A Mississippi U.S. quarter

A Mississippi U.S. quarter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Southern migrants to Chicago, my brother and I are becoming increasingly dismayed about the merits of this city which has become the nation’s murder capitol.We often find ourselves reminiscing about the good old days when we were coming of age in Mississippi.Given the astronomical amount of violent crime in Chicago, those long ago days in Mississippi seem like an era of lost innocence.Growing up in the most criticized state in the Deep South and perhaps all of America, I always had that underdog feeling. We constantly heard that Mississippi ranked dead last in every conceivable metrics. We were definitely ranked last in education. We certainly ranked last in wealth.

I remember wanting my life to fast forward so I could leave this state and the South.

Although by this time in the 1980’s, African Americans had discovered that the urban North was not the land of milk and honey as they so often believed in the early and mid-20th century.

Still, the specter of the North still beckoned to me.  That is in part why after graduation, I jumped at the chance to leave and joined the US military which has taken me far beyond the confines of the Delta.

Funny… In all of my travels everyone always greeted me with a hint of sympathy when they learned that I was a Mississippi native.

The Mississippi of their conscious is still perhaps riddled with

Emmett Till

Edgar Evers

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner,

All murdered in the name of racial hatred!!!

I don’t begrudge them one bit. Believe me.

I guess the bitterest pill to swallow is that Emmett Till’s killers were never bought to justice in spite of numerous attempts.

After decades, Medgar’s death was finally vindicated after his killer was finally convicted.

And, those three slain civil rights workers only received partial justice.

In spite of the excessive blood shed by our ancestors, there was something compelling that was strong enough to lure back those escapees who made the trek North all of those years ago.

One doesn’t have to search far and wide for reasons:

Fried catfish

B.B. King

King Cotton Smoke Sausages

My aunt who left in the 1960’s to find the Promised Land in Detroit recently relocated back. She is a part of the growing demographic who are fueling a reverse migration.

I often ask her how it is possible to make the transition. She claims that this is her home and the big city has no allure for her anymore.

My sister on the other hand who has lived in Michigan for twenty years declares that the South has no place for her now and especially not Mississippi!

Although it has been over 15 years since I have last visited, I am reasonably aware through relatives and friends of the progress that has been made.

It seems that the state is no longer a land divided between Blacks and Whites as evidenced by a growing Hispanic population.

Perhaps what has signaled to me a new Mississippi is the success of rapper David Banner. I must admit that with the explosion of hip hop in the last half of the 20th century, Mississippi seemed like the last place to spawn a rap superstar.

Like other hip hop artists, Banner often gave praise to his home state. Wow!!!!!

In the early 21st century maybe Mississippi is finally ready to shed her image of racial intolerance and low economic expectations.

I believe that true progress is still long in coming in order for this cotton capitol to be rid of the ghosts that still haunts her.

But am I ready to take that bold step back to the land of genteel poverty of my childhood?

Not quite!!!

But, you never know. Stay tuned…

Unit Next Time…