A pair of hands typing on a laptop
Publisher Kimberly Griffin says that writers and a free press are essential to democracy as she explains why everyone, especially in communities under-represented in Mississippi’s media, need inspiration to tell their own stories whether it’s for family or a wider audience. Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Truth-tellers, Pick Up Your Pen: Do It For Art, For Truth, For The People

Whew, our team wrote a lot in the last week. Please see the amazing journalism our now eight-member full-time and still-growing editorial team did just in the last seven. I hope it makes you think about writing yourself, and it’s the right week for that.

If you’re already an MFP VIP Club member, you’ll know that our founding editor Donna Ladd launches a series of writing talks on Tuesday, Jan. 25. This talk series is an excellent opportunity to hear words of wisdom and inspiration from one of the best in the country. She won’t be reading or editing any of your work, but her talks about her own writing journey and what she’s learned along the way are always inspiring. 

Read the piece she wrote for The Guardian about her mother to see what I mean.

You Can’t Be What You Don’t See

I’ve been thinking a lot about artists and art after losing the legendary actor Sidney Poitier a few weeks ago. Without Sidney Poitier, there’s no Denzel Washington or Will Smith. Without Diahann Carroll or Cicely Tyson, there’s no Viola Davis or Mississippi’s own Aunjanue Ellis because you can’t be what you don’t see. 


The majority culture often determines what is art and, in turn, what is truth. 

We see this played out in our state as questions arise about so-called Critical Race Theory and leaders call for book bans because they are historically accurate or don’t center on white people. Offering positive portrayals of Black folks, as Mr. Poitier did, and an accurate look at history frightens those who would have our very poor, very unhealthy and educationally challenged state due to intentional systemic barriers stay exactly as it is.

Actor Sidney Poitier poses for a portrait in Beverly Hills, Calif. on June 2, 2008. Poitier, the groundbreaking actor and enduring inspiration who transformed how Black people were portrayed on screen, became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for best lead performance and the first to be a top box-office draw, died Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. He was 94. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)
Sidney Poitier showed a different side of Black Americans in a segregated America. Publisher Kimberly Griffin writes that people can’t be what they don’t see. AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File

I get it. I’d probably want to stay in power if I were in power. I do hope I wouldn’t stomp my fellow humans in the ground for the sake of keeping said power. Being powerless is scary, and scared people do stupid and dangerous things. Every southerner knows it’s the calm guy you worry about during tense situations. It’s the twitchy guy. That’s the one set to wreak havoc. 

People in power are often frightened of the free press, even one as overall flawed as our nation’s. When dictators come to power, what’s one of the first things they do? Shut down media outlets and imprison reporters. It works for a time, but there’s always an underground newspaper, radio station or website that keeps telling the truth even at their own peril. To date, I’ve not seen one dangerous leader toppled without the power of the pen or keyboard. I come from a family of preachers, so I’m going somewhere. Stay with me.    

Write Your Own Story

If you’re an MFP VIP Club member, I encourage you to sign up for Donna’s motivational talks for inspiration to write your story. If you aren’t a member, a recurring donation of as little as $10 a month gives you access to these talks. If a recurring donation isn’t in the cards, I get it. We are so glad you support us in any way, whether reading, sharing our stories, or just telling your networks how important our work is for Mississippi and, well, democracy.

Mississippi Free Press co-founder and editor is giving a series of virtual MFP VIP Club member talks on writing starting Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. central.

No matter what, I challenge you to pick up a pen or a keyboard and write a little something every day, and I‘m not talking to-do lists or work memos. (Do people still write memos?) I’m talking about journaling or free-form writing because somewhere in there is your story. Perhaps you don’t want to share it now, maybe it’s too hard or too painful, perhaps you’re embarrassed because of something your fifth-grade teacher said (if they are alive, I’ll be happy to write a sternly worded email on your behalf), but one day your grandchildren or fourth cousin will open a book or a file or an email and be astounded at this remarkable person who survived challenging times because you are just that. Trust me on this. You are remarkable, and you have every right to tell your story. 

Do it for the art, do it for the truth, do it for your people. Write your story because we need more truth-tellers. Hope to see you Tuesday at 6 p.m. central for Donna’s first talk. 

 If you’re a member, check your email for the registration information. If you’d like to join MFP VIP Club, just go to mfp.ms/join.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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