Friday, November 6, 2009

Tomorrow in Mississippi

Tomorrow would be a typical Saturday in Mississippi: mild weather, lots of college football and then some partying afterwards. However, November 7, 2009 will be atypical in a couple of ways.
First at a football game, more attention will be paid to the pre-game ceremony than the actual game itself. In Oxford, Ole Miss, known outside of the state as The University of Mississippi, will be hosting some directional school at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday afternoon.

There will be all sorts of national attention on this game based on a chant the student body says prior to the game. As the Ole Miss band finishes its rendition of "My Ol' Dixie Home", the fans yell "The South Will Rise Again!" The chancellor, Dr. Dan Jones, football coach Houston Nutt and several distinguished alumni have asked for the practice stop. Jones even went so far as to say that if the chant is uttered this Saturday, then the band will not be allowed to perform the song that prompts the chant ever again.

The chant is only as old as the era of segregation and civil rights. A then-defiant student body, protesting federal intervention in desegregating institutions of higher learning, started saying the chant as a battle cry during football games to send a clear and chilling message to all who would hear it.

Over the years, it has become as harmless as the Sooner Schooner or the Seminole Chief spearing the field. It is just a much a traditional cheer as the Hoddy Toddy song, which supposedly is also banned, but is said with much gusto to this day. It has become an issue now because recruits for athletics have said they will not play for a team that have fans making that kind of reference, innocently or not. Bad athletics mean less money for the school, and now you get the picture.

The issue is not political sensitivity, it is economic viability. Me, personally, I get both sides of the argument, but I honestly could care less. If folks that attend Ole Miss want to believe in the quasi-romantic notion that The South will rise again, so be it. However, if they want to compete in the SEC for generations to come, then maybe the chant should fade away like the old soldiers of the Confederacy.

Speaking about fading away, one place that will not is the infamous nightclub the Upper Level. Located in my old legislative district, the Upper Level has been a blight in the City of Jackson for years, so much so, that the Jackson Police Department relocated to a vacant office a block away to set up a precinct headquarters. Yet, despite the extreme efforts of the previous mayor, the late Frank Melton, who successfully did shut down the club as a public nuisance, the club will open its doors again on November 7, 2009.

Bottom line, if you want drugs, go to the Upper Level, If you want prostitutes, go to the Upper Level. If want the thrill of being shot at, go to the Upper Level. If you want to have a good time with friends on a Saturday evening, go somewhere else.

However, the Upper Level has friends in high places. I would dare to say the club was a catalyst for the previous hotly contested mayoral race this past spring. Melton's actions to close the club, legal and legally questionable, became a focal point of his administration and the election. The ACLU held voter registration drives there. Politicians had receptions there. Prominent attorneys have represented the ownership in court. As a matter of fact, if you really make an effort to connect the dots, you will know for sure that the young lady that has been identified as the "owner" of the Upper Level is really a front woman for the real owner, who I can modestly say is one of the most influential persons in Mississippi history.

Many people were saying on the street that once Melton was out of office, the Upper Level would be back in business. Seems like that was an accurate assessment. I look forward to seeing many of its patrons visiting my new place of employment on a regular basis.

It is amazing to me that these issues are even before us. Both seem to be decisions that should be made practically. But if this were a practical world, the world would be much better off. I do expect the students at Ole Miss to do what they think is right. As for the Upper Level, all I can do pray no one gets hurt or worse this time around.