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.

Reflections from a Southern Christmas

From Boston to Jackson to Winston-Salem and back to Boston again. It has been a travel-filled few weeks, and Tom and I have loved every minute of it (aside from our separation anxiety from leaving Charlie the poodle in Boston). We got to see two of my favorite humans under the age of 8, lots of canine loves that we’ve missed, and our Southern family and friends.

My sister-in-law, Hailey, braved the mess, and helped Maury and Sarah create gingerbread men, women, candy canes, christmas trees and sleighs on our first day in Jackson. Icing and sprinkles exploded all over the kitchen, and Maury and Sarah kept slobbering on their fingers and sticking them back in the icing. After, we piled all the couch cushions on the floor, and Maury and Sarah rubbed their heads in the cushions generating enough static electricity to power their house (see photo evidence below). Maury pretended to be a hamster hiding in the cushions that would only come out if we fed him pretzel sticks or hershey’s kisses (sorry, Jack and Hailey). It was great fun and made up for the time I’ve missed with the boogers.

Equally heart warming were all the critters we got to visit! We saw Bitsy – Tom’s parent’s toy poodle – Miles – Charlie’s best friend and labradoodle king of Belhaven – Ferdinand – the Great – and Buster – my family’s (and the world’s) best yellow lab.

After we finished making cookies and playing hamster, it was time for the more serious of Allin family traditions– Oyster Loaf. For many, many years on Christmas Eve, Tom’s family has been frying up oysters, buttering bread loaves, and combining both with lemons with the rinds, olives with the pits, diced celery, and chow chow. The end product is a big ole sandwich filled with many things you may not have eaten individually, let alone all in one bite. Tom’s parents provided over 200 oysters and left 30+ friends and family members with full, happy bellies. Full of old fashions and fried oysters, we waddled down to Saint Andrews Cathedral for the midnight Christmas Eve service… another Allin family tradition not to be missed.

We came back to Jackson after 5 months of being M.I.A., and new places to eat and drink are popping up all over. I got to enjoy a hanger steak and The Manship, a craft beer at Fondren Public, and warm almonds and pesto pasta at La Finestra. Our crew of Jackson loves were by our side as we enjoyed raw oysters at Parlor Market and two of our favorite bar tenders, John and Mitchell. If any of our Northern friends ever journey down to Jackson, you MUST go visit Parlor Market for a cocktail. The atmosphere, company and drinks are as good or better than anywhere in the Boston area, guaranteed.

Finally, we headed north to NC for a week of Welkers. We had lunch with grandpa at the Proximity Hotel, fried meatballs for the family holiday party, and played par 3 golf at Tanglewood. My parents, Emily and Scott, Tom and I also tried to show our smarts at Foothills Brewery trivia, but our team – Hoppin’ to the John – ultimately placed out of the top two. The final round questions included: Who was the first president with which Barbara Walters had an exclusive interview? (Nixon) What was Julia Child’s height? (6 ft. 2 inches) and How did Sammie Davis Jr. die? (throat cancer) Needless to say we didn’t fair particularly well, with the exception of Emily who knew Julia Child’s height, but the beer was good and the company was great!

Two weeks later and 10 pounds heavier, IMG_1736we headed back to Boston and were welcomed by mounds of snow.

We are looking forward to a restful week and chili making. Happy 2014 everyone!

SA