The annual Tennessee Williams Festival writing contests are now open for entries, in poetry, fiction, and playwriting. Deadlines are in November — more information on the TWF website.
Pelican Bomb has a short essay on a recent book arts exhibition at the Foundation Gallery — unfortunately, the show is now over, but many of the works are still available to look up elsewhere.
Audio from the “Now You’re Talking with Marshall Ramsey” show is now online, available here.
After two weeks, 19 counties, 537 miles, 4 flat tires, and only one crash later, I’m grateful to say: mission accomplished. Having returned home to New Orleans not long ago, I’m grateful to all those who reached out, took me in, put me up and fed me, prayed for me, offered words of encouragement or insight on the road, honked to let me know they were behind me, or joined me in any way along the way. Having stayed in motels, mansions and trailers, having traveled through affluence and destitution, I’m grateful too for all those Mississippians who showed me the depth of their welcome regardless of their place on the political spectrum or their stance on this particular bill, as well to the hospitality shown equally by the ACLU and by the Governor’s office in Jackson. Reminded time and again of the best of who we are, I’m convinced that the only legislation worth pursuing is that which both codifies and upholds the dignity by which each of us hopes to live. I believe that HB 1523 is not that legislation. But I also believe that we are capable of better, and that so long as dignity and respect precede suspicion and fear, Mississippi, and our country as a whole, still stand a fighting chance. This ride was a privilege, and my sincerest thanks to all who were involved.
For more details about the effort, the Jackson Free Press, the Hattiesburg American, and the Sun Herald provided coverage. Additionally, I’ll be appearing on “Now You’re Talking With Marshall Ramsey” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting this coming Monday, May 6, at 10am to talk about the ride.
Pelican Bomb has two brief pieces currently up, an interview with painter John Isiah Walton, and an exhibition review of a new show opening at UNO St Claude Gallery in New Orleans featuring artists Maxx Sizeler and Francesca Koerner.
If you’re reading this, by now you’ve probably heard about the bill that was signed into law last month in Mississippi, one called the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” or more casually, the ‘religious freedom’ bill. It’s a complicated law, well-meaning in some ways but terribly damaging in many others, and undoubtedly you’ll have seen some of the reactions, protests, and challenges that have emerged since its signing.
I love my state, and count it an act of singular grace and pride to be able to call myself a native Mississippian. I love our people, our natural beauty, and our culture, and love the instinctive spirit of warmth, welcome, and hospitality that defines us, even amid the great challenges that have faced us over the years. Regardless of your political leanings, what is undeniable is that this law, HB 1523, once again enshrines the protection of discrimination into law, and given the tragedies of our history, Mississippians of all peoples have a special responsibility to fight that. Thanks to the incredible efforts of the novelist Katy Simpson Smith, a petition went out last month with nearly 100 signatures of writers from the state who opposed the bill, which brought new attention to the issue and hopefully put much-needed pressure on the legislature. As a signer of that petition, starting next week, I’m going to add to that pressure.
To ensure Governor Bryant received the petition, I’m going to cycle across Mississippi to personally deliver it to him, along with my own letter of protest. Leaving New Orleans on May 9, I’ll be on the road starting May 10, cycling around 40-50 miles per day, from Memphis to Gulfport, from the north end of the state to the south. Conditions permitting, the journey should take about three weeks. I hope through this effort both to call attention to the dangers of the bill, and to add my voice to the growing chorus of efforts calling for the repeal of this bill and the restoration of our dignity as Mississippians who continually seek to break the shackles of their past.
Thanks to this growing chorus, this protest is a public effort, and if anyone out there would like to join me, I’d love your company—nothing would bring more joy than to have company on the road and solidarity in the pursuit, no matter whether you come for a full leg of the trip or just for a shared dinner at night. The trip will be long, yes, and tiring, but ultimately worth it. Or: if you can’t take part yourself but know someone who would like to come, that’s great too—please do spread the word. The more the better, the more the merrier, and the more the safer. I’ll broadcast occasional updates on this platform and others, and will be working with the ACLU in Jackson to coordinate meet-ups, so please do drop them or me a line if you’d like to get involved.
In sum: I love my state, so much so that I’m willing to travel the fullness of its length to stand up for the place that I know, deep down, values the dignity and worth of every human being. I mourn the fact that this law fails to reflect that belief, and I regret that Mississippi has once again become the punchline of a joke, but I also believe that there is still time for us to show the world that this is neither who we are nor who we wish to be. We’re better than that, in every way.
Hope to see you out there on the road.
Pelican Bomb has a review of The Beauty Fools, a new — and mysterious — novel and art book just now published in New Orleans. For those in the area, the exhibition will be up till April 9.