From Mississippi to Maine & Back Again
BIPOC Voices | September 28, 2021 | Posted by Jill McLaughlin
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This month’s guest blog post comes from Andriana Bouldin. A former South Portland resident and Mississippi native, Andriana enjoys running, cooking, and tending to her plant babies. She is a community advocate for equality and justice and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Boys and Girls Clubs of Great Houston-Young Professionals, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston Meals on Wheels, NAACP Houston Branch, and Harris County Election Clerk.
Mississippi vs. Maine
M-I crooked letter
Crooked letter I
Crooked letter I
Humpback humpback I
For many, the word Mississippi is a reminder of a rhyme children tenderly recite on the playground while jumping rope. Marred by its economic inequalities, racial injustices, and educational irregularities, the 20th state is the quintessential reminder of America’s unbecoming truth of inequality. The picture often painted is one of a grim, dark past that we dare not speak of—segregation, lynching, sharecropping, and Jim Crow laws. By no means am I able to share in the first-hand sentiments of the civil rights era or the events leading up to that particular movement, but I do know the stories as told by my parents, who were sharecroppers and grandchildren of slaves. From my vantage point, what my social studies and Mississippi history courses illuminated, Mississippi 2021 sits at the heels of Mississippi 1964.
Present day Mississippi appears radically different than the home state that reared me. I vividly recall hot, sweaty summer days that produced a thirst that could only be quenched by homegrown, sun ripened watermelon, or a honeysuckle bush found alongside the pathway home. For an underprivileged black girl growing up in Mississippi, my experience can solely be described as a mishmash of stories of survival and big mama’s hoecakes wrapped in the blues of those whose only hope was to one day be free.
If we are honest with ourselves, we can fully comprehend that the injustices of the 1960s have not vanished and many black, rural citizens remain captive to the inequalities and disparities that keep them in bondage to a society that lacks compassion for all humans.
Today, the economic disparities, racial injustices, and educational imbalances have simply reared their heads in the form of food scarcity, illiteracy, and poverty in a modern day America. Although the terminology may have changed, the impact and bondage faced by underprivileged communities in many of our rural black and brown areas remain more prominent than ever.
From Mississippi to Maine, and Back Again.
After spending several years in Maine, I arrived back in Canton, Mississippi no longer noticing the church deacons peddling the home grown produce on the roadside. Nor did I see the women of the community sitting on the front porch rocking to the beat of town gossip, while shelling peas with the ladies of Zion. The present day presented a community engulfed with corner stores, abandoned buildings, fast-food restaurants, obesity, hopelessness, and folks who shared no connection to the earth. In my opinion, this is to be expected from a race of individuals who have not been afforded access to the resources I encountered in Maine. In their respective seasons, Maine presented bountiful fields of blueberries and apples orchards. Throughout the state were notifications of recycling programs, organically produced goods, naturally flowing spring water, and an environment that cultivated oneness and pride in protecting the planet we call home. One the other hand, Canton now seemed like the land of the left behind. A place where education was still a luxury, so there was no wonder why the citizens showed little to no interest in the effects of carbon emissions, healthy eating habits, or preserving Earth for generations to come. The message in Canton consisted of local billboards which promoted supersized fries, carbonated beverages, and fast loans. How hard it must be for a man to protect and preserve a world that has beaten him at every turn of his life; to want to live a life although his current life does not feel like living at all.
It’s no secret how we arrived at this point.
Mississippi is home to the highest percentage of African Americans of any state in the country. In America, that translates to a forgotten people.
Like many rural cities in the south, Canton has found itself simply left behind in comparison to other booming municipalities. What was once a prosperous area is now a deserted city with little to show for the agricultural staple it used to be. There are very few programs that emphasize the importance of promoting a holistic lifestyle, recycling, water conversation, or sustainable living. The truth of the matter is that our primary issue is not environmental consciousness; we have an issue with privilege, equality, and humanity. These resources are not offered or promoted in rural or underdeveloped areas as the people within those areas are not prioritized or deemed key stakeholders in the human race. Let’s focus on the real issue—America yet enslaves many races and classes of individuals under the pretense of making our nation great. The difference this time is that our entire planet will suffer.