More people than not believe that the three Coastal counties are vastly different than the other seventy-nine counties in Mississippi. While there are differences in every geographical, or topographical region, I see the likenesses as outweighing the differences.
When I left Ocean Springs to attend Delta State University, located in Cleveland, Mississippi, I was asked the following questions almost as soon as my feet hit the campus: “Are you a Yankee?” (because of my accent, or lack thereof). I only laughed and responded, “No way! I’m from farther south than you can ever dream to be!” at which point I was then asked, “Are you one of those wild Coast girls?” That was truly laughable if “wild” equates to drinking and partying, but if it meant, “Do you like to have a good time,” I was all in.
Over time and traveling the globe I have observed time and time again the fact that people of any given area make their living primarily off of what the land around them is capable of producing. Simply put, folks living on the Coastal plain make their living off of the bountiful harvest of seafood found in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and around the rest of the state, people farm the land, including row crops, pine trees, and/or catfish ponds. That all depends on where one lives. At least that’s the way it was in days gone by when Mississippi was primarily rural. Of course, now we have tech and production industry in our larger areas, on and off the Coast.
But if we slow down long enough to consider the lifestyles of the Coastal counties and the rest of the state, it’s obvious that the connection is great. Our Mississippi is rich in art, music, and sub-cultures to include the melting pot of people who make the state what she is today. Whether we look at the Chinese and Italian immigrants in the Delta, the French and Acadians on the Coast, or the indigenous peoples and African Americans across the entire state, it doesn’t take long to see how we celebrate life in very similar ways.
We love a good festival and find any and all reasons to have one. The amazing thing? The folks who attend the many art, music, and cooking festivals around our state are not comprised of one racial or ethnic group of people. We Mississippians love to celebrate our heritage, to include shrimp boats, hot tamales, juke joints, jazz and the blues, fine art and folk art, and do so with a great need to be inclusive of all. And no matter where we live we all love to enjoy a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
The next time someone starts to talk about how different we are, why don’t you suggest a discussion about how we are alike? These are the ties that bind.