a man in a Black Lives Matter Hoodie holds up a fist
Kayode Crowd reported on the police shooting of 15-year-old Jaheim McMillan in Gulfport, Miss. Black Lives Matter Mississippi leader Reginald Virgil, pictured, is demanding accountability. Photo courtesy Reginald Virgil

SWAC, a Gulfport Tragedy and Voting Impact

Can y’all believe it’s the middle of October? Here in Mississippi, the temps aren’t exactly cool, but one is tempted to wear a sweater. It’s usually a bad idea, but we’re almost there. It’s football season, and there’s a lot of talk about who’s SWAC or who’s not SWAC after the dust-up between Jackson State Coach Deion Sanders and Alabama State Coach Eddie Robinson Jr. Check out the videos for full context, but JSU played ASU for ASU’s homecoming game. JSU won, and Coach Robinson was not happy when the coaches met at the end of the game. It devolved into dueling press conferences.

My parents, aunts and uncles went to JSU. I’m a member of the Divine Nine and will beat the pants off you in Spades, so I’m SWACish. I was thrilled to end my week talking with one of the most brilliant people I know. Dr. D’Andra Orey is a political science professor at Jackson State who received his undergraduate degree from Mississippi Valley State University, so he’s definitely SWAC. Deputy Editor Azia Wiggins and I had a terrific time chatting with him about everything from voting rights to the natural hair and colorism study he did with his wife, Erin Shirley Orey. You can watch the replay on YouTube or Facebook.

Last week was another one of rich, deep and complex stories where our team serves the community like no other news outlet. Kayode Crown dropped two important pieces. Please read his coverage of 15-year-old Jaheim McMillan death by Gulfport police. One of my Twitter friends said she’s tired of these headlines. We all are. That’s why it’s imperative that our state has reporters like Kayode who do journalism thoroughly.

Kayode also continues his consistent coverage of Jackson’s garbage contract dispute, which affects so many people in the majority-Black capital city. If you need to catch up, read the full series. As far as I’m concerned, Kayode’s work is canon.

Late Friday, we learned that the national NAACP Legal Defense Fund and numerous other organizations have written Secretary of State Michael Watson over Ashton and Liam Pittman’s reporting since 2020 on the continually flawed lists of polling locationsthe State of Mississippi distributes to our voters. The letter demands that this list be made current by the November elections—and the Pittmans will ensure that they are with continued accountability reporting. This is amazing, urgent, tedious and impactful journalism supported by the American Press Institute and Black Voters Matter that no other media outlet here has done. It’s time for the team’s hard work to yield solutions.

Aliyah Veal and Azia published a terrific piece on the impacts of the recent Jackson Film Festival. It looks at the collaborations and Mississippi talent pool folks often overlook. Dustin Cardon covered Halloween happenings around the state, including for charity, reminding me I don’t have a costume or plan.

The welfare fraud scandal continues, as does Ashton Pittman’s coverage and growing timeline (with Liam’s help) of the complex investigation and its high-profile personalities. This week Brett Favre appeared on Fox News, decrying media “smears”and maintaining he is innocent. It’s interesting to note that Favre ignored our requests for comment.  Check out Nsombi Lambright-Haynes’ opinion piece on what the scandal says about Mississippi leadership. The executive director of One Voice Mississippi has strong words for anyone who steals from mom and kids.  After all, we care about children in this state. (Insert whatever sarcasm emoji you prefer.)

Sharing is caring, so be sure to forward or share stories you like on our social media. I’m now signing off to figure out why I’ve not gotten one tailgate invitation this year.

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 azia@mississippifreepress.org. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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