it’s impossible to highlight the rich, positive history and progress the state has made too. It’s such a shame that the blanket descriptions of racists, dumb, unhealthy, poor, cover up the diverse, colorful, vibrant art, culture, and people this state holds.
For my marketing campaign, I want to bring attention to Mississippi’s music culture. Some of the greatest names in music, B.B. King, Elvis, Howlin Wolf, R. L. Burnside, Bo Diddley, and Sam Cooke, to name a few, came from Mississippi.
Newer big acts in rock and rap like 3 Doors Down, Rae Sremmurd, Soulja Boy and David Banner hail from the Magnolia state.
I think staging a music festival called MISSISSIPPI SOUL that showcases surviving Mississippi bluesmen and soul artists, alongside new current artists, would highlight and educate people about the impact Mississippi artists have had on the music world.
If given the time and resources, I think a way to send the campaign to the next level of effectiveness would be getting non-native artists who are globally known, like The Rolling Stones, Hozier, John Mayer, Beyonce, etc. to perform classic Mississippi artists tunes and speak about their musical influences would attract a huge and diverse non Mississippi audience.
Another option to increase reach and effectiveness would be to livestream the event on YouTube and TV and air it on something like VH1, Palladia, or a bigger station. I would execute it by taking advantage of the artists’ large social media clout.
Locally, on campus, I would hang a large banner over the entrances to campus with the name, date of the event, and some headlining artists, and use Ole Miss’ social media like the school’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
When I talked to my friends and classmates about my proposed campaign, they really liked the idea. When I explained that a lot of bands and artists they loved had direct ties to or influences from Mississippi, they were surprised. Some people didn’t even know Elvis was from here.
College students are also young and generally open to discovering new things including live music. By molding an educational event with a highly enjoyable pastime, some said they wished this was a real event.
I think this reaction serves as proof that I managed to get my idea across well. I educated, increased interest in some of the good this state has to offer, and generated excitement surrounding the campaign.
Overall, I discovered just how little people outside the state know about Mississippi’s rich art culture. This is a legitimate issue that should be addressed. If people were aware and educated, they would have a newfound appreciation for the “dumbest, fattest, most racist state in the U.S.”
Fortunately, music is something people enjoy, so there is a real opportunity for success in this prospective campaign theme.