The Jackson Advocate is 84!!!

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Poor People’s Campaign Water Rally on September 26. (Advocate photo by Joshua Martin)

The Jackson Advocate is finally turning 84!!! This year seems exceptionally long with all the crises hitting the capital city all at the same time.

This publication is among the oldest continuously published Black-owned and operated newspapers in the United States, and this issue begins the 85th volume of a Black institution that was started in 1938.

Our motto has always been and forever will be “The Voice of Black Mississippians”. This is also our mission. We inform our audience about local, national, and global issues affecting their lives. We record their histories of challenges, sacrifices, and triumphs. We are more than a newspaper, and our advocacy for social justice extends far beyond words printed on paper. This is a time to reflect on our history and on our impact so that we have sure-footed steps towards our future goals.

As was stated in our anniversary issue in 2021, the Jackson Advocate has initiated programs designed to improve the quality of life of African Americans throughout the State of Mississippi, in general, and the Jackson metro area, in particular. As much as we are a business, we are also a community-oriented institution. Last year, we honored businesses who’ve been successful in our community, and this year, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight growing community organizations while honoring those who’ve been doing the work for this community for decades.

Publisher Emerita Alice Thomas-Tisdale created Project Reentry to create businesses, not only employment for previously incarcerated women. Then later, she created NEIGHBORS – Nation’s Evacuees in Good Hands with Benevolent Outreach Services to assist victims of Hurricanes Katrina & Rita in their relocation to Jackson. This program helped them with quality of life services – health, education, housing, transportation, recreation, environmental justice, and employment/career opportunities – and secured vital records for school registration for their children and healthcare services.

We have partnered with local restaurants to obtain free meals for those who are hungry, provide tokens for the washeteria, and give away gift cards during the holidays. My father, the late Charles Tisdale, would accompany those appearing in our courts to ensure justice prevails.

Both my parents worked to promote literacy, annually delivering thousands of copies of newspapers to schools and churches which feature stories about their students and congregations. And I’ve continued that legacy.

This is what community does.

Over the past year, the Jackson Advocate has been working with newsrooms in our community, through a partnership with Microsoft, to document how the water crisis is affecting us. Through that partnership, we are creating an interactive database of boil water notices and the areas that were affected since 2019 using data that my mom and I have been gathering over the years. Even before the current water crisis, there were over 50 boil water notices THIS YEAR in various pockets of our community. We are partnering with Consumer Reports, through the MS Center for Investigative Reporting, to test water in various areas of not just Jackson but rural parts of Mississippi, which we have been promoting in our publication for a few months now but has been in the works for almost a year.

The Jackson Advocate is in the process of creating its first serialized podcast on the water crisis entitled “Troubled Water”. We began interviewing community members and elected officials in the Fall of 2021. The story, as we all know, has grown bigger and, though we’d like to get this information out to the public as soon as possible, the importance of covering all the bases of why this water crisis is happening is paramount to time. The water crisis is about redistricting; the water crisis is about a growing majority Black city and a flighty white tax base; the water crisis is about Black leadership and the power of economics; the water crisis is about health concerns; and above all else, it is about our rights to have quality of life.

Investing in the community is not a quick fix. The Jackson Advocate is in this for the long haul. It is wonderful to have national news organizations shed light on our issues. That aids in people hearing our cry and sending help. Nonetheless, no one can tell our stories like us! We are on the ground, and we know the beginnings and continuation of systemic issues that affect our daily lives. It is time for us to support the positive narratives of our city and state while we do our part and work with organizations that are on the ground doing the work.

More than ever before, the idea of what community means and how we band together to improve each other’s lives is of the utmost importance. In these pages, you’ll get acquainted with a “toddler organization,” as Arekia Bennett, executive director of MS Votes, calls it, who understands how to couple traditional organizing principles with new aged digital modes of communication to mobilize Mississippi to get out the vote and have their voices heard. You will hear from Rukia Lumumba, executive director of the People’s Advocacy Institute, who is a legacy keeper and has forged a multitude of pathways towards transformative social change.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which ends in just a few days, we highlight the work of Patricia Ice and Bill Chandler of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA). It must also be noted that their work encompasses aiding immigrants of all nationalities, totaling approximately 70 different countries. And there is an ode to one of the first social justice organizations in our country – the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – and the Jackson leadership who’ve made a difference over the years.

Lastly, I hope that the community sees itself in this issue. Community organizations and individuals showed up to help those without water or with low water pressure during the last two months. The Jackson Advocate applauds you! Without residents, without community members, there is no need for community organizations or elected officials. The community is, and should be, an important stakeholder in the decision making process and in the issues that affect everyone’s quality of life.

I hope you enjoy the content of these pages. We work hard to inform, to highlight, and to serve you!

DeAnna Tisdale Johnson has stepped into the role of publisher of her family legacy, the Jackson Advocate. Since March 2020, she has led the publication to once again become an award-winning newspaper with a new logo and website to boot. She is a Jackson native, graduating from Murrah High School and Tougaloo College. She is also classically trained in vocal performance, and, though she’s never broken a glass, she’s known to still hit a high note or two.

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The Jackson Advocate is 84!!!

By DeAnna Tisdale Johnson
October 1, 2022