Monday, November 28, 2022

Water Crisis 2022: Drowning in Reasons to Leave

By Bre’Anna Coleman

I always wondered what places outside of Mississippi have to offer. 

Even though the Jackson water crisis has taken place, Otis Kenner believes Mississippi has purpose and potential and how it inspires him to remain in state shortly after college. 

“I never thought that I would come to Mississippi,” said Kenner, a junior at Millsaps College.

The water crisis in Jackson is a main factor for college students deciding whether to  stay or move away after getting their degree.  As a native of Drew, Mississippi, I’ve noticed a dynamic around people who are natives of the state and those from different places. Young people born and raised in Mississippi have either one of two perspectives: either they desire to leave the issues, controversy, and pressure behind or they feel as though they have a duty to fix everything. 

Though this may seem extreme, most college students you speak with that reside in Mississippi have one point of view or the other. It can leave one confused and definitely questioning their future plans. 

Kenner decided to focus on the beauty of Mississippi to fuel his desire to stay but many natives feel drowned by the challenges that are present. After all, these are issues rooted in years of racism and designed against anyone who isn’t white or male. It can certainly contribute to making one lose hope when they are surrounded by so much negativity without any answers. 

Just thinking about the issues that Mississippi has can be overwhelming and the thought of being expected to jump to work after gaining your degree is simply tiring, especially if you plan to work in law or politics.

For example, Jackson’s recent water issues are only the beginning of the challenges to be found in Mississippi. Many areas populated by predominantly Black residents are flooded in infrastructure issues that are traced back to the race-based history of Mississippi. 

“They are cleaning the water but is that putting a band-aid on the issue? What are we going to do to make sure that this doesn’t continue to happen?” said Jackson State Professor Ashley Norwood. 

Many of the challenges present in Mississippi aren’t solved, but simply given a short-term fix and left for the generation to come.

While it is true that you don’t know where you are going unless you know where you come from, the question of whether or not that should remain in Mississippi shouldn’t be based on the challenges present.

Many native college students and even younger people view the issues present and decide that they should be the one to fix it, creating a feeling of responsibility. While this battle occurs within native Mississippians, individuals I have met from other areas come to Mississippi and fall in love.

“Kenner, Louisiana, is my home, but Jackson  is where my growth came from. I went from high school Walt to 22-year-old grown man Walt, making my own decisions. This is me. This is my environment now,” said Millsaps graduate student Walter Johnson.

I’ll never forget when I met a white woman from New Jersey and her excitement about seeing a soybean for the first time. She emphasized that Mississippi has so much to offer and how you get to see things in its journey and process.

Despite its problems, Mississippi has an aura that makes it beautiful to those new to the state and somehow draws the individuals who left back to it. 

“Sometimes, you have to stick it through,” said Johnson.


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