December 10, 1817, Mississippi joined the Union which would soon become the United States of America as we see today. The struggle was real and wasn’t without hardships such as the American Civil War, reconstruction in the 1860s, and the Civil Rights Movement 100 years later in the 1960s. Mississippi has seen its share of ideologies that shaped the American south. The product of change includes the works of natural-born artists whose only way to tell their stories was through art. Whether by music, crafts, or paper, artists appeared from all over the state and would, in turn, shape America.

Art piece “Magnolia” on wood by Abigail Jordon, a visual artist in the class of 2018 at Mississippi School of the Arts. This year, Mississippi is celebrating its bicentennial.

This year is the state’s bicentennial celebration, two-hundred years since the birth of the state, which was once a territory first settled by the French. Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Indians roamed the forests of Mississippi prior to the settlement of visitors from afar. Mississippi’s prosperity was greatly solidified by the growth of cotton. Plantations sprung and mansions were built by the hands of those who would ultimately seek a quest for freedom.

The quest for freedom didn’t come without a price, but the prize was won for all. During the early to mid 20th century, Mississippi saw one of its greatest hardships remembered, perhaps because it hasn’t been to long ago. The blood, sweat, and tears from the Civil Rights Era has almost been forgotten in a new generation of thinkers, travelers, and technology boomers. Maybe it’s those new thinkers the state really needs, but we can’t move forward without learning and studying the past.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  -George Santayana

December 9th and 10th, 2017, Mississippi celebrates the opening of the new Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. “The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum shares the stories of a Mississippi movement that changed the nation. Opening on December 9, 2017, the museum promotes a greater understanding of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and its impact by highlighting the strength and sacrifices of its peoples.” says the official web site for the new Civil Rights Museum.

Today, Mississippi moves forward. Products of the almost-forgotten era have molded the American culture. Tasty meals originating from grandma’s kitchen, music of the soul from the Blues to Rock-and-Roll, and hand-made art from those who share their personal stories, much like those in generations past. We cannot forget those who shared their quest for freedom and those who fought to make sure every single person had the chance to make their voices heard.

Class of 2018 Theatre students from Mississippi School of the Arts perform a play by Mississippi author and playwright, Beth Henley, entitled “Crimes of the Heart,” based in Hazlehurst, Mississippi.

Mississippi School of the Arts dwells in the epicenter of the artistic south. A culmination of students from the far corners of the Magnolia State are instilled with the ideologies of a new generation that Mississippi has come to be. Students in Vocal Music continue the tradition of singers originating from the heartland with talented voices singing abroad. Theatre students perform the works of Mississippi authors and writers such as “Crimes of the Heart” by Beth Henley. Visual students tell the story of their life, their aspect of how Mississippi has shaped their being. Literary students write and share the thoughts of a new generation of rising Mississippi authors. Dance pieces choreographed by Mississippi’s own high school students become etched in portfolios that may one day be seen in Broadway. Media students rediscover the rich culture and landscapes of Mississippi which affects creativity when producing films and other cinematic productions. They are, in reality, the ambassadors for Film Mississippi.

Madison Claire Reams, a Literary student in the junior class of 2019 at MSA, wrote a poem in August 2017 that describes much of what Mississippi has become. ‘Yesterday, It Rained’ is basically a metaphor within the literal understanding that in Mississippi the weather is unpredictable. The week I wrote this poem was one of the first weeks of school – I was homesick and tired, and it seemed like the work kept piling up – while it literally rained the whole week. I wrote this on a Friday, after the Thursday in which the metaphorical storm was the worst. Friday was the first day that week that it didn’t rain, and I had also grown a stronger bond with my Literary classmates. That Friday, I felt hope. This poem was made to symbolize that change from “dreary” feelings into a hope-filled end of the week. It was made to show any change the reader interprets it as” said Reams.

Mississippi has seen dreary days, with many consisting of heavy rain leaving the landscape dotted with deep puddles of rainwater. The storms still come and go, but they’re not as strong as they use to be. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it pours, but after the rain there is always the sun. Enjoy this poem by Claire Reams, a post from the MSA Literary Arts Blogspace.

Yesterday, it rained,

pouring over the campus for thirty or so minutes.

Today, I bring my rain jacket to cover my curled hair,

in case of the impending clouds spitting their droplets,

but the sun shines persistently.

I can see traces all over campus

Of deep puddles not yet sunk into the concrete

Of still-soaked Adidas tennis shoes and black jeans

Of complaining students, groaning, “It always rains in Mississippi,”

“When can we ever get a full day of sunlight?”

Yesterday, it rained.

Today, all I see is the sun. 

Happy 200th Birthday, Mississippi!

Contributed pieces include: Magnolia Flower art by Abigail Jordon and “Yesterday, It Rained” literary piece by Madison Claire Reams.

Now we rise, we fly, we shine.