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.

3 Days of Welker March Madness

When spring break arrives, most normal humans pack their bags and make a bee line for a sunny beach and a comfy chair. But the Welkers are no normal family. Instead, they took off from Raleigh, North Carolina and headed North to the Artic Tundra that is Boston, Massachusetts for a weekend with us.

DAY 1.

The Welker spring break started with a requirement for every Cambridge visitor – touching IMG_2464John Harvard’s foot for good luck (though on doing some Google searching there is some debate on whether it is John Harvard at all). We also toured Widener Library which opened in 1915 and has beautiful reading rooms available to both graduate and undergraduate students.

After a chilly tour of campus, we filled our bellies with dinner and cocktails at Park, a tasty spot where Tom and I usually enjoy cocktails. We were able to use mom, dad and Emily’s visit as an excuse to try more of the food, and we were glad we did. The Lavender Moon and Giant Killer cocktails were both a hit, but I was the only one who would go for the mezcal-heavy Perfect Day. My favorite description of mezcal came from a staff member of the Kirkland Tap and Trotter who referred to the smoky liquor as “tequila’s chain smoking great aunt.”

Finally, no first evening in Cambridge is complete without IMG_2469some L.A. Burdick’s hot chocolate. The rich, smooth small cup of goodness was a perfect finish to the evening… and it got lots of thumbs up from the crew. With full bellies we walked my parents home to the Hotel Veritas and then got some rest in preparation for a full second day.

DAY 2.

Saturday brought temperatures in the 50s and some serious walking for the Welker camp. Bright and early we hopped on the T and headed in to the start of the Freedom Trail. We made it our mission to get through the WHOLE thing – a feat we had yet to accomplish. We saw the state capitol, too many churches, the site of the Boston Massacre, the original Massachusetts State House, Paul Revere’s House and the Old North Church. We even got a tour of the U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship AFLOAT in the world. To sustain ourselves we had to stop at Mike’s Pastry along the way in the North End. Five cannoli and 2 biscotti later, we were experiencing a sugar buzz and ready to persevere til the end of the trail.

After a busy day on the Freedom Trail, we needed to rest up for the UNC-Duke game that evening. Lucky for Charlie, that meant some much needed visiting time with Mom and Emily.

For the game, we headed to The Thirsty Scholar, well-known for it’s IMG_2489appearance in the first scene of “The Social Network.” While the Tarheels were not victorious, our family U-N-C is certainly something for the record books.

DAY 3

Day 3 brought some less than traditional, but equally enjoyable, adventures. The first stop was the MIT Museum. Full of holograms, computer games, robots and machines, the MIT Museum is a place to see the creative spirit that pumps through the iconic university. My favorite part of the museum featured a series of machines by Arthur Ganson. The museum is also a good place for buying gifts for any scientists or future scientists in a family.

MIT Museum Robot

MIT Museum Robot

We also ventured outside of Boston & Cambridge to Walden Pond. Most of the pond is still frozen over in early March, so Emily and Tom edged around what they hoped was the water line to test out the ice thickness. As if coming North to the Boston cold wasn’t enough, we also had the crew trudge through the snow down the pond-side path to where Henry David Thoreau’s cabin was from 1845 to 1847. Luckily, I was the only one that fell on my face during the walk around the cabin site. Aside from the less than ideal walking conditions, the pond is a welcome place of peace and reflection close to the busy Boston center. And a good detour outside of the places guests to Boston usually get to visit.

Our day 3 ended at our favorite neighborhood spot – the Kirkland Tap & Trotter. We all tried lots of new flavors and foods that pushed us outside our comfort zone (pig’s feet and octopus) and surprised us with how good they were (pig’s feet and octopus). The meal gave me a particular appreciation for the willingness of my family to both humor me and enjoy the Boston experience to the fullest.

DAY 4 brought snow flurries and a flight back to the warmth of the South. And while I already miss each of them, I’m grateful that mom, dad and Emily left Tom and me feeling warmer, more loved (and more full) than we did before they came.

Already looking forward to the next time they visit.

Until Next Time!

SA