the twit


    wellspring article, director's cut

    it kind of saddens me when i think about this, but i've recently gotten much, much better at distancing myself from text once it's sent to an editor for print-ready slimming. i still lack the ability to abbreviate my writing process, much less depersonalize the act itself--but once a piece is out of the nest, it's out of the nest.

    at the winter institute, we have a bi-annual newsletter entitled the wellspring, and every summer and winter staff and interns get quasi-assigned topics and articles to write. as it's been one of the rare moments that i'm forced to (a) write lengthy informational prose and (b) share my thoughts about our work, my articles seem to require a sour gestation--riddled with mood-swinging ambivalence and alternating bursts of writer's block and logorrhea. that being said, once i've hammered out a completed piece, its trip from
    my computer to the printed copy negotiates a minefield of residual pride/vulnerability and territoriality.

    after a heated back and forth during the editing process of piece for this past winter's article (reaching crescendo with the suggestion that i "need to expand my skill set"), i have become determined to, essentially, detach myself from whatever i've written (
    an ironic contraction: writerly addition-by-subtraction)--finding quiet solace in the fact that my semicoloned curlicues can be delightfully unread here in pretentious blog limbo. while i've still reserved the right to try and put my foot down if/when an editor makes an historical overreduction, a rhetorically inappropriate paraphrase, or a grammatical mishap, i've come to terms with the death-to-nuance approach of would-be journalism, and can finally--for the sake of a story being told--admit that i err on the side of: (a) not particularly caring about audience or reading level, (b) caring way too much about word-smithery and/or exhaustive rhetorical precision.

    so, an article will be published in this summer's wellspring, and it will bear passing resemblance to the following:


    Wellspring – From Dialogue to Action: St. Andrew’s “Welcome Table”

    In March of 2008, parishoners from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson reached out to the Winter Institute in an effort to initiate dialogue about the legacy of race in the Jackson Episcopal community. As is the case with the origin of many community dialogue groups that the Institute works with, those participating were trying to come to terms with what they felt were critical issues in their community for which real solutions required an honest, open engagement in the way race and its legacy play a role—either implicitly or explicitly—in their community’s history, identity, and outlook. In regards to the cathedral community, dialogue participants initially centered on two major spaces of inquiry: the need for a more comprehensive narrative of the Episcopal community’s response to local civil rights and desegregation activities, and concerns about diversity of access to and equity of benefit from the Jackson area’s increasing interest in downtown development and urban renewal—in which the cathedral’s location in the heart of downtown Jackson would make participation nearly unavoidable.

    Dialogue centering on race, the Episcopal community, and urban renewal in the Jackson area continued through the fall of 2008, as the group expanded its circle of participation beyond the cathedral community (as well as beyond the Episcopal community), and hosted meetings throughout the diocese—at St. Mark’s, St. Christopher’s, and St. Alexis’ Episcopal churches—as well as St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Through this process, recurrent themes emerged as key areas for further study and action: economic justice, neighborhood organizing, media activism, young people/education, diverse and representative participation, and anti-racism training. Furthermore, by August group members were anxious for action steps to compliment what had already become an empowering and challenging conversation about race in the Jackson area—itself “a sign of hope,” and something “valuable even if we all want to be out there doing,” as group participant Chuck Culpepper, pastor of St. Alexis Episcopal Church, noted in a June meeting.

    Thoughts of action gravitated towards both youth engagement and a desire to help ensure that that Jackson equitably maintains its urban fabric—seen by the group as a “unique blend of economic, racial, and cultural diversity”—in the midst of increased downtown development. In September of 2008, the University of Mississippi’s hosting of the first Presidential Debate—between then-candidates Barack Obama and John McCain—offered the group an unexpected opportunity to jump-start this shift towards action. In late August, the Jim Hill Civil Rights/Civil Liberties (CRCL) group, which the Winter Institute was assisting in coming to Oxford to participate in pre-debate activities, reached out to the St. Andrew’s group in search of a potential site to host a Jackson youth viewing and discussion of the debate. The viewing, which was attended by a diverse group of over fifty youth from public and private schools throughout the Jackson area, solidified the St. Andrew’s group’s commitment to youth—as evidenced by the fact that since the debate viewing CRCL members have regularly attended and actively participated in group dialogue and action.

    In January of 2009, the commitment by members to develop a single, comprehensive action project that would encompass the central themes of their nearly yearlong conversation about race finally bore fruit. The group, its own composition moving towards the racial, economic, cultural, and faith diversity that comprise Jackson’s “urban fabric,” began to envision an institution that would attract a diverse and representative constituency, serve as an anchoring imprint of the group’s vision for a unified Jackson, and address the group’s concerns about downtown development and urban renewal. Discussions of such an institution’s mission eventually centered on the essential and universal task of preparing and sharing food, which took the form of a non-profit restaurant that would engage diverse constituencies as stakeholders in each stage in its establishment and operation—literally, a “Welcome Table,” as the group would come to refer to itself.

    Specifically, the St. Andrew’s Welcome Table project seeks to establish a non-profit restaurant that doubles as a youth mentoring and workforce development site and is committed to the inclusion of local, organic, and sustainable agriculture in its menu. It is inspired by many similar projects throughout the county—most notably Café Reconcile, a similar institution established in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood. In operation since 1996, Café Reconcile and its accompanying Youth Workforce Development Program (established in 2000) “meet the needs of youth who [have] experienced an array of socio-economic challenges, including poverty, homelessness, arrested educational achievement, substance abuse, and participation in the juvenile justice system.” In its first seven years of operation, the program successfully graduated 400 young men and women between the ages of 16 and 24—many of whom go on to work for Café Reconcile’s many partners and advocates in the New Orleans entertainment and hospitality industry. In February of 2009, a group from the St. Andrew’s Welcome table project traveled to New Orleans to tour Café Reconcile’s facilities and—of course—to try out its cuisine. This trip provided members with both a strong sense that the Welcome Table was a feasible—albeit ambitious—project, as well as an invaluable source of firsthand knowledge regarding the mission, challenges, and triumphs of a like-minded organization.

    Back in Jackson, the Welcome Table entered its second year of dialogue and action with a flurry of planning and partnership building. In April, the group completed a mission statement and project proposal, and began to seek out funding and grant opportunities for the establishment of both the restaurant and the accompanying youth workforce training and mentoring program. Around the same time, the St. Andrew’s Cathedral leadership showed its support of the project by offering to temporarily host the Welcome Table on cathedral grounds—with the hope that the restaurant would utilize the cathedral’s beautiful courtyards and full kitchen, and that the youth workforce and mentoring program could utilize its amble classroom space.

    Last May, a participant in one of the Welcome Table meetings noted that “hope comes from giving up the things we can’t control, and loving and helping things grow in the way we can.” In many ways, the group’s journey from dialogue to action exemplifies this sentiment: their initial year of honest, open, and often difficult engagement in the history and legacy of race in themselves and in their community can been seen as a meticulous identifying and untangling of those things that they could reasonably control in regards to realizing their vision for progress and reconciliation. Incredibly, what has emerged from this process is a comprehensive, ambitious plan to create an imprint of their vision in the heart of downtown Jackson—through an institution that will provide diverse and representative stakeholders, community members, and hungry customers with a place at the table of a unified, equitable Capital City.



    for a couple years now i've been making found-art buttons and collage from old magazines. i've just started up a shop on to see if they're of any interest. still testing out pricing, shipping, etc. so only listing a few at a time.

    will have a badge on the right of the blog layout. like this one:


    what i've been up to recently

    teaching myself the drupal development platform, and setting up the county project site ( to host and stream media. given that i have a very meager grasp of html, php, css, etc. the work is 70% learning curve, 27% messing something up, 3% blind-squirrel-finds-a-nut.

    what should follow is an embedded video that i've been using to configure the video player i've installed. the clip is an excerpt from a interview/oral-history i did with my great aunt, sister mary william sullivan, who is a retired nun and was active in chicago's south side during the 50s and 60s. by "active" i mean engaging in and organizing neighborhoods around issues of educational equity and housing access. so, she's a bona fide OG.

    next up on the site development: figuring out image uploading & hosting and image gallery construction. then setting up streaming audio. then teaching interns on how to post and upload. then developing an educational resource template, which essentially will be a wik-ed 0.9 (if you were once a beardy-face vaguely-to-very jewish teacher corps member--or dave jones--you'd know what that meant).

    that being said, it's all work perfect for the mississippi summer, which amounts to floating between refrigerators and saunas.