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About Last Thursday | July 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017

By Julian Rankin, Director of Art & Public Exchange

A conversational debrief of our monthly Museum After Hours community events, held every Third Thursday.

Event date: July 20, 2017

Theme: “Uncommon Spirit”

Who is Dorie Ladner?

I asked myself this question about a year ago, when I first heard the name mentioned. Ladner, born in Hattiesburg, is an immensely significant – if lesser-known – veteran of the Civil-Rights-‘60s in Mississippi. She attended Jackson State University and Tougaloo College, at a time when both campus communities buzzed with student resistance. This youthful energy was supported by SNCC and cultivated by established leaders like Medgar Evers who reached out and listened to young activists. Ladner responded. She protested the arrests of the Tougaloo Nine who attempted to desegregate the public library, for which she was expelled from Jackson State. At Tougaloo, she deepened her relationship to the movement and worked alongside Bob Moses and Fannie Lou Hamer in communities across the state.

I learned these things from a documentary produced by a 21st century group of Tougaloo College students and staff. Upgrade Mississippi approached the Museum about screening it at Museum After Hours. A partnership was born. That was the first piece.

The Lunch Counter came next. We decided to reclaim it. We, meaning our Executive Chef and Culinary Curator Nick Wallace, who is intimately connected to the meaning of Mississippi food. The lunch counter is a troubled space. The scene at the Jackson Woolworth’s in 1963 helped awaken the country to what was happening down South.

We countered that heaviness with a tone of imagination: Maker’s Mark milkshakes, reimagined diner classics, an old TV that once upon a time played Ed Sullivan and Petticoat Junction (props to New Stage Theatre for the props). As I’ve heard people who lived through the 60s say, you have to laugh to keep from crying. We laughed and we ate – Chef Wallace is expert at serving up both food and story. Oh, and no one fell off of the lunch counter stools we installed for the night.

The visual art, a staple of every Third Thursday, came courtesy of artists George “Sky” Miles and “Roz” Roy. Themes of home and faith and unsung changemakers. Roz painted angels. Sky incorporated piano keys. And so we brought both to the musical fore, with Terrance Evans on grand followed by Byron Johnson, who moved the audience with a deep and rolling a cappella rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”

We exchanged ideas with filmmakers Kendall Givens-Little and Yasmin Gabriel and their collaborators at Upgrade Mississippi. Elders in the audience testified about what it was like back then, when the Civil Rights heroes we celebrate today were young and naive and unstoppable. We heard from young folks who came for the the booze or the socializing but left with something more lasting. In all of the exchange, there was a through-line: seek out the histories of your community – interpret and share them with creativity – so that we may better understand ourselves, one another, and our roles in making home turf a place that’s home for everybody. After all, we’re all we’ve got.

This Third Thursday was sponsored by