Jackson, Mississippi has a good little get down called the Fondren First Thursday which I was graciously invited to by my friend and super cool artist Ms.Kristen Tordella-Williams. Blocking off part of the main thoroughfare, its a street party starting at 5 and going until ??? With the flag in tow, I knew it was going to be a good night talking 'bout 'Merica. Many thanks to Kristen for the good visit and cool set-up in Fondren. A special thanks to Chane for giving the go-ahead to include American Expressions in the Fondren First Thursday event. Thanks for taking a chance on my project.
With a festive atmosphere and prime spot, American Expressions let loose with the markers encouraging Jackson go for it. The night was good fun with much dancing and general celebration within the racially diverse crowd. At the beginning of the evening I met Commissioner James of the Jackson Police Department. Officer James was a mild spoken white fella who didn't have all the gear and guns on him. He was busily shaking hands and greeting party goers. At one moment he directed a couple homeless kids to write on the flag. Bare foot, crust punk kids, these guys probably didn't have much and try to simply stay out of trouble. They knew who Officer James was and spoke with him in a friendly rapport. I could tell he looked out for them. I approached Officer James and introduced myself. He was intrigued with my project, often repeating, "You're really doin' somethin' here". I asked him about police relations in Jackson. He proudly reported that Jackson works steadily to maintain good community relations, officers walking neighborhoods, and practicing regular interaction with the public, but in the same sentence he admitted there was a homicide earlier just a few blocks away. Officer James continued, "People are just stuck in poverty here and sometimes it gets pretty rough when you're dealing with what people are facing. But we're not out here to watch or supervise. We, the police, are here when there's an emergency, to help with traffic, and so on. We want people to be comfortable and it works a lot better when we're friendly." I can appreciate what Officer James is doing. I think he has listened to his community and I think they respect him for it. Before he departed, he introduced me to a young man who he just inducted into the Order of the Golden Arrow in the Boy Scouts. I noticed the young guy had his finger nails painted and I asked Officer James if that was part of the uniform. "O yeah, he's different, but he's a good one" he said with a smile. Jackson is doing it right with Officer James, I wish him well.
As the Fondren crowed continued to gather around the flag, I noticed a middle aged white man reading the expressions. I could see the vein pulsing at the side of his head. I asked if he'd like to write his thoughts on American. He looked at me over his glasses and through gritted teeth, "None of these people know what it's like to live outside America." I nodded my head and explained that I was on tour and part of what I do is helping people remember how good we have it here in our country. He continued to scowl and shake his head. He mumbled to himself as he read, "These people have no idea how good they have it. How can you say you hate American," reading one of the additions. It was clear to me this gentleman was a proud patriot, but the way he kept expressing "these people" made me think he wasn't talking about the participants who were writing on the flag. No, he was talking about black folks. He's been talking about "these people" with disgust his whole life. Racism can be hard to hide, if you're actually trying to hide it. I offered again if he'd like to share his thoughts, maybe what he would do to help. He said, "I can't. I work for the Trump campaign. We're going to fix it and we're going to fix them." I was a little taken aback by his statement and it was hard to know exactly what he was referring to that could be something other than racial. I said, "Well it's still a free country." He looked at me sharply and shook his head before walking off, vein still pulsing at his temple.