Mississippi Moments

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sunflowers and Myrtle Brown Shanks Day!
This was Saturday...on the way to Clarkesdale to do some shopping, Miz Sr. Teresa drove us by a huge field of sunflowers, bright and yellow, all turned toward the northeast. We did our shopping all over town and came back in time to join other folks from Jonestown in the honoring of one of their own.

It was held at the Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church on the edge of town. The colors were purple and gold. These, I learned later, were the colors of her alma mater, Alcorn State University. Mrs. Shanks has lived in Jonestown her entire life and has been a teacher and advocate for children since she was old enough to know! It was a beautiful experience listening to her family, friends, neighbors, and local officials offer their accolades and congratulations. There were a couple of uncomfortable moments and it felt weird being one of two white women in the whole church. I ended up with a big hole in my new pair of pants because I was sitting on a nail the whole time (didn't notice it 'till we got up to leave) and when the local reporter from the Clarkesdale paper got up and started rambling on and on about how segregation was a good thing and he grew up thinking it was a bad thing and well, if the local folks wanted to segregate, well then, he was an honest man and he would just go along with what people wanted to do...and what that had to do with the celebration of the day, I still don't know?!? There were Holy Spirit Praise dancers and a chicken BBQ afterwards. We didn't stay for that. I ended up being in a bunch of photos because everybody thinks I am one of the nuns. I don't bother to correct them--it would take too much time.
The best part was when her best friend from first grade got up and said that from the first day they met in 1934 when they had to have school right there in that old church because their school had burned down, they were always getting into trouble and were like sisters!

Mrs. Shanks' family owned the first black-owned Chevron station in the state of Mississippi here in Jonestown. She has spent her life trying to better the lives of the children and the community of Jonestwon. The Rev. Barry, the pastor of this congregation, had decided to go up against the drug dealers and the prostitutes in town. We have heard gunshots at night and sometimes I have to turn my CD player up at night for all the "activity" on the street outside my bedroom window... At the occasion, he announced that there would be some "Jericho" walking happening the following week-1 time around the main block of town every day at 7am for 7 days and then 7 times on the following Sunday to tak eback the town from the clutches of Satan. We started walking yesterday...


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