Close this search box.
Chalk note on the ground that says Together We Will Change the World
“I now realize my superpower and know that ‘It’ was me all along. It's my journey, my unique experiences and perspective that only I can master and then offer up,” MFP Voices Editor Azia Wiggins writes. Photo by Priscilla Gyamfi on Unsplash

Defining the Nameless ‘It” Factor: A Bittersweet Transition Into Purpose

I’ve been told my whole life that I was different. “You’re special,” and talented, and “There’s just something about you.” 

Since I’ve known nothing else outside of living and growing from moment to imperfect moment in this Black body, hearing these things about myself has always made me question why. What is it about me that shines so brightly that everyone else can see “It” so clearly, but somehow “It” remains a nameless factor?

Yes, I’m talented, but so are many others I’ve had the pleasure of sharing this life with. My family has always made me feel like I was beautiful. As dark-skinned women, we collectively know that this world historically only sees us as desirable in the shadows when no one is looking. So what really is “It”?

My Failures Forged Me

My parents and immediate family have told me stories about myself when I was a baby. I was always joyous, never crying or complaining. I could be set in the grass alone, and would play and laugh with blades of grass, clearly present and entertaining myself and the angels, as old folks often say. My Daddy told me that I would even weird them out sometimes, because he remembers when he was working the mid-shift when I was 1 year old or so. My Mommie would have me fed, all cleaned up and in my crib hours before he came home in the middle of the night. When my Daddy came in to check on me, I was standing up in my crib, smiling and waiting for him to visit. He told me that they both always felt like I had some sort of knowing. I just knew things, even at a very young age. 

At age 5, my Mommie said that it was her goal to teach her girls everything she knew, so before I started kindergarten, I was already writing with my left hand. I knew my address, my home phone number and my Social Security number. And very soon after, I was reading. I like to say that words were my first love. 

Because of the foundation my Mommie laid, school honestly didn’t become challenging for me until undergrad. My parents encouraged all A’s in our household, and I loved making them proud. But once it was time for high-school graduation, and I had to decide who I wanted to be as an adult, I hit a wall. How can I be so intelligent and talented, and yet feel so unfocused and directionless? It was a trying time for me, because I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be or how. In fall 2007, fate landed me at the University of Southern Mississippi,  and Hattiesburg, Miss. became my home away from home for the next seven years. I worked full time and went to school full time, which brought its own unique challenges.

We love hearing encouraging words from our donors. Click on the image to donate today!

Since 2013, I’ve been on a continuous grind: working job after job, running into wall after wall, picking myself up failure after failure, learning and building relationships along the way. While in the fire, while “becoming,” I’m still being told how different I am, and how things have to work out for me because I have too much to offer. All the while, I could never see it for myself. If I’m so great and different, why do I always feel like the underdog? Why are all these doors closing in my face? When is my purpose going to surface and make all this suffering and scratching and fighting make sense? 

 I’ve had some wins along the way, but I know now that my failures have forged me. 

Room to Spread My Wings

I started working part-time for the Jackson Free Press in 2019 as an editorial assistant, and at the time, all I wanted was to fall back in love with being creative and being a writer. Now, as an editor at Mississippi Free Press in 2023, I could have never imagined the self-development and the countless opportunities for community and relationship building responding to that ad would bring. I asked Donna Ladd to just give me the opportunity to be a sponge and learn from every department, and she did. 

She immediately saw me as a leader and gave me room to spread my wings before I even realized my own span. She trusted me with her new baby, the MFP, and I’m honored to be a part of its foundation as we work together to progress Mississippi and gird our communities with ethical media to uphold our democracy. 

But once again, I’m in a bittersweet transition. Starting Aug. 15, 2023, I will be a full-time organizer with Working Together Mississippi, a broad-base nonprofit organization. My focus will be the Delta, which works hand-in-hand with the groundwork I’ve already laid in my current position as an editor and journalist. Donna has agreed to allow me to continue to be the contract MFP Voices editor part time, as we both can see how our purposes are aligned and the opportunity for powerful collaboration. 

Community saves community. Voices from across Mississippi share what community power looks like in the face of untold inequities and systems failures. Communities can create transformation by coming together, voicing their experiences, co-designing solutions and holding officials accountable. Video Courtesy W.K. Kellogg Foundation / YouTube

As I learn more about organizing and the rich history of this purpose in Mississippi alone, I finally feel like I have put my finger on what this “It” factor is. It’s the same thing that made Bob Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, Vernon Dahmer, Stokely Carmichael, Ella Baker, George Raymond and countless other COFO, CORE and SNCC organizers different: a God-given, deep-seated love for humanity that emanates from within. It’s the unshakable character built out from adversity, compassion and the pain of failure. It’s the boldness and fearlessness to choose to remain captor of our own souls and how we show up in this world. It’s the balance of a life lived out in the spiritual and carnal, boxes and labels be damned. It’s charisma, it’s diplomacy, it’s the Godly gift of discernment that gives us insight into the hearts of men that matter in the present moment. 

I now realize my superpower and know that “It” was me all along. It’s my journey, my unique experiences and perspective that only I can master and then offer up. It’s the fact that I’m uniquely positioned to be an editor, journalist, singer, creative, organizer and servant, and I can use every weapon in my arsenal to build power and connectedness in Mississippi communities my way without fear. “It” is Romans 8:28 personified, for God has shown me exactly how He can use everything for the good of those who love Him and are called. 

I know now that I’ve been called. I know now that I’ve been pregnant with purpose for almost 35 years, and now I’m crowning. You all have supported the Mississippi Free Press since 2020, so as my journey continues to ebb and flow, I plan to remain transparent with you. I can’t thank you enough for your support and I look forward to the impact we make together on a stage the entire world can see. I know together, we will make an unequivocal difference. 

Please continue giving at to support helping other Mississippians like me find our purpose and help bring solutions to our beloved state.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.