My Cool City


Adria Walker

When I first began interning at the Jackson Free Press as a 14-year-old freshman at Murrah High School, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I had always been curious about people, and I had this unexplainable obsession with storytelling. I knew that, if nothing else, my future would involve some type of prose, and I dreamed of one day being able to write for an audience larger than just my mother and my brother.

However, I had never even considered journalism, or non-fiction writing in general, as a possible career path until my freshman creative-writing teacher suggested that I inquire about an internship at the Jackson Free Press.

Within two months of starting my internship, my state representative accepted my application to be a Mississippi Senate page for the 2012 legislative session. Meanwhile at the Free Press, my managing editor at the time, Ronni Mott, allowed me to write my first political story about my experience as a page.

I didn't realize the magnitude of the opportunity that I was given at the time. I just thought that it was pretty cool that I got paid to see how state government functioned behind relatively closed doors, and I thought it was even cooler that I was able to write about the whole thing.

By allowing me to write such an important story, Ronni sparked a passion for journalism and for Mississippi that, at least in the three years that have followed it, I have not been able to satisfy.

The Senate experience was completely different from what I, in my youthful naivety, imagined it would be. And I'm starting to find out that Hildy from "My Girl Friday" had a legitimate reason for considering retiring from journalism to be a homemaker. But I love my city, and I love that I have the opportunity to report about the things that happen in it and to it.

I can say without a doubt that there is no better place to grow up or to live than Jackson. Don't get me wrong: I am definitely familiar with Jackson's bad reputation. I've overheard numerous conversations between adults about metro-area schools that start with, "Just make sure that your kids don't go to any school that is in (Jackson Public Schools)."

When I introduce myself to some people in the area, their faces almost always falter when I say that I attend Murrah High School, a public school in the heart of Jackson. During downtime at speech and debate tournaments—which typically take place schools outside JPS's district—I am used to having other debaters slowly enunciate every syllable of names like Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as if we, as Jacksonians, are unfamiliar with the names.

Several of my classmates complain that there is never anything to do in Jackson, or that they're embarrassed to say they are from Jackson, without attempting to remedy their problem.

I have just one thing to say to newcomers and long-time Jacksonians alike: Like with anything in life, Jackson is what you make it. Unless we're talking about a sci-fi or horror film, it is simply impossible for a city to be inherently evil or corrupt.

If you're a fan of "Star Wars," and instead of being at Sneaky Beans on May 4, you were re-watching the prequels, it is your fault that Jackson is boring for you.

If you fancy yourself a dancer, or if you're even remotely interested in learning how ballet works, and instead of taking classes at Ballet Mississippi or Ballet Magnificat, you're living vicariously through the Sugarplum Fairy in "The Nutcracker" re-runs that Ovation shows every year near Christmas, you're choosing to have a bad experience. If you are a history buff, or just a lover of all things old-timey, and instead of going to the Mississippi Department of Archives to look at old records, you're watching "Downton Abbey" and complaining that Jackson has nothing to offer, that is because you are not giving Jackson a chance.

It is impossible to meet the animated, lovely people that Jackson has to offer if, instead of being in Fondren on the first Thursday of the month for Fondren After 5, you find yourself binge-watching "Sherlock" for the fifth time in a row.

Yeah, the "cool" thing to do for some people is to talk about how bad Jackson is. But, that doesn't even make sense because the people who live in Jackson are way too hot for that. I understand that it's difficult to put yourself into social situations when you're in a new environment, especially if that place's name is regularly run through the mud by local and national television broadcasters.

I'm certainly not naive about the fact that Jackson has its problems. But so do Madison, Richland, Brandon, Pearl, Ridgeland, Byram and any other city in any other state.

Living in Jackson has given me more opportunities than I could ever even attempt to count. As an editorial intern at the Jackson Free Press, I have had three wonderful summers working with an awesome staff and fantastic groups of interns. I was able to represent the state that I love so dearly at the 2014 Al Neuharth Journalism and Free Spirit Conference in Washington, D.C, where I met 50 impressive students from across the country, and had the chance to speak to people like Ron Nesson, Judy Woodruff and Rip Patton.

I have interviewed an assortment of people in and out of the state, and have been able to meet the people that truly make Mississippi such a wonderful place to live in. This year, I was even lucky enough to be in Mississippi's "Happy" video, which, let's be honest, is probably one of the most awesome, best versions, yet. (The film crew came to the JFP offices right after an intern workshop, and we danced down the halls of Capital Towers.)

I have made enough memories to last a lifetime—and it's all thanks to living in Jackson.

This edition of Jackpedia is dedicated not only to the incoming college students and to this year's amazing group of interns who helped put it all together, but also to the beautiful, vibrant citizens of Jackson. Once this issue of Jackpedia is published, my third summer as an editorial intern at the Jackson Free Press will officially be over, and my senior year of high school will begin. I'm almost done writing my story of Jackson. What will yours be about?

Adria Walker coordinated this issue of Jackpedia, assisted by the summer 2014 intern class and the JFP's visiting Girl Scout troop.


candacechmbrs 8 years, 10 months ago

This is Great! I love your drive to make the best of the city of Jackson. As a young person, you serve as an example in showing what Jackson has to offer the world. As a graduate of Murrah High School c/o 2011, I am proud to know my fellow mustang is achieving great heights and is seeking ways to improve herself by taking advantage of the many local opportunities of success. Keep up the good work and great writings. I wish you well!


Kajohnson 8 years, 10 months ago

This was a wonderful article! As your former teacher, I know I have some bias but you did an outstanding job of showing just how wonderful Jackson can be if you are willing to seek out the activities. True enough, Jackson is not all bright lights, big city but it is vibrant and there are plenty of musical and cultural activities, not to mention those that are just plain fun. Keep up the good work and I wish you well.


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