Reflections on #HarvardinJacksonMS

It has been about two weeks since 20 Harvard grad students stepped off a plane in Jackson, Mississippi. For many (and by many I mean all but two), it was their first time in the state or even the Deep South. Six years earlier I had set foot in Mississippi for the first time as well. Since then, I have adopted Mississippi as my own, and I treasured being with my friends from the Harvard community as they discovered the place Tom and I now call home.

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Over the last week, friends from Jackson and Cambridge have asked me about the trip. The answer I’ve settled on is that the week was like getting married again. Every day. For a week. We had such a full schedule. I was completely exhausted by the end. After the fellows left, Tom tucked me in on Friday evening at about 7:30pm.

But I also left the week with a feeling of deep gratitude. That gratitude was for the fellows and their constant enthusiasm for Jackson and its people. That gratitude was for Tom’s family and our friends who went out of their way to help with breakfasts, gift bags, group spaces, and much more. And that gratitude was for all the leaders in Jackson that spent time with our group and shared their passions, their struggles, and their unyielding requests that every single Harvard fellow move to Jackson after they complete their schooling.

It was one of the fullest weeks of my life and one I will not forget. Our wonderfully charismatic photographer, Tom Fitzsimmons, captured the week, and below are some of my favorite images from each stop along the way. Our meetings focused on Mississippi health, education, and racial justice. I hope this is not the last group that Tom (Allin) and I get to share a tour of Jackson with, but I have a feeling it may be one of the most memorable. We remain grateful to everyone involved. Here is a recap of the week in images…

Day #1 Dinner at Parlor Market

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Day #2 Breakfast at the Allins home with Bishop Ronnie Crudup (New Horizon Church) and Ann Phelps (Saint Andrews)

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Day #2 UMMC with the Jamie Bardwell (Women’s Foundation of MS) and Dr. Michelle Owens (UMMC)

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Day #2 Driving Tour of Jackson by Tom Allin

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Day #2 Lunch at Hal and Mal’s with Malcolm White (MS Development Authority)

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Day #2 Clarion Ledger with Jerry Mitchell (Investigative Reporter)

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Day #2 Medicaid and Medicaid Expansion with Dr. David Dzielak (MS Division of Medicaid)

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Day #3 Education in MS with Rachel Canter (Mississippi First)

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Day #3 Education in MS, Part 2 with Babak Mostaghimi (MS Center for Education Innovation)

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Day #3 Lunch at Two Sisters Kitchen

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Day # 3 Medicaid Expansion with Corey Wiggins (MS Economic Policy Center)

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Day #3 Community Development with Bill Bynum (Hope Enterprise Corporation)

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Day #3 Cocktails at Apothecary, Pig ear sandwiches, and pizza at Sal and Mookies

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Day #4 Mississippi Center for Justice with Beth Orlansky, Courtney Choi, Linda Rigsby, and Paheadra Robinson

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Day #4 Barksdale Reading Institute with Michael Cormack and Kelly Butler

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Day #4 Mississippi NAACP with Derrick Johnson (President)

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Day #4 Obesity in MS at UMMC with Dr. John Hall and Dr. Kenneth Vick (UMMC)

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Day #4 Human Rights Campaign with Rob Hill and HRC Staff and Supporters

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Day #4 Closing Reception at the MS Museum of Art

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We had a blast and can’t wait for more experiences to file under the #HarvardinJacksonMS hashtag.

Poodle and Our Park Make The Paper

As part of a column writing class I’m taking this semester, I’ve written several op-eds on different topics (from Wikipedia to technical education). My favorite is a piece on our local park and the importance of parks for building our community here in Somerville. You can read the piece here. But pieces are always better with a visual, so here are a few of my favorites of Charlie, our park and our friends over the last year.

More Bad News with Kousha

Early this summer I mentioned a fellow Kennedy School student, Kousha, who is doing awesome work to create his own weekly show, Bad News. Kousha is still on a roll and has continued to refine his episodes. Lately, Kousha has adjusted the show to focus on one topic of interest. Recent topics include Ferguson, student loans, and ISL. He’s also doing more dancing at the end of each episode, and my mission is to have him teach me how to moonwalk this semester.

I wanted to share a few as a follow up to the first post on the show. Hope you enjoy as much as I do.  And if you do, subscribe to his YouTube channel to see each Friday’s episode.

Philippines Part 2

Several Filipinos we met with throughout our trip spoke about the importance of family in their culture. Whether it was children in indigenous communities not moving away because of family ties or a reference to family ties being stronger than other identities – like political party, religious affiliation, or nationality.

Everyone we met also talked about the traffic. Metro-Manila’s roadways are crowded with cars, trucks, jeepneys, motorbikes, and pedestrians. Traveling a few miles can regularly take hours. So our group spent a good amount of time in our van, and, as a newcomer to the Philippines, I found this to be a vantage point for exploring the beauty of Manila and its residents. Several images I captured throughout our trip came from our van window. Here are just a few.

We had the chance to advance the conversation about Metro-Manila beyond traffic when we met with Vice Mayor Joy of Quezon City (the neighboring city of Manila). Her team walked us through their current initiatives in housing, disaster response and waste maIMG_4108nagement. Each also spoke about the challenges of their work in a ever-growing city with a large population living in sub-standard housing. I will note that listening to a city official discuss disaster management for earthquakes, volcanoes, and typhoons that all threaten the location where you are meeting is a fairly nerve-wracking experience, and one that will quickly make you appreciate the challenges these leaders face in protecting their population (I’ll stick with the snowstorms of the Northeast instead).

Later that evening, we had a really amazing opportunity to visit with several colleagues of the late President Cory Aquino (wife of Ninoy Aquino) in her childhood home. Several staff from the Aquino foundation also joined us for dinner and conversation. The group talked about the perseverance and decision-making of Cory Aquino and their on continued commitment to a better Philippines. The entire conversation was moving, and it was capped off by a beautiful performance from two of the younger staff members from the foundation. Even Philip joined in on the singing after a lot of group prodding and we luckily have photographs to prove it.

We also discovered that teenagers in the Philippines regularly carry around a really long stick that holds a camera phone far enough way from you to take a high quality “selfie.” At first, we didn’t understand what the groups of girls were doing holding a large stick out in front of them, but eventually we figured out they were taking group selfies with them. Of course, we needed one. So on our free day, Sean made the sacrifice and got one for the group (read himself). We then found endless opportunities to use it throughout the rest of the trip.

We also got to try “halo-halo” or mix-mix on our free day. IMG_4172Halo-halo takes shaved ice, sweetended condensed milk, some sort of jello, syrups, ice cream, and even fruits or red beans and mixes them all together in a sort of bizarre milkshake. Yes.

The next day we hopped on an airplane and headed south for 3 days in Culion. More to come on the island’s beautiful beaches, immeasurable hospitality, and snorkeling over a Japanese war ship.

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