It seems impossible for positive media coverage and Mississippi to coincide. After being a hot topic on CNN the other day because of the pardoning of inmates by former Gov. Haley Barbour, now the state is subject to more bad media coverage. This time from my own college, the University of Southern Mississippi.
As a public relations practitioner and a person who is deeply connected to Mississippi, it really gets under my skin that every time Mississippi is mentioned in the news, it’s something negative and usually concerning race. During the March 15th game against Kansas State, students from the USM pep band chanted “Where’s your green card?” as Angel Rodriguez prepared to take a free throw shot. Of course Dr. Saunders, being the PR maven she is, responded with an apology as soon as she got word of the incident.
This post is not so much about this incident (I’m not even going to post the video) or even what happened with Haley Barbour. It’s more about the responsibility that we as Mississippi natives, residents and representatives (we all represent Mississippi, not just those in politics) have. It is up to us to change the way our State is depicted to the rest of the world. You really can’t blame people for the perceptions they have. If I were on the outside looking in, I would probably think that Mississippi is still very much like it was back during the Civil Rights Movement era.
This post is instead, a call to action. I’d like to challenge us all to be better citizens, think before we speak and promote equality and progression in our local communities.
I’ve been trying to decide for a very long time on whether to leave or stay. I know I don’t want to leave my family and friends and honestly, I enjoy living in Mississippi. If I ever want to do something fun, I can always travel. So the lack of entertainment isn’t a big deal to me. But on the other hand, I have also considered moving away. One of my life goals is to build a solid boutique PR agency. Mississippi has not been a great place to do that…so do I take my business elsewhere? Or do I continue to work with out-of-state clients and hope that more small business owners realize the power of PR for their brands?
Mississippi will not change until we step up and actively take part in the shaping of new attitudes and spreading positivity, while shunning hatred of any form. I vow to be a part of the change I’d like to see here in Mississippi. I have already been planning a few things to contribute (more details to come later). It just really saddens me that every time Mississippi is mentioned nationally or even regionally, it is always something negative.
And quite honestly, I’m tired of having to defend the actions of others.