Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Another day in the Delta, and some sunshine

Yesterday I drove over to Lambert, MS to pick up my friend and colleague, Debra. She and our chair were doing a focus group with some teenage girls. Debra and I were driving on over to Webb and Glendora afterwards to drop off some items and for me to give her a quick drive-through of the town and us to discuss how to set up the first town meeting. I have never been to Lambert before, so once again, it was an education for me. The lines are distinct in Lambert. To riff on Alaska Steve's poetic "zebra weather" of last week, Lambert is "zebra community" with distinct lines of black and white.

I found the church and went inside. Two young ladies staffing the door directed me upstairs. After letting them know I was here, I went back downstairs to wait for them to finish. The young lady closest to me smiled prettily and said, "It's my birthday today." I noted then the dollar bills pinned to her shirt and said, "So that's why you have all those dollars on your shirt!" I would have given her one, but I didn't have a one dollar bill--I knew that as I had just gone through McDonald's on the way to Lambert! I told her I had never heard of that custom until I moved to Mississippi.

They were having a basketball jamboree there in the church gym, where they also have a community program for the youth. It has been very successful in encouraging academic success and lowering the teenage pregnancy rate. As Debra and I drove over to Webb, I asked her about the dollar pinned on the chest. She laughed and said it was not a Mississippi tradition, or even an African American tradition. She was not sure where it originated, but she thought it was European. She said when she was growing up, you did not "display" your money, but tied it up in a handkerchief and put it in your bra. She said the "tradition" of pinning a dollar on someone for a birthday is a fairly recent thing here. I had only seen it once before when one of my students came to class with dollars pinned to her shirt and I asked her about it.

It was a fun trip (about 20 minutes) through the Delta. We shared our frustrations, our tiredness, laughed at things, and talked about things that worked and how we could continue to try to address all the issues that confront Mississippi--especially in the face of those who continue to think that those issues either do not exist, or are the fault of the individual rather than a system that fails to educate, fails to pay a living wage, fails to ensure health care and adequate housing.

I think it may be possible that the time is near for a major revolution in thinking about that, just because so many of the "middle class" are now in the same boat as the poor have been. People who have worked, who are educated, who were homeowners--now they are losing homes and jobs and have no health care--when it hits those who have "almost" made it or have made it, politicians start to pay attention in ways they do not for the poor.

On over to Glendora, and the mayor was out working on remodeling a building. I stopped and introduced him to Debra and said we had set up a meeting for the next week. We planned a community potluck to begin the engagement and meeting people before we start the assessment of what people in the community want and how we can find the resources to make that happen. We talked about the importance of keeping children in school, providing opportunities to see that there are other life courses.

And we laughed. We laughed about our middle aged lives and our husbands and things we never thought would happen to us. On the one hand, it helped me regain my hopefulness--things will turn out.

When I awoke this morning, the sun was shining and the sky was clear blue. It has been a pleasant fall day and I was able to complete a few chores outside, as well as sweep up dog hair and dust--not bad for someone with a total lack of motivation these days.

So, perhaps I shall be thankful after all. My friend Gigi has a lovely new grand daughter, I have weathered yet another storm in Mississippi and I am still standing, and hopefully, we will get the latest snag with getting a passport for J completed in time for him to accompany me to South Africa as planned. But that is a whole other story of life in the US these days.

No comments: