Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Let’s make LEGO Jackson real

Written by Scott M. Crawford, Ph.D

LEGO JACKSON started as just a fun distraction and hobby, one way to cope with my progressing disability caused by Multiple Sclerosis.  The display was originally intended to brighten my house for Christmas, but it soon became more.

I wanted to imagine what Jackson can and will be.  Before something can happen in reality, though, we must be able to visualize it, to conceptualize it happening, and finally, to WORK at it.  LEGO Jackson is just one vision of our Capital City, as a clean, safe, pedestrian friendly community that welcomes everyone.  It has well-kept houses, bike lanes, sustainable energy sources, accessible streets and sidewalks, public transit, and most important of all, civic pride.  People in LEGO Jackson don’t litter, but pick up trash.  They get to know their neighbors, confront crime and injustice, care about each other, and respect themselves and their city.

Imagine it, and it can happen.  It will take hard work though, and each of us has our part to play.  Keep our streets clean.  Take a stand against crime.  Respect your neighbors, seek cleaner forms of energy, reduce, reuse, and recycle like our Earth depends upon it.

Each year, I add an original design to LEGO JACKSON, modeled using pictures taken of an actual building.  One year I did Bailey School.  Last year I built The Standard Life Building.  This year, I’m adding a hospital complex complete with pedestrian bridge.

Seeing the looks on children’s faces as they enjoy the display makes all the work worthwhile.  I hope that by appreciating our city in miniature, we’ll learn to take care of it, and each other.

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LEGO JACKSON is scheduled to open Saturday, December 6th, 2014 at the Arts Center of Mississippi, 201 East Pascagoula Street.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.- Walt Disney

Imagination is more important than knowledge.- Albert Einstein

Be the change you want to see in the world.- Mohandas Gandhi

Check out LEGO Jackson’s Facebook Page here!


Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. 

Written by Lemuria

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Fancy this, Jackson…

Written by Elizabeth Upchurch, owner of Fresh Ink; a stationary and gift store located in Banner Hall in Jackson, Mississippi.

Growing up in a small town in north Mississippi, visiting Jackson was always a special occasion. Granted, this was before you could www your way to having anything you needed (and didn’t) delivered to your doorstep within 2 days. Before all this convenience, visiting a big city like Jackson was a highlight because there were so many things readily accessible. Shopping, restaurants, recreation – there was so much more of it in Jackson than where I was from.  For lack of a better word, everything in Jackson just seemed a little bit “fancier.”
Fancier parties,
fancier dining,
fancier cars,
fancier houses,
fancier neighborhoods,
fancier purses,
fancies shoes…
I suppose I have lived here long enough to now call myself a Jacksonian, but something about the small town girl inside me still feels the need to step up my “fanciness” whenever showcasing our city to locals or visitors. The lovely photographs in the book that is debuting this moth at Lemuria capture perfectly images that made Jackson seem so fancy to me as an outsider.  So when we opened up Banner Hall and Fresh Ink for the book signing party last week, we had to serve one of my favorite fancy party treats – red velvet cake truffles!
Keep in mind as a mother of two school-age children, and business owner, this culinary endeavor is short on time but very long on fanciness.  Enjoy the recipe!
Red Velvet Cake Truffles
1 box of red velvet cake mix, cooked, crumbled, and best dried out and processessed to crumbs.
1 package of cream cheese
1/2 can of vanilla frosting
1 package of white chocolate chips
2 packages of white candy coating (in disposable tray – from Kroger)
I continually over-cook cakes when baking, so this is one of my favorite recipes.  After over-cooking a red-velvet cake, I crumbled the un-usable un-iced layers and threw them in a zip lock in my freezer for several months until they were needed for this recipe. Took the pieces out of the freezer and threw them in my kitchen aid mixer.  Add cream cheese and frosting, and mix until dough-like.
Using a small cookie dough scooper (like a mini-ice cream scoop) make uniform size balls and freeze them on a cookie sheet on wax paper.
Spread out 2 pieces of wax paper when ready to candy-coat.
Melt candy coating in microwave according to package directions.
Your instinct will be to roll the balls in the coating, but that will make a mess.
Instead, drop one of the spheres into the tray, and spoon the melted coating over it.  Then lift the truffle by the sides to the waiting wax paper.
Repeat until complete.
You can make the frozen truffle balls ahead and just roll them in the candy coating the day of.
Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com.
Written by Lemuria

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Life at the Hickory Pit

Written by Ginger Watkins, owner of Hickory Pit BBQ

When I first opened the Hickory Pit, I was 24 years old and no one in my family had ever been in the restaurant business — they thought I was nuts! Friends and family both would ask me all of the time if I was scared… I wasn’t scared at all! I was excited! But who is scared of anything at 24, right? I was too naive to know how hard the restaurant business can be, but determined enough to do what it took to make it work! 

Now, I admit, I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way… and have had some pretty hard knocks along the way! But buying the Hickory Pit in 1979 was the best decision I have ever made in my life. Not only have my customers become dear friends, but as a single mom I was able to raise my children in a fun, lively atmosphere — where their friends wanted to ‘hang out’. My daughter and her friends would pile up in the booths during the afternoon, when it was slow to talk about the day and they would sometimes go ahead and do their homework. One time my son was showing off to his friends (or possibly the girls) and dove off of a table like Superman; which resulted in a concussion!

My goal for the Hickory Pit was, and still is, to provide the best BBQ and the best customer service along with fun times and lasting memories! For 35 years, my customers have created Hickory Pit’s success. I am so proud to have earned three generations of customers… and two generations of employees! I would say success in the restaurant business comes from a LOT of hard work, being true to yourself as well as your customers! 

Hickory Pit BBQ_DSC0982

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619, visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com, or stop by the Hickory Pit for a signed copy! 

Written by Lemuria

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: We provide bug spray

Written by Justin Showah 

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The Crawdad Hole encapsulates Jackson’s soul. When you walk inside the gate, you are greeted by a funky decor — strings of lights and picnic tables surrounded by haphazard pictures of sports and music personalities under tin roofs. A shaded creek runs by the outdoor dining area, and the food is spicy southern goodness you eat with a bunch of friends or family who have wheeled in their own cooler of beer. Y’all are subject to the weather, sitting around fans and firepits, the house supplying cans of bugspray, tiki torches, and citronella candles as darkness eases in. All races, ages, and walks of life commingle around the live music, the good times, and the feeling that you are hanging out at a clubhouse. There are no tablecloths here — heck, there’s not even silverware — you just come as you are, grab a big bowl of crawfish or shrimp, and start peeling.

I was my Dad’s first employee 18 years ago when he started with one crawfish pot in the back storage room of a rundown wooden building and remain amazed to have watched this place blossom from a weekend hobby into the established hangout it is today.  Like Jackson, the Crawdad Hole is unique in the world, and there will never be another place like it. I can’t think of another place I would rather be.


Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619, visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com, or pick up a signed copy at the Crawdad Hole! 

Written by Lemuria

Millsaps Freshman Reading: Half the Sky

Written by Dr. Shelli Poe, visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and director of Faith and Work at Millsaps College

In Half the Sky, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn set out to recruit their readers “to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts.” Why, we might ask, are these Pulitzer Prize winning journalists spending time on issues that concern feminists? For many in America today, “feminism” is either a dirty word or refers to a movement that is now irrelevant because it has already achieved its goals: women’s right to vote, hold property, and work outside the home.

Indeed, Kristof and WuDunn admit that in the 1980s, when their project began, they didn’t consider women’s oppression a “serious issue.” The book is a result of their “journey of awakening” to the importance of women’s oppression as “one of the paramount problems of this century.” In it, they intend to set right the skewed journalistic priority for covering occasional events rather than those that occur every day, “such as the quotidian cruelties inflicted on women and girls.” I would add to this set of journalistic priorities covering stories that are of particular interest to privileged men. Generally speaking, the well-being of girls and women is not one of them. As one man who was interviewed for the book put it, “A son is an indispensable treasure, while a wife is replaceable.” Even when reporters are supposedly interested in the oppression of women, many are often not interested in the transformative work women themselves are doing, but only in their humiliating experiences of sexual assault. In one interview on CBS, a woman who had suffered sexual violence and then worked tirelessly to help other girls avoid the same was asked, “So what was it like being gang-raped? … Mukhtar indignantly replied: I don’t really want to talk about that…. There was an awkward silence.” Whether reporters and consumers of media want to pay attention, “more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century.” The authors do not blame men alone, but point to oppressive social customs fueled by sexism and misogyny, which are absorbed, transmitted, and “adhered to by men and women alike.”

Tragic as the stories told within its pages might be, Half the Sky is essentially a call to continued transformation. One of the genius moves of the book is to show how the empowerment of girls and women does, in fact, relate to those chief concerns of privileged men: the accumulation of wealth and status. Countries cannot afford, so the argument goes, not to educate and empower more girls and women: “Evidence has mounted that helping women can be a successful poverty-fighting strategy anywhere in the world.” In addition, “to deny women is to deprive a country of labor and talent, but—even worse—to undermine the drive to achievement of boys and men.” Likewise, publicity about the maltreatment of women can be so damaging to governmental authorities’ reputations that they take action. Even so, the book predominantly relies on creating moral outrage to rally its readers for action. Indeed, at times throughout the first half of the book its authors may be guilty of providing too detailed narratives of sexual assault, much like the CBS reporters mentioned above were fascinated by rape stories. This is the dangerous line Kristof and WuDunn must walk given their strategy for motivating their readers’ to take action and given that in some arenas, “saving women’s lives is imperative, but it is not cheap.” They propose three problems for women and their supporters across the globe to work against: “sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence, including honor killings and mass rape; and maternal mortality.” Their proposed solutions include girls’ education, including reeducation about gender norms “so that women themselves become more assertive and demanding,” and microfinancing women’s businesses.

Half the Sky is required reading for all first-year students at Millsaps College because it incites its readers to ask questions like, How can we account for the current and historic plight of women and girls in societies across the globe? How can such accounts avoid feeding on or contributing to the culture of sexual predation that all of us have absorbed? Are tragedies like the ones recorded in the book just so many inevitabilities that ought to be met with resignation? Who, if anyone, can do something about such oppression? What are the connections between poverty, education, health care, race, class, and sex?

One of the dangers of an undisciplined reading of the book is that it might contribute to a set of narratives Westerners have told themselves about people in other nations: that they are passive peoples who need our help, that we can “free” them (in ways that will also serve our interests), that they ought to be grateful for our interventions and introductions to more “civilized” ways of living. In the past few decades, these misleading and damaging stories have been told especially about Muslim cultures and religion, which Leila Ahmed describes in her masterful and highly recommended historical analysis, Women and Gender in Islam (New Haven: Yale, 1992, see especially chapter 8). Half the Sky also serves, therefore, to raise further questions for Millsaps students like, What narratives adequately account for the history and agency of women in their religions, cultures, and nations? What does it mean to be part of an increasingly global world? What intellectual and active responsibilities do I have within that world? How can (or ought) I evaluate the beliefs, practices, and cultures of others? If it is sometimes legitimate to try to change others’ cultures, what mechanisms are most useful for such transformation—legal action, economic policies, police involvement, education, “moral support,” financial contributions, microloans, food programs, media coverage, or other measures? How should or can “outsiders” take on “supporting roles to local people,” forming an “alliance between first world and third” in a way that avoids neo-colonialism? After all, Kristof and WuDunn admit that “while empowering women is critical to overcoming poverty,… it involves tinkering with the culture, religion, and family relations of a society that we often don’t fully understand.”

Half the Sky raises ethical, racial, socio-economic, cultural, legal, sex and gender, political, religious, and economic questions that are ripe for investigation. Moreover, it challenges its readers with the claim that “sex trafficking and mass rape should no more be seen as women’s issues than slavery was a black issue or the Holocaust was a Jewish issue. These are all humanitarian concerns.” In addition to raising awareness about the continuing global oppression of women and girls, this required reading for Millsaps first-years has the potential to spark questions, reveal complexities, and ignite a passion for ethical thinking and acting that students will carry with them throughout their college careers as they become responsible local and global citizens.

Written by Hannah

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: I found I was home

Written by Lee Anne Bryan

There is so much that I love about Jackson—it would fill up a book, not one blog post.  So I will limit myself to the circle that I drive every day, from my house to my job and then back home again.

I am not ashamed to admit that Briarwood Liquor Store is high on this list.  Nathan and Lesley are AWESOME.

THANK YOU GOD FOR WHOLE FOODS!  Not going to lie, this was my missing puzzle piece.  Now that I can get fish and kale for lunch that I didn’t have to cook myself—my life is complete.

St. Andrew’s Lower School.  It has provided our kids with the best start they could possibly have.

Murrah High School.  My first “real” job out of college.  And today has some of the most dedicated English teachers I have ever seen working there.  Go Mustangs!

The Eudora Welty House and Garden, which is my office.  Lots of people talk about a “dream job.”  I actually have one.  I get to walk around in Eudora Welty’s house during the day, telling visitors about her books and her love of reading and her life in Jackson.  I get to show school groups and students what it actually means to EDIT writing—by using Eudora’s drafts of One Writer’s Beginnings with her cut-and-pin method of revision.   Occasionally, I get to take a famous author through the house and be a little star-struck.   But I have to say that my favorite thing about my job is community.   There is a “Welty community” in Jackson, which includes the Eudora Welty Foundation, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Millsaps College, the Belhaven neighborhood, Lemuria Bookstore, and a legion of fans, volunteers, supporters, and great readers.   I am surrounded every day by people who share my love of reading and education and who believe that books and discussion MATTER in the world.


I grew up in Dallas.  Or, as one of my high school friends refers to it, “the land of lipstick.”  And if Dallas had any kind of literary community at all, I never saw it.  It was in my first semester at Millsaps College that Dr. Lorne Fienberg sent us as a class to Lemuria bookstore.   And I fell in love.  (Literally.  I met my husband at Lemuria.  But that’s a blog for another day.)  Between Lemuria, being able to go out at night to C.S.’s in running shoes and cutoffs, the great friends I made at Millsaps, and the fabulous book club we formed as Murrah teachers (which still meets), I found that I was HOME.

And now, twenty plus years later, my family and my job make me happier than I ever thought I could be.

Thanks, Jackson.  You’ve given and continue to give me a great life.


Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. Please join us in celebrating Jackson tonight at 5:00 at the Eudora Welty House and Garden. 




Written by Lemuria

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: A picky reader she was not

Written by Chase Wynn 

Thank God she didn’t have a Kindle.

She being Eudora Welty, I mean. Have you been to her house? If you’re a reader, you really should. Not just because she was a great writer—and not just in the way you’re imagining. The little white-haired lady who wrote about quaint things like weddings in the Delta and people who lived in post offices? She was so, so much more than that. Read “No Place for You, My Love” sometime, or “The Hitch-Hikers,” or “A Still Moment.” Read “The Burning.”

That’s not why you should visit the house. Come look at her books. She had a lot of them—between five and six thousand in the house when she passed on. They’re everywhere. On shelves, yes, but also stacked on the couches, the tables, the spare beds. I’m told she liked to keep a different book going in every room of the house, so that no matter where she sat down, she could just keep going.


The usual suspects are there—Faulkner, and Proust, and Woolf—but so many others, too. Things I didn’t expect. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. A Confederacy of Dunces. True Grit. And mysteries, mysteries, mysteries. A snobby reader our girl was not.

A man named Tim Parks wrote an article for The New York Review of Books that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, especially when I walk in the Welty house: “The conditions in which we read today are not those of fifty or even thirty years ago… [today] every moment of serious reading has to be fought for.” I don’t mean to sound snarky when I say, “Thank God she didn’t have a Kindle.” This isn’t some sort of anti-tech rant. Heck, you’re reading this on a blog, right? But in a time when serious reading is so hard to do, in a time when you really have to fight for it, it’s nice to walk through her Tudor arch doorway and into a place that feels like a monument not only to a great writer, but to a truly great reader.

It’s the collection of a real reader, too. Yeah, there are some beautiful, leather-bound volumes in there. Mostly, though, there are tattered paperbacks and creased, worn out spines. She read the hell out of those books. She loved them—you can tell.

Come check her out sometime.

The Eudora Welty House will be hosting Ken Murphy for a signing of Jackson: Photographs by Ken Murphy Monday, August 11th @ 5 p.m. The book is also available for purchase at Lemuria (800-366-7619, or online at lemuriabooks.com)

Written by Lemuria

Let’s Talk Jackson: The “It” factor


The Rogue w maniquins_DSC2899

Billy Neville opened “The Rogue” when I was in high school at Murrah. From the first day, Billy’s store was the coolest in Jackson.

Billy’s influence on the youth of Jackson at that time was remarkable. He had the “it” and his customers wanted “it” too. Billy’s style was interactive and engaging. The Rogue quickly grew into the 2nd floor space in the Capri building. Upstairs, he had a dartboard where us guys would go after school and toss darts in the retail store! Billy was ahead of his time, a marketer of fun with style. I even think I won the Rogue in a dart toss tournament! The feeling one had when leaving his groundbreaking store was that everyone was a winner, just for having the Rogue experience.

Billy’s Rogue business boomed and grew and grew and grew. The new Rogue overlooking the new interstate was the result, becoming truly a Jackson, MS institution.
A few years later, retailing became my occupation when I opened the bookstore. First Billy Neveille and then Bernie Weis, of Highland Village’s Maison Weis, became my duel mentors. From these two gentlemen, both clothiers, I learned how to market and think about retailing as an occupation. Their influence on me was powerful. This sounds unusual, since they were so interwoven in the culture of style and presentation of the time and Lemuria was a product of the counter-culture of the time. I believe when you get down to it, retailing is just retailing. It’s about being on the front lines, you are who you are and the customer sees this realness, no matter what.

Gosh, we all know retailing is hard and grueling, a pioneering of sorts. However, this type of work offers the ability for you to be creative, productive, helpful and can be rewarding while living on the front lines of life. Anybody anytime can make a request and your ability to prospect and answer with service is your reward. Customer service in actualization determines success or failure. This is a continuous process of daily helping, sharing, and reaping rewards.

Billy Neville’s influence on a generation or two of would-be be clothiers all over Mississippi is unprecedented, and his style has influenced retailers of all sorts. He led us with his spirit of sharing, and is a living example of Paul Hawkins’ “Growing Your Business” concept, which was the ‘80’s-now evolved into the modern terms of conscious business/capitalism. Billy’s spirit helped me formulate my concept of Lemuria. Thank you Billy for all the years of friendship and leadership, you have been invaluable to generations of Jacksonians, while making us look good in the process.
The Rogue is still open and thriving, thanks to Luke Abney, who carries Billy’s torch with his own spirit of small business in our city.

Written by John


Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619, visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com, or drop by the iconic Rogue to pick up a signed copy! Join us today from 1:00 to 3:00 at The Rogue for a celebration of Jackson.

Written by John

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Thirty-Five Years Later

Written by Malcolm White

By the time I moved to Jackson in the spring of 1979, just in time for the Easter Flood, I had already lived in Washington D.C., Los Gatos, California and New Orleans.  I committed to a one year contract for a job offer I simply could not refuse.  My plan was to get a good year’s experience and sock some money away before heading back to NOLA where a job offer to return to my old restaurant team and my idea of southern, global culture awaited. For a lot of reasons and thirty five years later, I’m still here.  If I had to name three, I would say opportunity, love and comfort are the most obvious, but Eudora Welty, Margaret Walker Alexander, William Winter, Willie Morris, Sam Myers, Cassandra Wilson and Charles Evers were a few more.

My best friend Michael Rubenstein made sure I met all the right people and touched all the essential bases in that first year. The music scene was ripe and the community was ready to enjoy a good gathering.  I felt free and empowered, untethered and boundless.  I worked hard and took chances and the climate suited my clothes. And it was home of the great southern, Greek-American “comeback sauce”.

When I presented B.B. King, Mose Allison, John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Williams or Dr. John, Ray Charles or John Prine, people came and supported those shows. I called for a parade and people showed up in costumes, ready to march.  I opened clubs and restaurants and people came to eat and drink.  I met every writer who came to Lemuria or The Book Worm and attended every lecture and concert from Allen Ginsberg at Tougaloo to Ace Cannon at Pop’s Around The Corner to James Brown at the Masonic Lodge.

And when I called my brother Hal in 1985 and told him I had the lease on the old GM&O Freight Depot in downtown, he packed his bags and we started construction on what would become Hal & Mal’s, now 30 years and two generations in the making.  And this place we created, would become the organic gathering place of the Jackson we envisioned, a place to eat local food, to hear traditional music and to celebrate our home, our town, our culture.

Rich, diverse, urban and rural, Jackson is an enigma and an oasis.  “Diddy Wah Diddy”, Willie Dixon would say, “ain’t no town, ain’t no city, just a little place called Diddy Wah Diddy”.

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Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. Please join us and photographer Ken Murphy in celebrating Jackson tonight at 8:00 at Hal and Mal’s. 

Written by Lemuria