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Celebrate Our Differences artwork by Matteo Paganelli (conflict)
Deputy Editor Azia Wiggins writes about her vision for MFP Voices, expressing that conflict stirred between Mississippians because of our differences are meant to be resolved, and will position our state for progress. “I’m not interested in being right, or first, or the loudest. I’m interested in curating substantive dialogue representative of everyone in the Magnolia State,” she writes. Photo by Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash

Let People Surprise You—Our Differences Position Mississippi For Excellence

I’ve heard what “they” say about us. 

We’re extreme liberals. Unsaved and anti-religion. LGBTQ+ panderers. DEI bandwagoners. Rulebreakers and catty agitators. 

Because we are a women-led organization, we’re labeled as bitchy and bossy and not described as purpose-charged, ambitious leaders. Because we intentionally strive to uphold democracy and keep our ethical journalistic foot on the necks of the white, male and power-hungry in our Mississippi, we hate all conservatives and Republicans and even Democratic candidates during elections. Clearly everything we do in opposition to the patriarchal-power players is just another move from our award-winning, right-wing hating playbook. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

I hear and read the hearsay, name-calling and allegations. But I’m not moved or offended because as an editor and journalist, it’s my job and passion to promote freedom of thought, speech and expression. I support everyone’s right to say what they really think and am a strong believer in the importance of people’s stories, even the scary and “unpopular” ones. It’s my job to present the facts as they are to the public, and it’s my passion to link the people who build up our communities with whatever tools, resources and relationships journalistic integrity can provide. It’s my job and calling to listen intently first, ask the hard and right questions, think and organize, and then write, edit and report. 

Conflicts Are Meant To Be Resolved

When dealing with humans in any capacity, you open yourself to conflict. But stirring up conflict—call it “good trouble”—is how we challenge and grow one another. You being different from me—having a completely different perspective because you came from a different family, educational background, religion, race, nationality, gender, sexuality, immigration history, experienced various traumas and triumphs—is why it’s profoundly important for us to talk to each other. Conflict doesn’t have to be violent, hateful or infringe on anyone’s freedom. Conflict is meant to be resolved. The bigger the divide between our experiences and perspectives, the more space and time we must give one another to grow and change at our own pace. 

a close-up angle of a white woman and Black man clasping hands (conflict)
“When dealing with humans in any capacity, you open yourself to conflict,” Deputy Editor Azia Wiggins writes. “But stirring up conflict—call it ‘good trouble’—is how we challenge and grow one another.” Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Donna and I have talked extensively lately about what my vision is for our MFP Voices section, one of my sole responsibilities. And as a pro-Black woman whose main purpose is to further uplift and support all Black people, starting at home first and then emanating out to the vast diaspora, I also understand the importance of not falling victim to my own echo chambers and silencing the voices of my state that doesn’t look or think like me in the process.

Yes, I love editing columns that are not afraid to call out racism, corruption, that promote Black excellence and resilience, or that are brave enough to say what’s been offered is not enough and we need more and better. But that’s not all of Mississippi. Yes, Mississippi is home to the largest Black capital in the nation (shout-out,  Jackson, Miss.) but let’s be real—this nation and state is still mostly white and even where there are large, thriving Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, most of the power is in the hands of the conservative and white. 

I want to hear from conservatives, liberals, Christians, Muslims, atheists, witches, gays, straights and the gender-fluid, the economically challenged and privileged, poor Black people and poor white people. I want to start honest conversations with natives, expats and immigrants. I’m not interested in being right, or first, or the loudest. I’m interested in curating substantive dialogue representative of everyone in the Magnolia State.

Consider this a clarion call to my conservative brothers and sisters who call Mississippi home, just like I do, to those who refuse to go out without a fight to make sure we build a state that we feel comfortable leaving for our future generations. I encourage you to question my thinking and write free-thinking columns that express your needs, wants and concerns. 

It may take years of conversation before we really hear and understand one another, but that’s the beauty of it. We’re all here on this rock growing and changing each day, just trying to master ourselves while managing an unpredictable life moment to moment. 

Take a chance on us and let us surprise you. Let people who think differently from you, that you encounter daily, surprise you. I’m most certainly open to learning and becoming more well-rounded because of you. 

Thanks for your continued support.

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 We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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