Archive for September, 2009

Dorothy Moore

September 18, 2009
Excerpts from Dorothy Moore interview

Excerpts from Dorothy Moore interview

I used to sing at the Alamo Theatre [in Jackson, Mississippi] growing up, starting at the age of 12. They used to have talent shows every Wednesday night, and I would appear on there. And I now call the Alamo Theatre my classroom for what I am doing today, because it was a great learning experience, which made me prepare for what I am doing professionally.

It was sort of like a young girl coming from Jackson, Mississippi, going to the fair for the first time. I would go out and introduce my song; I wasn’t too all over the stage. I kind of had to learn that a little bit. Then I got brave and learned as I went, would say a few more words to the audience. Then I became a boss, a CEO, as far as hiring my band leader and telling them what to do, telling my road manager what to do. I never thought I’d do that.

The reason I started my record label is because I wanted creative control. I felt that I had been in the business long enough that I knew what I wanted to do. I kind of felt what my fans wanted. I had to please my fans—what made Dorothy Moore. I hadn’t forgotten that.

A lot of people have it all wrong about Mississippi. You know, it was like that in the past. You know how it was. In some places where I would perform in the early ’60s, I could perform in restaurants, but I could not sit down and be served. …

People think MS is a bad place, but I think it’s the greatest place on earth. I’ve always made my home here.

Mildred Wolfe

September 18, 2009

Excerpt from Mildred Wolfe interview

Karl and I had never lived in the country [before]. People in town used to say that the Wolfes lived way out in the country. I didn’t know how noisy it was. You know at night, when you are in the deep country, it’s full of noise. The bugs eating each other. The frogs going “boom.” The whooperwills—they were incessant. They started at sunset and kept on. One time my son, Mike, when he was about 5 or 6, went out to the screen door and leaned out and said, “Shut up!” They didn’t mind him; they kept on whooperwilling.

When I first tried oil paints I thought I would never really master it because it would slide and goo up. It was slippery and everything. But Ms. Turner would come along and it would just come alive and I thought how did she do that? I kept on and she bragged on me so much. So that if I stayed over in painting studio and was late for literature class that came after that, the woman who was teaching the literature would forgive me and say, “Well she’s over there painting”. I sort of lived a charmed life that way.

Karl was painting portraits and had to pay so much attention to detail to suit the customer. I remember when I was in high school, my grandmother was staying with us, and I asked her to pose. And I put in every wrinkle, and she didn’t like it.  Instead of painting her jewelry, I made her wrinkles stand out too much.

Seetha Srinivasan

September 16, 2009
Excerpts from Seetha Srinivasan interview

Excerpts from Seetha Srinivasan interview

When you live in Berkley, there are all these stereotypes, and people would say, “You’re moving to Mississippi? Have you heard of the KKK? Do you know what you are doing?” And I was very nervous because I didn’t know anything other than northern California, and I didn’t know what you expect. You just sort of have all of these really scary images of what we were getting into. Not too long after we moved here, we were driving on Lakeland Drive, and in those days it was completely deserted. And there was a sign that said “No shooting on Highway.” And of course it didn’t refer to actual shooting, it had to do with hunting. But I didn’t know that at the time, and I thought what people told us in Berkley was right about Mississippi.

I remember not too long ago I went to hear a talk by Richard Wright’s daughter, Julia Wright. She talked about her father saying, “When a Southerner understands, there is nothing quite like it.” And I thought, “Isn’t that the truth.” Because the progressive Southerners who we met—I’ve never met people as wonderful and as brave and as educated. They have all stood up and fought for what they believed in. Not always in overt ways, but by being who they were and speaking their mind and heading the kind of institutions that they did or by the writing that they did.I think of how very fortunate we are to have been part of these people’s worlds.How fortunate Jackson and the state of Mississippi is to have had women as these core progressives.

When we travel and tell people that we live in Mississippi, they say, “Mississippi! What’s it like living there?” You know I have really grown to love Jackson and the state. It has its flaws, but I have traveled enough to know—so does every other place. And there are so many wonderful people here. And in a way we have become a part of this community here, and I don’t know that we could have some other place. We were able to put down roots here, and I feel that we can bring change.

Dr. Helen Barnes

September 16, 2009
Excerpts from Dr. Helen Barnes interview

Excerpts from Dr. Helen Barnes interview

There were 7 women in my class and we all had to meet with the Dean of the University for him to ask us to drop out of school, so that a man could take our position so that they would have a way to support their families.  We just said, “You whistling Dixie fellow, you can go tell that to someone else, because its not going to work here.” And all 7 of us graduated, and we graduated well in the class. But there were times when you wondered whether or not you were going to make it.

“If you come to do a job, you do the job.” That’s what my grandmother said. She said, “Don’t let anybody stop you from doing what it is you want to do.” And I can remember mother telling once when I was crying and cussing about medical school, she said, “You know, they didn’t send for you. You worried them to death until they let you in medical school, so I don’t want to hear this. You just do whatever it takes. And get over it because they didn’t send for you.”And that went through my mind many a day, because they didn’t send for me. The thing to do was to go ahead on and do it.

I didn’t realize was that there is a law on the books in Mississippi—and it may not be there now—but it prohibits black physicians from taking care of white patients. Well, I did not know that, and I had three white patients. Mabel Cole was one of them, and Mabel owned every plantation between Greenwood and Clarksdale.

This vicious group of folks—I forget the name, they were just mean people—they called Miss Mabel Cole and told her that if she didn’t stop coming to me as a patient, they were going to see that this man in town, who worked at the electric company and who had 5 children, lost his job. They couldn’t hurt Mabel, and they couldn’t do a whole bunch to me because the other doctors in town were on my side. So we—Mabel and I—got together and decided that she could come to the clinic; she and I wouldn’t meet for dinner anymore. We lived on different sides of the street. She lived on the rich side of town and I lived on the railroad tracks.It didn’t matter to me. My house was clean too.

The thing was, you had to put up with what was going on and wait. And sure enough the voter registration came, and teaching people how to take the exam. I had to take the exam to vote the first time. I had to pay a poll tax to vote the first time in Greenwood. Yeah, I did it. I needed to vote, so I paid and I went up and took that nonsensical exam and passed.

Suzan Thames

September 16, 2009
Excerpts from Suzan Thames interview

Excerpts from Suzan Thames interview

I became involved with the Children’s Hospital in 1981. We took an old-fashioned slide show and a projector to so many different Kiwanis clubs, women’s clubs—you name it, we went there. And we put on fundraisers. We did a barbeque in Itta Beena that raised as much money as a big formal production as we had here in Jackson. We got the Children’s Cancer Clinic built and open in 1993, and we laid the infrastructure deeply enough to support upward mobility. I have cherished every minute of working with this hospital. When you see the need—no matter how impossible it may seem—you get the right people together, and what can happen is miraculous.

I can’t say enough about the people I have been able to work with. The staff here at the University Medical Center, the public affairs department, has been side by side with me the whole entire time. The physicians are absolutely the most dedicated people I have ever had the opportunity to be around. They care; their passion for these children—not only their health, but the fact that they aren’t traumatized by being in a hospital. The child-life specialists that work with the children mean so much to the children and to their families. I’ve just had a wonderful opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to participate in the growth of our community and in the health and well being of children. This is critical to our society—that every child receive quality health care.

And that was my initial goal, that every child receive this in our state. And I believe that is critical to the growth of a society—keeping your children healthy and well. I am so grateful and I couldn’t have been able to do this without the help of so many hundreds of people—their time, money, and expertise has been heaped on me. I have been the recipient of so much learning and growth as a result of people taking the time to teach me and show me and guide me.

Sister Dorothea

September 15, 2009
Excerpts from Sister Dorothea interview

Excerpts from Sister Dorothea interview

I grew up near Chicago, Illinois, and had a very happy childhood. I went to a good elementary school, and then went to a private all girls’ school in Springfield, Illinois, for my high school and was taught by the Dominican Sisters. I got to know the sisters very well there. They are a fun- loving community. I guess that is where I got my vocation; however, my mother and dad were very good, faith-filled people. I had a good family life. It was in my high school years when I enjoyed dating, but I felt drawn to the religious life…Prior to going into the convent I had a chance to do some modeling, so I experienced a lot of the world. I don’t regret ever going into the convent. It’s a very fulfilling life; it’s a wonderful life. What I like about this ministry is working with people trying, and trying to help others become better. They say the person that climbs the highest is the one that helps the other person up. If we can bring out the best in others, it helps all of us. I am a team player; I am not a lone ranger, and don’t believe in doing things by myself.

I believe in giving credit to people who do the work. I can’t say this a great place because of Sister Dorothea. It’s not. It’s because of everybody—all three thousand of us working together for our mission. And our mission is, “All human life is sacred.” We treat all people with respect and dignity, and we take care of the poor, the very wealthy. And it’s one level of care,which is the center of excellence. We treat the very poorest of the poor. We have a clinic on West Capital that is for homeless patients. We give them the best care as we do the very wealthy people that come here with insurance. So its one level of care for everyone.

Patti Carr Black

September 15, 2009
Excerpts from Patti Carr Black interview

Excerpts from Patti Carr Black interview

We helped found New Stage Theatre, and that was a great wonderful undertaking. I am so proud that it has struggled forth and that it is quite healthy today. The group of us that started that theatre just didn’t think we could take one more day of Under the Yum Yum Tree that the local theatre was doing. So we were going to branch out and do exciting, dramatic, verboten kind of works like that. We opened with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?, and we opened with a bomb threat because we announced that it was opened to all races.

It was a pretty exciting time. 
When the directorship of the Old Capital came open, I became the director. My whole focus from the moment I walked in and had that opportunity was to get away from military and political history, which was its total focus at the time and to go towards cultural history—particularly literature, art, and music… I’m sort of a missionary about art. I really want to get people out there.

When you look on the great civilizations of the past, you don’t remember who was emperor when or what the war was that closed the gap. You know the architecture and the art and the sculpture. That’s all anybody knows or cares about. And that’s pretty much the way I feel. I’ll throw in literature with it.

JoAnne Prichard Morris

September 15, 2009
Excerpts from  JoAnne Prichard Morris interview

Excerpts from JoAnne Prichard Morris interview

I don’t ever remember saying, “Now I am going to start writing.” My inspirations are that something interests me and I want to know more about it. I love research. I have always loved research. In Yazoo City, I wanted to know more about the history of the place. And so Harriet DeCell and I wrote the History of Yazoo County, and the inspiration was just finding out things.

As an editor at the University Press, I was finding writers, acquiring material, and working with good writers. I was able to help academic writers write for general audiences, so that everybody could understand, which expands the audience for the book. I started a series and built on things that I already knew and was interested in. One of them was the author and artist series—Mississippi writers and Mississippi artists. The first one was Morgana. We used Eduora Welty stories, and Mildred Wolfe did the illustrations. 

I wanted to write Unita Blackwell’s story first of all because its just an incredible story. She’s an incredible woman. We both grew up in the Delta, at not exactly the same time, but before desegregation—growing up in the South as it had been forever. I knew what kind of life she had lived, and she knew to some extent what kind of life I lived. And they were two separate worlds that coexisted. We didn’t live in the same town, but we could have. We still wouldn’t have known each other unless she happened to have been a domestic worker in our house.

It was a way for me to try to understand the struggle, because that’s a very hard thing to do. I’ll never really totally understand it.

Ellen Douglas

September 15, 2009

I’m 85, so I’ve been doing this for a long time. I was raising children for a part of that time, and I didn’t do much writing when they were little. But after that I went back to writing and sold my first book, and that’s what I’ve been doing since then. By the time I sold a book my sons were getting grown up, so I had a lot more time to myself. I sold my first book by mistake.

I had a fairly well completed draft of a novel, and I was fiddling around with it…And I was looking for someone to read my manuscript and tell me what I should do next, if anything. [A friend] took the manuscript and went back to Annapolis with it, and gave it to a friend of his who had been working with a publisher at Houghton Mifflin. And first thing I knew about was the editor at Houghton Mifflin called and said he wanted me to enter the book in their twenty-fifth anniversary contest. And I won by mistake, so to speak. I didn’t even know my friend had given the manuscript to anybody. So that’s how I got started, and I have been writing for years off and on. I had sent some things around and gotten rejected in the few years between.