The Jim Hill High School mass choir began singing at 10 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2023, at the Mississippi State Capitol rotunda on the second floor, as people gathered around to watch the 22 students perform. It was the first day of the 2023 legislative session, and they sang five songs, including Gloria Fanfare by Victor C. Johnson.
Jim Hill High School is a public high school in Jackson, Miss., named after one of the few African Americans to serve as Mississippi secretary of state in 1874 after slavery ended. Before Hill’s election as Mississippi secretary of state, he was sergeant at arms and house speaker for the Mississippi House of Representatives. Since Hill left office in 1878, no other Black Mississippian has won election to a state-level office despite many attempts.
Jim Hill High School Choir Director Pamela Moody told the Mississippi Free Press that the invitation to the Capitol was a highlight of her career after 22 years with the Jackson Public Schools, including eight years at Jim Hill High School. She said the visit afforded the students an opportunity to learn about the legislative process. “I find today a complete honor to be able to open for the (legislative) session and the kids to get to see the inner workings of the State,” she said.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann told the Mississippi Free Press that he invited the choir to start the session after being impressed with their previous performance in 2020 at the Capitol.
“I heard them in the Capitol during Christmas—everyone was gone—and I was so taken by how beautiful the sound was, so we invited them back,” he said. “I came down to visit with them and actually taped it because I was so impressed and sent it out, so this year I wanted to start with Jim Hill because that was the first I heard.”
“And they have started the tradition—every Tuesday, we would have a (different) choir here at noon,” he added. “When the session breaks—we start the session at 10, we usually break at noon—all of our members in the Senate and the House can be reminded of why they’re here.”
JPS Superintendent Dr. Errick L. Greene, who came to the Capitol with the choir, described Jim Hill High School as having a long-standing tradition of excellence in arts. “As we were thinking about all of the challenges that beset us in society and, of course, in education, we were excited to be a part of this opening of the new session and had high hopes for continued support from the Legislature, whether it’s funding or other programming opportunities for us to continue to do what we know we’ve got to do,” he said.
One ninth grader at Jim Hill told the Mississippi Free Press that it was her first visit to the Capitol. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I love it,” she said.