By Tyler Evans
Mississippi is not known for being the smartest, nicest, or the richest state. It is known for the things it isn’t. Mississippi is known for being poor, fat, dumb, and even to this day, racist.
Luckily for me, I have had the privilege of living many places. I was originally born in Okinawa, Japan, and then moved when I was 4 years old to Arizona.
While living in Arizona, we moved a total of five times to different cities. I moved to Mississippi when I was 13, an important time in life. While in Mississippi, I have lived in five different cities. I have met many different groups of people and visited many different places.
Since I have never had a true home and had to move every two to three years, it was always really hard to explain to people where I am “from.” As I got older and went to college, I moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and I realized where home was for me.
Every time I moved, I was eager to get to the next place and forget the last one. My first month in college, I got so homesick I wanted to leave. Yes, I said it, homesick.
Mississippi has something special about it that drew me in. I always heard the stereotypes, saying how dumb the people were, how everyone was obese, and worst of all, how “racist” people in Mississippi can be. Once I moved here, I quickly learned it’s not like it’s portrayed to people who don’t live in Mississippi.
I have never felt more welcome any place in my life. You can see a friendly face everywhere you go. The people I have grown close to would give the shirt off their back to anyone in need, and I have never met people who cared this much in all the places I have lived.
I am not trying to say Mississippi is perfect, because no state is perfect. There are many issues that keep us at the bottom of the totem pole. The media tends to focus more on these issues that Mississippi has.
Since people who have never been here only see the bad side of Mississippi, they never get to experience the good sides. I believe that’s where these negative perceptions come from.
Perceptions from real people about Mississippi are very interesting compared to the way media portrays this state. The top responses people gave after asking them about their perceptions were that Mississippi is full of respect, tradition, and faith.
People said there is a level of respect that they have noticed from people in Mississippi. This may come from deep Southern standards instilled in people, which is why you will hear “Yes maam” and “No sir” everywhere you go.
They described Mississippi as beautiful and diverse. One individual said a 30-minute drive from one city to another would be equivalent to traveling to entirely different state because of the diversity.
Many people said great things come from Mississippi. There are plenty of famous people and inventions that came from here that have made a huge impact on our country.
My campaign’s name is: Mississippi: Small State, Big Heart. Although we don’t lead in certain areas such as education, I am willing to bet more women in Mississippi know how to change the oil in their car, grow their own garden, take care of livestock, and live comfortably. People tend to base education on a degree, but are unable to change a flat tire on their car.
My goal for Small State, Big Heart is to show the greatness Mississippi offers. Everyone cares and is willing to help out those in need.
In order to execute this, social media would be my first outlet. A little over 80 percent of Americans use social media. Twitter and Facebook have the ability to spread videos and messages like wildfire all over America, and even to other countries.
Results didn’t turn out as well as expected. After a Facebook post about the genuine heart of Mississippi and its people, I thought it would blast off. I realized most of my Facebook friends are Mississippi natives and these are things they already know.
I had a few shares from mostly family who agreed with the post, but my goal was to spread it far enough to people who would be reading something they didn’t know about Mississippi.
Although it wasn’t extremely popular like I had wanted it to be on social media, many friends and family contacted me about the post saying how much they enjoyed it. Since I was able to shine some positivity on a rather dark subject of the perceptions of Mississippi, I believe it was still a small success.
If I had more time I would develop a video for YouTube showing the beauty of Mississippi and include personal stories and testimonies of real people who live here.
Doing this project taught me a lot. At first, I thought I would have a lot of people respond with negative perceptions of Mississippi, but that wasn’t the case.
People opened my eyes up to so many more incredible things I never thought about that make Mississippi so great. The media may depict our state in a negative manner, but with real people and testimonies, we can see the truth.