Many people love to rag on Jackson. It has too many potholes; the state is too conservative; we don't get enough concerts; our public transit system is broken; there is too much crime here; and don't forget the ever-fun hashtag, #nothingtodojxn.
Some of those things might be true. Roads like Mill Street and Riverside Drive look like war zones. Sinkholes keep popping up. Our transit system is broken, and our sidewalks need fixing. Our water system is failing. We don't get a lot of concerts in Jackson.
It's easy to look at that stuff and say that the city and the state aren't worth staying in. That's why we lose more people than we gain each year. But those problems are only one part of the picture. There's a much grander, better picture than some of us want to believe.
Catherine Lee, who is the co-founder of City Pins JXN, said in an interview that she and her husband, Garrad Lee, create their Jackson-themed pins as a tongue-and-cheek way to commemorate things the city is known for, but they also use them as a way to celebrate the city and its uniqueness. They created enamel pins of the old Mississippi Coliseum, a leaky fire hydrant with roses around it, and a Department of Public Works pin. They're funny and cool, and even if those things make us cry and scream sometimes, those symbols represent Jackson.
They represent all the times you hit a pothole and blow a tire, but also every time you walk in Fondren or Belhaven or downtown and think, "How beautiful is this city?" Because we all have those moments.
Plenty of people here are smart and capable and probably could survive in a much bigger city. But you know what? A lot of them stay. They stay because they see potential. They see a city worth fighting for. They joke about the potholes and "boil water" alerts, and then remark about how cool the "Welcome to Jackson" mural is and how neat it is that we a growing community of entrepreneurs. They see the city as it is now, and they think, "How can we make this place better?" Rida's question of "why not?" is the question we should be asking rather than "why should we stay?" That only perpetuates a broken cycle.
Progress is happening all around us. You just have to look up long enough to see it. For example, on Saturday, June 30, the City of Jackson Department of Planning and Development will host a community meeting to engage the public on a mixed-use development project on land across from the Jackson Convention Complex. They're working on a bike-share program that the City expects to roll out in 2019. They're working on a new addition to JATRAN. And things aren't only happening at the city levels. Artists are painting murals. Event organizers are working to bring bigger acts to Jackson. Food trucks are popping up left and right. There are people in the community, including this year's Young Influentials, who are working to make the city and state better.
Rida is effecting change at a City level; Charlene Williams is helping grow the state's craft-beer industry; Stephen Brown is showing kids that college is not that scary or unattainable. They're all here, and they're making a difference. Like Young Influential Justin Ransburg's mural in downtown Jackson says, "I Believe in Jackson."
Managing Editor Amber Helsel is a storyteller who moonlights as an artist. She loves food, cats, anime and art supplies. You can often catch her running sound at CityHeart Church. Email story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.