The past 30 hours have been phenomenal. I’ve met 200 amazing new friends and was inducted as an honorary Mississippian. I’ve already fallen in love with the Delta and I just got here. Tomorrow, those of us hired in the Greenville School District will be making the trip out to explore Greenville firsthand. I’m sure we will meet a lot of curious community members. The custom here is that you say ‘hi’ to everyone you cross paths with. Even if you’ve already said ‘hi’ 100 times to the same person, you say ‘hi’ again. It’s a little ridiculous but it does give you a sense of community.
There are a lot of negative stereotypes surrounding the south, Mississippi especially. It’s been called the worst state in America. The U.S. Census Bureau writes:
“Mississippi is among the states with the worst education systems, highest obesity levels, highest unemployment, and lowest rates of health insurance coverage. The state is an economic black hole, and it shows in the way people suffer there. And, as is true with black holes, it is nearly impossible for the residents of Mississippi to escape their difficult financial situations. There is a dearth of federal programs that target specific states and cities based on local economic need.”
It’s unfortunate that this type of language continues to define the region. While poverty, food deserts, and racial desparity are real issues facing Mississippi, these should not define the place, the people or the potential here. I’m prepared to spend the next two years proving this. The youth here in the Delta deserve the chance to be proud of their state. Being from Mississippi should be a badge of honor, not something to be ashamed of.
The question remains, where do we, as TFA members, fit in to this picture? I’m not really sure. This is a question that we will probably continue to answer throughout the next few months. But at this point I know that we’re not here to solve all of Mississippi’s issues. The Delta needs allies, not quick fixes from outsiders.