When the Mississippi State Legislature enacted Senate Bill #2666 in 2001 establishing the Southern Arts and Entertainment Center, Inc., d/b/a The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center (MAEC), there was no warning of what was to come in 2005 when Katrina’s fury struck Mississippi and hurled her into years of disaster relief and recovery. Neither was there warning of a downswing economy and soaring gas prices. Life is that way. It changes every moment. The saying, “Only the strong survive,” has nothing to do with physical strength, but everything to do with perseverance and carrying on with a dream in spite of adversity. The journey for the MAEC has been a long, difficult struggle, but then again…we’re talking about Mississippi.
And when you talk Mississippi, you’re talking rich soil that grows anything and the Mighty Mississippi that stretches beyond all other rivers in the country. You’re talking Elvis Presley, Sela Ward, William Faulkner, Morgan Freeman, Jim Henson, Tennessee Williams, Mac McAnnally, B. B. King, Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones, John Grisham, Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins, LeAnn Rimes, Eudora Welty, Leontyne Price, Walter Anderson, Faith Hill, Jimmy Buffett, Robin Roberts, and, yes, the list goes on because we’re talking about Mississippi. Factories and businesses come and go. And have. But Mississippi’s legacies will never leave the ground from which they were birthed. In fact, these legacies continue rising to infinite glory through stories, music and photographs, creating histories for generations to come.
This is the dream the MAEC refused to surrender.
In 2009, MAEC’s Walk of Fame began its bronze legacy pathway from the historical MSU Riley Center for the Performing Arts toward the MAEC building site and will continue its trek as the MAEC moves toward constructing its state-of-the-art museum on the corner of 22nd Avenue and Front Street in Meridian, Mississippi, the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers.
Support of this museum helps the MAEC accomplish its mission in recognizing and honoring legendary artists through a hands-on Hall of Fame and other exhibit halls that visually, auditorily, and kinesthetically educate, inform, and entertain every visitor. In addition, the museum will steer these visitors to other museums throughout the state, forming a partnership that benefits all Mississippi regions and their legacies, from Tupelo’s Elvis, to Indianola’s B. B. King, to Pascagoula’s Jimmy Buffett, to Jackson’s Eudora Welty, to Ocean Springs’ Walter Anderson, and…well, you know the rest.
This is Mississippi, where stories pass from generation to generation and where legends are made; where visitors from all over the world come to walk upon its soil and to drink the water in hopes of becoming a part of Mississippi and making Mississippi a part of them.
Join the MAEC Newsletter to stay updated about the progress of the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center and step into conversations about the Mississippi artists who made history and who are making history. But be prepared to pull up a chair and sit a spell because here in Mississippi, you just can’t rush a good story.
1st Place winner – Meridian Community College Poetry Competition
Honorable Mention – Tallahatchie Riverfest Poetry Competition
Published in Birmingham Arts Journal
Tippah to Leflore, three Mississippi
for the black boy wrapped in wire and cotton
In search of sunrise
This morning I went in search of sunrise. I saw it peek over the trees, above the lighted streetlights. I needed to feel its glory untouched by man-made light. So I drove and I drove
And I drove, searching for just the right place where buildings and houses and streetlights and telephone poles did not scar the landscape, did not hinder His labor. I drove and I drove
and I drove until I found that perfect place where trees reach up like fingers longing to touch the liquid gold floating in His fiery morning mixture. I drove and I drove and I drove until
I came to rolling hills of green, where even now shadows gather beneath the shade, waiting for the brightness of dawn. Here, I saw His light, felt His colors caress my skin and I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that
a new day dawns, His reminder that there is hope. Faith guides me on this journey and though I may be afraid and confused, His peace surpasses all understanding.
landscapes, lyrics and life
The places we fear most can be wonderfully memorable if we peer below the surface, beyond the obvious, into the unknown, where the mysterious, dangerous and threatening evolve into scenes of solitude, rest and exploration. What if no one had ever penetrated the depths of the ocean or journeyed to the constellations above? How would we have discovered the wonder and beauty beyond the land upon which we walk?
Don't fear the spider spinning its web, watch in amazement because this simple daily task is a miracle of nature. Respect living creatures outside our comfortable spaces, outside our human flesh and existence. Let them all--bird, fish, insect, reptile, mammal--weave awareness through our minds, our hearts, our worlds. There is more than what we want, what we worry over, what we work to achieve. So much more.
The descent of day draws many images. Pause and watch, if only for a moment, the silent reminder from our Heavenly Father telling us that for another day we have breathed and experienced life. This day offered another chance to change our course, chase our dreams, challenge ourselves to do better, to do more, demand less.
Don't hurry away. Yet to come is the collage of colors surpassing any painter's palette, colors yet to be defined or mixed on a canvas. Only God can paint a sky. But He loves it when His glory overwhelms you and your passion and admiration imitate His love for us, for all. Surely, He blessed us with the desire to create and to share those creations. Dare to create. Then, be still. Rest. There's more to come.
See what you would've have missed if you dashed off too early. As the lake reflects the sunset, we, too, should reflect, not on another day gone, but on how far we've come from where we once were. For even if this day found us taking five steps backward, nothing keeps us from taking one step forward, then two, then three. Dare to start over. Only look back to remember where you did not stay. Destiny is patient and waits no matter how long it takes for you to arrive.
Light is now over, but darkness is beautiful. During the stillness of sleep, branches and moon shadows dance to a choir of night creatures. Coolness fills the air with the absence of sunlight and breezes feel like the caresses of someone who cares. Night is not lonely if you feel it surround you. Dare to sing and dance during your darkest nights. Dare to sleep beneath the stars.
The moon feels so close, it's as if you can reach out and take hold, sneak it into your pocket like a coin you once lifted from your mother's purse. After all, what was one tiny coin compared to her stack of dollar bills? Take time to ask this question to the blind man who sits alone on his mat, longing to hear the chink of coins in his tin cup. His answer may change your life.
Recognizing and honoring genius
Knowing who someone was is one thing. Recognizing them for who and what they were is another. Mississippi is known for many things, good and bad, but when it comes to the top legends of all times, Mississippi surpasses all. Whether it's music, literature, drama, or the visual and culinary arts, at least one Mississippian sits comfortably in the top ten. Some time ago, the Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Center's presented Walk of Fame Stars to the family/representatives of William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Eudora Welty. I was honored, surprised and somewhat intimidated to write and present the Stars because all three Mississippi legends own a piece of my heart due to their ability to imagine, create and develop literary masterpieces and then share them with me and the rest of the world. I'm in awe of their genius!
I thought it appropriate to begin my first blog with these three icons and the script I wrote to present these Walk of Fame stars.
William Cuthbert Faulkner, born on September 25, 1897, in New Albany, Mississippi, departing this life on July 6, 1962, is still considered one of the world’s most highly acclaimed authors of all time.
In 1946, the first Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Award selected three finalists. Manly Wade Wellman won 1st place. William Faulkner won 2nd. Nevertheless, coming in 2nd would be the exception rather than the rule for William Faulkner, the only Mississippi writer to ever receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1949, when presenting the Nobel Prize, Swedish Academy Member Gustaf Hellström had this to say about William Faulkner:
“With almost every new work Faulkner penetrates deeper into the human psyche, into man's greatness and powers of self-sacrifice, lust for power, cupidity, spiritual poverty, narrow-mindedness, burlesque obstinacy, anguish, terror, and degenerate aberrations. As a probing psychologist he is the unrivalled master among all living British and American novelists.”
Faulkner donated a portion of his Nobel winnings to establish a fund to support and encourage new fiction writers. This noble gesture became the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Another portion established a scholarship fund to assist African-American education majors at Rust College in Holly Springs. Among his vast literary awards were 2 Pulitzers and 2 National Book Awards. In 1987, The U. S. Postal Service issued a postage stamp in his honor.
In his Nobel Prize speech, Faulkner said: I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.
Eudora Alice Welty was born April 13, 1909 and departed this world on July 23, 2001. She described her childhood in Jackson, Mississippi as idyllic with brothers, Edward and Walter, and parents, Chestina and Christian Welty. She admitted having a sheltered life, but she also claimed: “A sheltered life can be a daring life, for all serious daring comes from within.”
Her short stories appeared in many magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper’a Bazaar, Atlantic Monthly, and The Southern Review. Listed among the greatest of American writers, she received the National Medal for Literature, The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for the Novel, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was selected as the first living author to have her works published in the Library of America series. She lectured and taught at numerous colleges and received many honorary degrees for her literary work.
Human interest stories spoke loudly through Eudora’s photographs; snapshots, she called them, a moment in time. These photographs were called “intensely human,” and Welty was labeled “a passionate observer.” But to Eudora, photographs weren’t enough to tell the whole story and therefore used her writing to part the veil between people, not in images, but in what comes from inside, in both subject and writer. Welty’s multi-faceted characters, her animated descriptions, her unique situations, and her southern settings were unsurpassed by any other writer. She once remarked:
“Greater than scene is situation. Greater than situation is implication. Greater than all of these is a single, entire human being, who will never be confined in any frame.”
No better description can describe Eudora Welty herself.
Born in Columbus, Mississippi on March 26, 1911 to Edwina and Cornelius Williams, Thomas Lanier Williams, best known as Tennessee Williams, was considered one of America's major mid-twentieth-century playwrights, applauded for his powerful character-driven plays, like The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
The height of Williams’ career spanned the 1940s and ‘50s when he worked with the era’s premier artists, including producer/director, Ilia Kazan. By 1945, The Glass Menagerie had opened on Broadway and it won the New York Critics Circle, The Donaldson, and Sidney Howard Memorial awards. In 1948, he was the first playwright to receive the Pulitzer Prize for drama, the Donaldson Award, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in the same year for “A Streetcar Named Desire.” In 1955, he won the Pulitzer for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Williams once said: “Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it.... Success is shy - it won't come out while you're watching.”
A master of dramatic moments with tormented characters struggling for respect and hope in a world that denied both, Williams's repertoire includes over 25 full-length plays, numerous short plays, poetry, essays, and short stories. Named a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Williams accumulated many awards, including 4 New York Drama Critics Awards; 3 Donaldsons; 3 Tony Awards; the New York Film Critics Award; a Medal of Honor from the National Arts Club; the Presidential Medal of Freedom; and an honorary doctorate from Harvard University. In 1994, The U. S. Postal Service honored Tennessee Williams on a stamp. He departed this world on February 25, 1983.
The MAEC Walk of Fame is located in Meridian, MS. It begins in front of the MSU Riley Center and is making its way to the location of the future MAEC building located on the corner of 22nd Avenue and Front Street.
The establishment of a Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center was approved in 2001 by the state legislature. The Center’s purpose is to capture the essence of Mississippi’s legacy in the arts and to celebrate the richness and depth of that legacy and the Mississippians who created it.