Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Jackson: Hotter than a Peppersprout

Monday took me from Montgomery AL to Jackson MS, which required a peaceful 5 hour drive past cotton fields, several dead armadillos, and sadly scores of Title Pawn businesses in every small town. As I listened to cd's of Johnny Cash, Bobbie Gentry and Nina Simone, I drove the historic road that hosted the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March. Many famous photos were taken then, and much still looks the same.

I found myself compelled to make a stop in Philadelphia MS, the town where civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were murdered in 1964. Ten miles out of town, on Highway 19, I nearly missed seeing a nondescript sign that read "Chaney, Schwerner, Goodman Memorial Highway". This was the very blacktop where the three young men had been pulled over and kidnapped. It was chilling to say the least. The town, however, doesn't seem to want to remember this horrifying chapter in their history. When I asked a couple of locals if there was a memorial to visit, they didn't know of one.


I got to Jackson by 2:30 to speak to a Digital Arts class at host organization Milsaps College. Five students and professor Michelle Acuff greeted me in their computer lab where they were working on some video animation pieces. I was amazed at the range of work, and the sophistication of some of the pieces - much better than when I was in school! Milsaps has only 1200 students and a very small Art Department. But there are dedicated faculty and a supportive environment for budding filmmakers. I only wish they'd asked more questions! (All the students seemed kinda shy).

Dinner was wonderful -- Crawfish Etouffe and Deep Fried Pickles (!!). Several faculty members took me out and made me feel right at home. Later Holly Sypniewski from the Classical Studies Department introduced the film. To a packed house! There were over 130 in the audience! Folks, this was the biggest turnout "Learning to Swallow" has ever seen in its yearlong touring history. I was stunned and grateful. I gotta say - I am loving The Southern Circuit thus far.

Tonight Sweet Briar College. More after the screening....

Danielle Beverly