For Aleesha Moses Hudson, being a budget analyst comes naturally to her. "I've always been analytical and paid attention to detail," she says. "... (I'm) so analytical that (I) think outside of the box."
Hudson, 37, is an analyst, area 3 for Enbridge, which is based out of Canada. She was originally hired in 2006 when the company was still known as Duke Energy.
In January 2007, Duke sent her division off to form Spectra. Enbridge purchased Spectra in February 2017.
When Hudson attended Raymond High School, computer science was one of the top majors in colleges and universities at that time, so that is what she pursued.
"Computer programmers and computer analysts were in high demand," she says.
In 2001, however, Hudson had a summer internship with State Farm in Bloomington, Ill., to build work experience in computer programming. While there, she realized she did not want to go into that field. However, because she had one more year of college (and she was on academic scholarship), so she stayed the course and received a bachelor's degree in computer science from Jackson State University in 2002.
In 2003, she became an analyst planner for one of the departments at Nissan North America in Canton in 2003.
"I developed strong analytical skills while in college, and ... those skills made it very easy for me to transition to analyzing numbers," Hudson says.
In 2005, she entered the Aspire Program, an accelerated degree program for adults, at Belhaven University. She received master's degree in management in 2006.
Hudson also has a passion for serving others. She is a member of the Junior League of Jackson, where she currently serves as the 2018-2019 Internal Controls chairperson. In that position, she analyzes the Junior League's processes including documents, and recommends improvements to the finance council. She also does risk assessments of financial practices and procedures.
She is also active with the Jackson State University National Alumni Association Byram-Terry Chapter, and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and its charitable arm, the Ebony Pearls Foundation Inc. She has been involved in numerous events, including on the steering committee of Ebony Pearls' "Pearl Factor: An All-White Affair" from 2015 to 2017 and has been on the organization's annual cotillion for several years.
Hudson is married to Darrin Hudson. The couple has two children, Brandon and Alyson.
Drew Mellon, the U.S. director of The Hard Places Community and the chief operating officer of Fondren staple Swell-O-Phonic, maintains a community-centered ethos in his work in Cambodia as well as in his life in Mississippi.
Mellon's sister, Alli Mellon, who currently serves as an executive director for the organization (Drew Mellon is also one), founded The Hard Places Community in 2008 to combat child sex trafficking in Cambodia through a grassroots approach.
Mellon graduated from Memphis Theological Seminary in 2008, never expecting to return to Jackson. He married his wife, Ally, in 2010 and ended up relocating to Jackson after the library at Summer Hill Junior High School in Clinton hired her. Although he began working at Swell-O-Phonic shortly after he and his wife moved here, he still continued to apply for doctorate programs with the long-term goal of teaching social justice at the collegiate level. However, his passions shifted as he began helping Alli with organization and fundraising at Hard Places.
"The thought of just sitting in a classroom and studying and writing for four or five more years just felt dead to me," Mellon says. "I didn't get excited about it, but when I thought about being on the ground and working with these kids and people being abused and trafficked, I felt life again."
Mellon says that Hard Places is a tool for local communities in Cambodia to use, as opposed to a top-down mechanism to impose outside solutions to local problems.
"It's a core Hard Places belief that we can't swoop into these other countries and change it," Mellon says. "We're not these great white saviors coming from the west that can fix all the problems of a place that isn't ours. ... What we do is empower and help the people that are actually from there (to) really take care of their own country.
Mellon says the organization has about 40 Cambodian staff members between a couple of centers. He goes to the country about once or twice each year in the summer. "It's so cool to see these people who are from there changing their country for the future," he says. "They want their children, their next generation to grow up in a place that's different."
It was during her residency at Howard University that dermatologist Dr. Jasmine Hollinger decided to specialize in skin of color.
"I saw people from all races there—(Asian), African-American, Latino, Native American," she says. "I got to see skin conditions which affected each different skin color, and I found my niche treating vitiligo, hyper-pigmentation and melasma."
Hollinger, 33, is one of the only African American dermatologists in Mississippi. She practices at University Physicians at Grants Ferry in Flowood. Besides treating issues such as vitiligo (loss of pigmentation in patches of skin), melasma (brown patches, usually on the face) and hyper-pigmentation, she also treats acne, skin cancer and hair loss.
The doctor says her passion for dermatology came from dermatology problems in her own family.
"My brother had vitiligo," she says. "I had eczema. Skin conditions are just a personal thing for me."
She saw dermatology as a way to give back to her community, but she also saw a lack of access to care for patients of color, as her brother had to go to Washington, D.C., for his vitiligo treatment.
Hollinger attended Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in African and African American studies with a minor in biology in 2007. She then attended UMMC School of Medicine, where she received her medical degree in 2011. She then did a year-long internal medicine internship at the hospital.
After that, she did her dermatology residency at Howard University in Washington D.C., which she completed in 2015.
Hollinger came back to Jackson that year because she felt a need to serve her community. "My family is here, this is my home," she says. "There's a need for my kind of dermatology in Mississippi because of the large population of people with skin of color. I'm glad I get to do it."
Hollinger began working at UMMC that year and says she enjoys working with students and the medical residents She says her students keep her on her toes. "I have to know my stuff, and if I don't know it, I have to know where to find it," she says.
She has been married for seven years to her husband, Lowell, who is an associate director of band and music professor at Jackson State University. They have one daughter, Kynzie, and a miniature schnauzer named Kingsley.
JXN Barley's Angels founding committee member Charlene Williams did not always like beer.
Her now-husband, Preston Williams, is a fan of craft beer and introduced her to it, listening to her likes and dislikes to find a beer that fit her style, she says.
"We actually traveled out to North Carolina to see a concert, and while we were there on vacation, we decided to go into a Flying Saucer (Draught Emporium), and I sat down and said, 'I don't know. Just give me something local.'"
The bartender handed her an India pale ale, and Williams says she fell in love.
Williams, a Florence, Miss., native, moved to Jackson in 2006. She started college at Tulane University in 2015 and graduated in December 2017 with a bachelor's degree in public relations and a minor in business.
She also got management and new business venture certifications while studying for her undergraduate degrees.
Public relations was a natural fit for Williams because she likes talking and networking, she says. She currently works as the marketing and associations management coordinator for McLaughlin, PC.
She spends much of her time working with the Mississippi Brewers' Guild on marketing, including brand awareness, "to try to get Mississippians drinking more Mississippi beer," she says. "We have some great stuff."
She sees the need for more women in the craft-beer industry and says the state is actually doing well on that front.
Mississippi breweries are doing it right, Williams says.
"Women have ownership in it; women are on the front ends of getting the product out and developing the product. I just thought, since I have the knowledge, this is where I can fit into it," she says. "It's not just a man's job. Women are equally into it."
Williams says that in 2014, JXN Barley's Angels founder Toni Francis had just had her baby and needed an outlet. Her husband, T Francis, encouraged her to do something with other women.
Francis looked into different groups and realized that Barley's Angels was something she was interested in. When Francis
realized the group would be bigger than she expected, she asked Williams to be on the team because she is good at organization and coordination, also bringing on Shanna Head and Heather Collette.
They started JXN Barley's Angels thinking they would have maybe 10 people show up, but these days, Williams says anywhere from 25 to 40 women are at the group's events.
"There's a need for it," she says. "There are a lot women who enjoy this market, and enjoy this industry. They need an outlet. There are some who are like me, who ... were not really into it but wanted to learn more about it."
Creating social spaces has been a driving force behind Salam Rida's work as an architect.
"Thinking about how people can come together in different ways, and also thinking about how technology can also be utilized in that is a big part of what reinforces the work that I do today," the Jackson city planner says.
Rida, a Detroit, Mich., native, received her bachelor's degree in sociology and urban studies from the University of Michigan in 2011. After college, she bartended for two and a half years while also doing graphic design and working for ESPN Rise as a sports photographer, mostly shooting hockey and basketball in Detroit.
"I woke up one day and decided that I wasn't really happy doing web design or photography with ESPN," she says. "I was just like, 'I need to find something that I really love to do.'"
Rida liked design and working with people, so architecture was a good fit, she says. She earned a master's degree in the field from the University of Michigan in 2017.
She met her fiance, Clinton native Travis Crabtree, during graduate school. While there, she decided that she wanted to create an eco-industrial park where businesses and the community come together to reduce waste, share resources and create sustainable development.
Detroit's market for industrial property is extremely saturated, she says, and there were not many cities with affordable property where she wanted to live.
While Jackson tends to fall toward the bottom of many lists for aspects such as health and transportation, the city has a low cost of living. In 2016, she and Crabtree bought the an industrial building in the Virden Addition Industrial Park in Fondren to turn it into what they're calling The Ecoshed.
"We want to turn into a mixed-used, closed-loop-system building where everything that is grown at the building or created at the building either is recycled, reused or revitalized in some way," Rida says.
She and Crabtree moved here five months ago to begin work on the project and around the end of February, the couple began their positions with the City of Jackson as urban designers for the Long-Range Planning Division.
Currently, Rida is working on projects for the City such as the Bloomberg Public Art Challenge, which is an up-to-$1-million grant that Bloomberg Philanthropies gives to cities that are working to tackle civic issues through public art projects. The topic for Jackson's art challenge is food access, Rida says.
"With food access, there are so many different metrics that go into deciding how states are designated as having high rates of heart attacks or obesity or having poor food access," she says. The metrics include transportation, quality of restaurants and grocery stores, and the number of groceries per capita.
Rida is also working on an expansion to JATRAN, tentatively called "One Line," an auto-independent corridor near Fortification Street; the bike-share program that is supposed to begin in 2019; and a project that will turn the land across from the Jackson Convention Complex into mixed-use development space.
Madison resident Jason Duren has served as vice president for BancorpSouth's main office in Jackson since June 2015.
He was previously an assistant vice president for Regions Bank's corporate office in Ridgeland starting in 2010. At BancorpSouth, Duren, 36, is primarily in charge of commercial banking, which involves lending, deposits and cash management.
"I feel that I can best help people and my community by being transparent with everyone I work with and my business, being accountable and reliable, and looking out for the best interests of others," he says. "I joined up with Bancorp South because I felt it would help expand my role and grow my footprint in terms of what I can do for the community."
Duren moved to Madison from Charleston, Miss., in 2006. He graduated from Charleston High School and went on to Mississippi College, where he received a bachelor's degree in business administration in 2004.
In addition to his position at BancorpSouth, he serves as president of the Capitol Area Sunset Rotary Club, which sets up clothing supply closets for students at Pecan Park Elementary School in Jackson. He is also a board member and chairman of the Ambassador Committee for the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership.
"The Chamber promotes economic development in the Jackson community by hosting grand openings for new businesses," Duren says. "We also serve as a resource arm for businesses in Jackson."
Banking is something of a family tradition, one that he says he took to from an early age.
"I have plenty of family members involved in banking, including my grandmother, Nancy Duren, and my uncle, Tommy Duren," he says. "I've always been good with numbers and had a talent for putting deals together, and I enjoyed the idea of establishing a strong customer relationship."
His hobbies include working out, playing golf, hunting and fishing. He and his wife, Sarah, have been married since June 2010. They have a 5-year-old son named Meyer and a 4-year-old daughter named Lola.
Although Justin Ransburg, 30, has been creating art all his life, he says that decided to make his passion a full-time commitment after working in visitor services at the Mississippi Museum of Art from 2015 to 2016.
"I always (said to myself) while working at the museum, 'I should be making this,' but life happened, and I decided it was time to make a change," Ransburg says.
He has shown his work, which often features Afro-futuristic themes, at venues such as Gallery1 at Jackson State University and Jax-Zen Float in midtown.
His murals appear at numerous Jackson businesses and venues, including Lucky Town Brewing Company, Offbeat and Spengler's Corner in downtown Jackson, which features his "I Believe in Jackson" mural.
With everything he creates, Ransburg says that he hopes it all speaks to people in different ways, but he always wants to get across one particular thing.
"I want to prove to myself and others that if you love something, you'll figure out how to manage through it," he says.
Ransburg says he sees himself doing nothing else but creating art.
As for the near future, he has plans to create more murals and art books. Some of his recent works include a mural for Pretty Slayer Hair Salon on Old Canton Road in Ridgeland. He also released his deluxe coloring book series, "AXIOM," in April.
"It's three books altogether," he says. "Book one is called 'The Coloring Book.' Book two is called 'Gyokuro's Bath House,' and book three is called 'Dat's Extra.'"
Ransburg says his influences usually come from what he reads and sees online, as well as the people he interacts with in day-to-day life. Those people include some of his peers in the Jackson arts scene.
"I've been meeting with the Drawing Club at Sneaky Beans on Thursdays at 6 o'clock for over about two years now," he says. "I know that those individuals have an influence on my work."
When not creating art, Ransburg enjoys collects cigar boxes, reads comics—mostly manga (Japanese comics)—and watches cartoons both for fun and as research for art.
Ransburg also one of the founding members of "The Black Pocket," a weekly podcast in which he and co-hosts Ryan Weary and Robert Morris discuss topics such as art, culture and current events.
Within everything he is involved with, Ransburg says he lives by this mantra: "Love yourself because you're awesome; always improve on what you do; help others if they're struggling; be open to receive help yourself."
Krystal Jackson will not be headed right back to hitting the books after getting her undergraduate degree. That is not to say the 21-year-old Jackson native is without a plan for her future, though.
Jackson received her bachelor's degree in music with a concentration on vocal performance from Millsaps College in May 2018, and plans to apply for master's programs at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and the Juilliard School of Music, to name a few.
Before continuing her education, Jackson says she wants to take a year to work at The Wolfe Studio, and pursue her careers as both a visual artist and as R&B and soul singer-songwriter Krystal Gem.
Although Jackson plans to continue studying operatic performance, as she has since childhood, Jackson says that she has not yet decided to commit to it as a career.
"While I have been training for that since I was 7 years old, I find that singing and songwriting is a lot more cathartic and enjoyable for me as a performer as opposed to the theatrics and the seriousness of classical music," she says. "I'm not sure what my life is going to look like, after (graduate) school especially, but performance is at the foundation."
Since beginning to perform popular music at The Med Bar & Grill's "Synergy Nights" in 2016, she has built a following in the local music scene. In the beginning, Jackson says that her music and art often focused on finding her place in the world as a young person of color and a member of the LGBT community.
Now, she creates more from a place of self-acceptance and pride, she says.
Jackson is currently working with producer DonChe on a new recording project, which spun off of a collaboration with Adorned by Chi, a Japanese pop-culture-inspired lifestyle brand based in Dallas. She plans to release her EP this summer.
Jackson resident Shelby Parsons combines her love for volunteering and caring for animals with a desire to make a difference in Mississippi through her job as communications manager for Mississippi Spay and Neuter's Big Fix Clinic (100 Business Center Pkwy., Suite B, Pearl).
Through her job, Parsons manages the clinic's website, social media and on-site thrift store, while also working with animals in the clinic itself. She also handles fundraising and newsletters for the clinic.
She first joined the organization as a volunteer in 2013. During her first year there, she suggested starting a fundraiser to subsidize spay and neutering services for local pet owners who can't afford it.
Her idea came to fruition in February 2014 in the guise of the "Spaytacular," which the clinic has held every year since. The event consists of a silent auction, live entertainment and a dinner at Table 100 in Flowood.
Originally from Volcano, Calif., Parsons has lived in Jackson since 2012. She first began working with animals when she joined the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon while she was living in the state in 2010. The organization spayed and neutered wild cats that local residents brought in and then released the cats afterward.
Parsons, 31, says she decided to move to Jackson because she "wanted to do something impactful in a place where fewer things were happening," she says.
"Although I didn't know what I wanted to do right away at the time, I did eventually reach out to Mississippi Spay and Neuter here because volunteering is something that's become a passion for me," Parsons says.
"While this kind of work may not seem exciting, it's a method of prevention that makes a dent in over-population with the least amount of money possible."
A lack of widely available prevention services makes overpopulation of cats and dogs a huge problem in the South, she says.
"The work Mississippi Spay and Neuter does is so important because by providing affordable services, we help a lot more animals with a lot less money and effort," Parsons says. "At the moment, there are nine animals for every person in Mississippi, which is not a sustainable situation without spay and neuter services."
In addition to her work with the Big Fix Clinic, Parsons is president and co-founder of Big House Books, a nonprofit that has been sending books to inmates in Mississippi correctional facilities since January 2015. The organization is currently seeking donations of composition books, American Sign Language literature, adult coloring books and astrology, as well as packs of colored pencils. For more information, visit bighousebooksms.org.
She also helps manage a cooperative workspace and art gallery in Big House Books' base of operations in midtown.
Rapper & Educator
Stephen Brown, 31, has almost been a lifelong Jacksonian, but that does not mean he always planned on staying in the capital city.
Brown, who performs as rapper 5th Child, went to Loyola University in New Orleans to study entertainment public relations and music business, graduating in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in public relations. Then, he moved to Atlanta, where he thought there would be more opportunities for his career.
"I felt bad about leaving," he says.
After only a handful of months, he decided to return to Jackson in 2009 and got involved with Ask for More Arts, which allowed him to use his music skills to educate children. After that, he taught at Woodville Heights Elementary in Jackson for about three years.
He says he loved teaching, but it didn't pay the bills, so he left and began tutoring with the Boys & Girls Club, working on music and waiting tables at Papito's Grill.
"The money was better, but it wasn't fulfilling," he says.
Then, Brown found an opportunity with Woodward Hines Education Foundation's Get2College program as an ACT tutor. He began tutoring in May 2012, and in January 2013, Get2College created a full-time position for Brown as the assistant director of outreach.
"I get to go out to schools and tell kids what they need to do to get into college," he says. "I get to work with families on getting financial aid. I help them find scholarships."
In addition to his work, Brown still records new music and performs as 5th Child locally and around the region in cities such as Memphis, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Atlanta. He has released seven albums, and his eighth will be out on Juneteenth this year.
He has also continued to combine his abilities as a rapper and educator through the Poindexter Park Afterschool Club, which allows him to teach English to elementary kids through music. He says the children write their own songs and record them in his studio, and he helps them make music videos.
"I returned to Jackson to give back, but I've found I've gotten more out of Jackson than I could ever give back," he says.