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Friday, February 3, 2017

My Mississippiversary: D.S. Payne

2017 is Mississippi's bicentennial! To celebrate, the Mississippi Library Commission has created the Bicentennial Bingo project. Throughout the year, fill in the squares in our bingo card to get the full Mississippi experience and learn more about our state. One of our favorite squares is "Tell us about your Mississippiversary," the responses from which we'll be sharing here and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds. We're so pleased to share our first Mississippiversary submission below.

"My Mississippiversary is the date of my birth. The blessed event happened in Vicksburg, in the hospital, in the full heat of summer, before central air. I was educated in the Catholic school system of the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson (now the Diocese of Jackson). That was also a blessing because education was separated by race/skin color (and the Catholic system followed the laws of the day), but the nuns who taught in Black schools educated students for college, not fields and factories. That sound foundation readied me to be able to leave Mississippi and enjoy a fullness of life not possible in the state because of legalized racial and social segregation and oppression. In the years I was away, some change occurred. The generations-old underlining systems did not support many of those changes however, and the state remains an oppressive place for many. If you only consider the beauty of the hills, forests, and waterways you ignore the social problems and reasons for poverty, crime, inadequate funding of public schools, and continued exodus of Mississippians who want to live free in a free society.

Mississippiversaries are good to have. It is good to acknowledge milestones and footprints of the people who have made the state what it is. It is good to recognize the heroes and heroines of both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement that sought to undo the damage of slavery and Jim Crow. It is good to, yet again, acknowledge Welty, Faulkner, Morris, and Grisham. It would be great if the Mississippi writers who are/were Black were also acknowledged beyond an occasional send-up of Walker and Wright. Celebrating Mississippiversaries still looks like the history of the state: separate and unequal, well-funded and unfunded." -D.S. Payne

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