The Mississippi silver hull, also known as a crowder, is considered an endangered variety of the cowpea or field pea (Vigna unguiculata), most commonly called black-eyes.
The silver hull grows well in hot, humid environments and thrives in the lower South. Pods average six inches in length and are silvery-green, occasionally streaked with rose. The seeds are black or brown-eyed, and somewhat blocky in shape, having slightly angular sides so that they “crowd” one another in the pod. A climbing bush variety, crowders can reach four feet in height and are resistant to fusarium wilt and root knot nematodes. Easy to shell, silver hulls have the taste and texture of all field peas, but their thinner skin gives them a cleaner flavor than their earthy counterparts.
Production of cowpeas of all varieties has declined in the United States from 750,000 acres to just a few thousand over the past 25 years, with most of it intended for livestock.
The old Power School closed in 1954 because of structural problems. The following year a new Power opened at 1120 Riverside Drive with the same faculty and continued providing traditional elementary education until a significant and ultimately landmark event occurred in the early 1980’s. Funding was secured through an Emergency School Aid Act grant (ESAA Magnet), written By Dr. Swinton Hill, assistant superintendent for federal programs, with assistance by Joyce Holly. This program brought $1.2 million to the Jackson Public Schools. From September 1981 to June 1982, an initial block grant of $396,000 from this fund was used to introduce a new Academic and Performing Arts Complex (APAC) into the fourth and fifth grade curriculums. It also opened the door for additional funding for Bailey Magnet and Murrah High Schools, which would become key contributors to this farsighted educational network.
Dr. Jean Simmons, coordinator of the Power APAC Performing Arts Division, joined the academic planning in the early fall of 1981 as the program was being developed and put together a curriculum drawn from the expertise of each department chair and faculty. Her efforts established credibility with local professional area arts organizations, educational institutions and the general public.
All Jackson students are welcome to audition and test for inclusion in the APAC program regardless of income or background. Former student Amber Williams, a 2013 Power APAC student, credited the program for her developing interest in dance. “Power APAC influenced my interest in fine arts of all forms, especially dance. Dancing is my personal form of expression and artistic vision. Since enrolling in Power, I decided to add dancing to my academic pursuits.” Amber continues in her field of interest today having gained the ability to focus on her strengths and talents in order to make beneficial decisions concerning her future.
The four areas of the performing arts in which Power APAC shares instruction with Bailey and Murrah are dance, drama, music and the visual arts. In these areas Power has partnered with numerous Belhaven neighborhood and Jackson institutions to bring first hand experiences to students. Some of these organizations are New Stage, Belhaven University, Mississippi Museum of Art, ETV, Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Mississippi Opera. Local artists with whom students have worked include Miss Eudora Welty, Margaret Walker Alexander, Beth Henley, Mary Ann Mobley, Gary Collins, Sam Gilliam, Ed McGowan, Jamie Wyeth and Leontine Price.
Power APAC has prospered under the leadership of school Principal Marlynn Martin who came to Power in June 2010 after a distinguished career in academia and school administration. The school has received a multitude of honors from local and national sources including the distinguished John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts National Schools of Distinction in Arts Education Award in 2010-11 and recently was designated a 2016-18 Exemplary School by the Arts School Network, the largest professional membership organization of specialized arts schools in America.
Old Power and Power APAC have been part of Belhaven’s basic education fabric for over 100 years. Regardless of the time and circumstance both share the goals of preparing our children for the world of their day and structuring their lives in order to achieve their maximum potential. They have been and are graced by excellent teachers and administrators dedicated to making society better than they found it in their own day. From Miss Marcia Gibbs to Dr. Marylynn Martin, the mission of each administration has been to teach children and encourage them to reach their highest level of achievement. John Logan Power would be proud of his namesakes and our neighborhood and city owe much to that fine name.
New Stage Theater began its life at 7:30 p.m. January 25, 1966, in a converted Seventh Day Adventist Church at the corner of S. Gallatin and Hooker Streets. It was a cold night, temperature 25 degrees, and what little heat generated in the building found ways to escape through cracks under its doors. Its first production was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a radical production for its time.
The theater was created the previous fall by a farsighted group of nine, Ford and Jane Reid Petty, Patti and Carl Black, Howard and Beth Jones, Kay and Jim Childs and Jackson Daily News Amusement Editor Frank Hains. According to Jim Childs, New Stage had three goals: the establishment of a serious theater with a professional director, staff and actors who produced contemporary works selected for their artistic merit; a theatrical forum open to all and a theater where you did not have to join and become a member to attend productions. Jane Reid Petty was the driving force behind the group who hired New Yorker Ivan Rider as its first director.
New Stage was a groundbreaker in Jackson during the 1960s. Not only did it bring productions of a modern and sophisticated content but through an association with Tougaloo College, courageously faced the issues of integration and civil rights associated with the arts.
No new artistic venture with any degree of unconventional mission could have survived and thrived during those formative years without influence. Eudora Welty, already well known and respected in the literary community, joined the New Stage board in 1970, placing her name among its roster of artists. Several members of the Tougaloo College faculty lent their names to the new enterprise as well as members of the theater department at Jackson State University. In the early 2000s, Bill McCarty, III, of the prominent Jitney Jungle family, stepped up from his role as a volunteer board member to full time general manager. Without Bill’s tireless work and family financial support New Stage would not be what it is today.
New Stage moved to Belhaven in 1978 when it acquired the Little Theater building and mortgage at the corner of Whitworth and Carlisle Streets. Today it serves a community far beyond Jackson as more than 35,000 Mississippians attend performances each year. It boasts a statewide educational touring program, school fest matinees for students, performs in touring shows and sponsors youth productions of Shakespeare in the Park each spring. In 1995, the theater’s education program received the Governors Award for Excellence in the Arts.
Today, New Stage produces five main stage shows per season, has a 41 member board of trustees and is supported by ticket sales, grants, subscriptions and hundreds of financial donations from throughout the state.
While topical in its productions, New Stage does not hesitate to occasionally step back in time for a historical perspective. It recently concluded a record breaking performance of the Million Dollar Quartet which featured the music of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. Nightly packed houses stood and cheered those magical memories and artists from 60 years ago. From Virginia Woolf to Jerry Lee is quite a stretch, but for over four sold out weeks, there was a Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Virginia Woolf would have enjoyed it too had she been there.
We can’t leave this topic without a tribute to Jackson’s Little Theater. This amateur collection of volunteer actors and directors began its life on Carlisle Street in 1925. An outgrowth of similar European theater movements of the 1880s and 90s, it had its genesis in 1911 and 1912 with the formation of theaters in Boston, Chicago and New York. The movement reached Jackson in 1924 in the person of Margaret P. Green who organized the Little Theater Players of Jackson the following year. Its non-profit mission was to cultivate, advance and promote education in dramatic literature, expression and art. It did so for 53 eventful years.
In those 90 plus years when young and old took their friends and families to first the Little Theater and later New Stage they must have done so with a subliminal understanding of what William Shakespeare wrote so many years before:
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts.”
As You Like It, II,vii
For four generations the Belhaven neighborhood has had the privilege of attending plays and musicals down on Carlisle Street. Many famous playwrights, actors, directors, audiences and supporters have passed through its doors and played their roles for entertainment and historical enlightenment. The curtain is set to rise on New Stage’s 52nd season, just another attraction to one of America’s great neighborhoods.
Baptist Medical Center Jackson has evolved since its inception in 1908, when Doctors Harley Shands and John Farrar Hunter united in a successful effort to provide Jackson’s first true brick and mortar medical facility. It has since grown from its origin at the southeast corner or Manship and State Streets to a six block long complex running from Fortification to Marshall. It is now Mississippi’s premier health provider. In addition to the main campus in Belhaven, there are 21 Center clinics with 107 providers in the metro area. With the addition of the clinics and the medical center, the entire organization has been named Mississippi Baptist Health Systems.
A 2016 report to the community shows a facility with 3,000 employees and approximately 500 physicians on the medical staff. Net revenue was $454 million with approximately $18 million in charity care.
The modern day Baptist has embarked on a multitude of local health projects. These include the Baptist Medical Office Building containing 13 specialty clinics, expansion of woman’s and cardiovascular services, a Madison Performance Center, a joint venture with MS Sports Medicine and SouthStar, and the Belhaven Building, a multipurpose facility, which opened in 2013 in concert with Landmark Healthcare. This building was constructed to accommodate a variety of professions and residents. It currently houses the Manship Restaurant, a Trustmark Bank, a parking garage and is backed on the south end with 11 luxury townhouses (Belhaven Village).
On May 1, 2017, Mississippi Baptist Health Systems signed a shared mission agreement with Baptist Memorial Health Care in Memphis. As a result of this agreement, Baptist Memorial became Mississippi’s fourth largest employer and the largest health care system in the state. Baptist Memorial hospitals offer patients in all areas access to the region’s largest network of doctors and specialists.
In February 2018, Baptist will launch an electronic medical record called Baptist OneCare. The software powering this program is used in integrated health networks, community hospitals, academic medical centers and children’s organizations. Its biggest convenience for patients is “My Chart”, a free app assessable via Smartphone or computer, allowing patients to schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, direct message their care providers, access lab results and much more.
As a good corporate citizen, Baptist continues to provide charitable support to community and philanthropic organizations. These include the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Head for the Cure brain cancer research, March of Dimes and Baptist Foundation’s annual Cyclists Curing Cancer Century Ride in September.
The Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation and its constituency owe much to Baptist Medical Center. More than 16 years ago, Baptist and the Foundation began a partnership to preserve and enhance Greater Belhaven. Many of the improvements and benefits we see each day in our neighborhood were made possible through this partnership.
Baptist Medical Center has received numerous recognitions for its health care performance. In 2017, Healthgrades named the center one of America’s 100 best Hospitals for orthopedic surgery and one of the nation’s 50 Best Hospitals for vascular surgery. In addition, for two years in a row, Baptist received Healthgrades Outstanding Patient experience Award.
Awards were not limited to physicians and specialists. In 2017, after ten years of work, the hospital received the nation’s top honor for nursing excellence called the “Magnet”, given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, an affiliate of the American Nurses Association. It was the only hospital in Mississippi to receive this designation.
There have been a number of other awards and recognitions received by Baptist Medical Center whose early health care developers had the foresight to lay the path for a long and eventful journey. There will be a number more to come. (6)
What would Dr. Shands think of his and Dr. Hunter’s idea spawned over a century ago? He is not here to tell us but in an interview with his granddaughter Susan Shands Jones, she felt she knew. “My grandfather was a stern but very professional man. He cared deeply for his patients and their families. When he was not growing camellias he was doing surgery and would be quite impressed with today’s modern and well-equipped surgical suites and how much heart treatment has improved”.
Baptist is coming up on its 109th year of service to the health needs of our community and state. Yet, the facility remains a good neighbor and enthusiastic supporter of our own future right here in the neighborhood where it first began.
Belhaven University has come a long way from Louis Fitzhugh’s dream of a Christian girl’s school in 1894 and that hot, windy afternoon in 1910 when the college’s second president Dr. James Rhea Preston’s daughters watched fire consume that dream a second time only leading to a third on the Peachtree campus in 1927. The college has survived these conflagrations, a depression economy, elusive accreditation, myriad ownership and four name changes. The school became a University in 2009.
Today’s Belhaven University is a private four-year liberal arts institution and occupies a Jackson campus composed of 42 acres. The site is bounded by Peachtree Street, Pinehurst and Greymont Avenues and Belvoir Place. It is composed of classrooms, residence halls and administrative buildings, a lake, a bowl stadium, a pavilion, a commons and lighted fountain. Every four years the City of Jackson hosts the International Ballet Competition and Belhaven University provides lodging for a majority of its participants from throughout the world.
As of 2017, there are a total of 4,500 Belhaven students, 1,200 traditional with approximately 600 living on the Jackson campus and 1,000 adult students on the LeFleur Campus in Ridgeland. Twenty-three hundred adult studies and graduate students are enrolled on campuses in Memphis/Desoto County, Houston, Orlando, Chattanooga/Dalton County and Atlanta, plus participating in an ongoing online program.
The school is a member of NCAA Division III, belonging to the Mid-South and Southern States Athletic Conference. In 1929, the college library of 2,000 books was short of sufficiency for accreditation. The Hood Library now has 115,000 volumes and 500 periodicals.
The Jackson campus has 88 faculty members including 68 with doctorates or terminal degrees. There are 54 undergraduate and eight graduate studies programs available with a wide variety of concentrations ranging from health administration to human resources. Associate degree programs are available as well. The Adult and Graduate Program, located in a facility on I-55 north in Jackson, provides an encouraging educational environment where adult graduate students can complete their degree while maintaining their careers and personal lives.
In just a brief time period, Belhaven University has experienced growth in all three areas of academic excellence – traditional, adult and online. The adult and graduate components have added four locations (the newest this year in Madison). The traditional campus on Peachtree has expanded Fitzhugh Hall to accommodate its nursing and science studies. In addition the school has built an international center, upgraded the athletic bowl to a state of the art multipurpose stadium, built an apartment style residence hall, added a 43,000 square foot visual and dance center, a walking trail and by 2018 will have a brand new track. A University Center for the Arts at 835 Riverside has been adapted to host musical and fine arts events. The entire metro area looks forward each December to the University’s Singing Christmas Tree.
Belhaven University is more than keeping pace with the times and demands of today’s education. It, along with First Presbyterian Church, the Baptist Medical Center and Power APAC School form the cornerstones of the special place in which we live.
This has been a brief history of our Belhaven Neighborhood from 1894 to August 2017. But like all accounts it cannot cover all facets of its legacy. Older citizens will remember the old blind institute at the northwest corner of State and Fortification streets where neighbor children would slide down it corkscrew fire escape although their mothers had told them not to. Further down on the west side of State Street was the old charity hospital and its park where kids from Davis and Power Schools would meet to play baseball in the spring, and to the north, Beth-Israel Cemetery (1860) and the site of several prominent family homes now gone. On the east side were Jess Willoughby’s Barber Shop and Patterson Drugs, about where McDonalds is today. Further down was Morris Pharmacy, now the Manship Restaurant, Jitney Jungle # 9 and the Snack Shop near Poplar. The wonderful Parkin Pharmacy, originally part of English Village and later a standalone where Lou’s serves lunch and dinner may remind some of John Archie and the “pill wagon” that delivered prescriptions to our homes. All have given way to progress but remain part of our heritage.
We know that what is the present today is history by the morning sunrise. With this in mind, there will be an additional segment on how our neighborhood’s future is being shaped and assured by far-reaching creativity and planning on the part of capable leadership and our residents’ faith in its vision. Look for it soon. You might find yourself in its picture.
I had every intention to buy only one odd movie, but before leaving the internet shopping site I had purchased 151. The movies were cheap, less than 32 cents each; that was my enabler. Hello, my name is Mykki, and I am a schlockaholic.
Like any addict my biggest fear is running out of my addiction. I buy old movies in bulk, like a meth addict buys AA batteries and cold medicine. I once discovered a box of more than a hundred old horror movies with local commercials I recorded in the 80s from NYC and Philly television stations. Now I know how people in Mobile felt when bales of pot would wash ashore in the 70s.
Apparently one January night in 1989 I let my VCR record until it ran out of tape. On the tape, I discovered the second episode of Man from U.N.C.L E directed by Richard Donner and two episodes of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, which is creepy today because Eddie’s father has the same Bill Bixby understanding and calmness of Bill Bixby’s alter ego to The Incredible Hulk. I pray Eddie doesn’t make him angry; as their housekeeper/nanny, Mrs. Livingston would say, “You wouldn’t like Mr. Eddie’s father when he’s angry.”
I’m so grateful I was raised on real Looney Tunes when Bugs was a smartass and Daffy got his beak blown off. I saw the modern day Looney Tunes; Bugs and Daffy were singing about being healthy cowboys, eating stir-fried vegetables and measuring portions. I found it too disturbing, so I went back to watching Psycho on TCM.
Last night I saw Anthony Newley in the role of Lt. Commander “Spider” Webb (great name, huh?) in X the Unknown (1956). When I was a kid in the 60s, I did a spot-on Anthony Newley impression, but by the 70s my impression was too obscure.
In 1969, I knew a 9th grader who had his yearbook photo listed as Myra Breckinridge. Kids were so sophisticated back then. 7-years later, I had my 11th grade yearbook photo listed as Gator McKluski, certain proof of society’s drastic decline. I remember when AMC was TCM, A&E was Ovation, Biography was History 2, BBC America was PBS and Fox was a walkie-talkie frequency.
My own past has had brushes with real historical celebrates, which I think is the correct term. My mother said her aunt and uncle by marriage (whatever that means) adopted a kid whose parents were killed in a car accident or something. It was rural Kentucky in the 1930s, so the parents may have been killed by Daniel Boone for all I know. Maybe it was Davy Crockett. I always get those two guys confused, so lets just say it was Fess Parker, the actor who played both men on television and in the movies.
So anyway, back to the story of that kid. His name was Harvey Lee Yeary, but with the emergence of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963, Barbara Stanwyck suggested Cousin Harvey change his name to Lee Majors and the rest is history. However, my grandmother denied any family relationship. I once had a brief conversation with Wayne Newton and he is convinced we are cousins because we have the same last name, and his family and my father’s family are from the same small area in Tennessee. However, for Wayne’s sake I deny any family relationship, and the rest is history. Along those same lines, I once wrote a letter to Bobby Goldsboro in hopes of discovering some answers.
“Dear Bobby Goldsboro, For much of my life I have been troubled by a few questions only you can answer. First, how did Honey die? You said she was young at heart, kind of dumb and kind of smart but what the heck. Was she hammering a nail with a loaded revolver that day when you were not at home and she was there and all alone and the angels came? Second, did you bury her next to the tree? You seem to want everyone to see the tree how big it’s grown, but admit it hasn’t been too long, it wasn’t big. What kind of fertilizer do you use? Is it Honey? Sincerely, Your Biggest Fan, Mykki”
My life can be summed up in the title of one movie… Cat Women on the Moon (1953). Holy Moly, this movie is deliciously bad. The cat women want to travel to Earth and have a Coke. That’s what one said…go on a date and have a coke. Once again, Coca-Cola’s marketing department rules the galaxy. This film proves what men have long suspected…all women in the universe can communicate telepathically. Cat-Women of the Moon also confirms a sci/fi B-movie rule of thumb…if there’s a woman on-board a flight to the moon, there’s always a giant spider waiting on her once she gets there.
I am a huge fan of Japanese kaiju films, more commonly know as giant monster movies although the Japanese to English translation in Godzilla Raids Again (1955) stumbles slightly on American slang.”Ah, shucks” = “Ah, banana horses.” At least that’s what it sounds like to me, so I have a new catch phrase. “AH, BANANA HORSES!”
I wonder if the Japanese make fun of Americans by laughing and screaming, “Ah! It’s Spiderman! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Spiderman…what a joke. WE HAVE GODZILLA!”
Spiderman is a good superhero if you are a 15-year old kid being bullied because you have bad acne, but Superman, now he is and always will be the ultimate superhero. He has all the great superpowers, including being totally unrecognizable by wearing only a pair of glasses.
Ironman? I respect him. He spent billions constructing a suit so he could be more like Superman. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Batman, on the other hand, needs constant surveillance and therapy. As a child, he witnessed his parent’s murder, which understandably cracked his mind and turned him into a demented, murderous Don Quixote. Personally, I prefer my superheroes to be more down-to-earth like I Will Help You Find Your Keys Man.
For me, a sci-fi/superhero loses screenwriting credibility when the jet pack flying, fedora wearing, scientist hero activates his cosmic mega powerful radio space alien communicator and says, “Calling Bob. Calling Bob.” I’m talking to you, Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952).
“He was always so keen on telling me about his experiments.” (Said every girlfriend of a scientist gone mad)
Lines I Hope I Never Have to Use in Real Life
5) “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
4) “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”
3) “Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty apes.”
1) “I see dead people.”
If there’s anything I know about motion pictures it’s that a crying woman driving a ’39 Chevy in the rain always ends badly. Movies have taught me never to trust anyone wearing a monocle. They are Nazi spies. That includes the Monopoly guy and Mr. Peanut. Well, maybe not Mr. Peanut but he is a giant peanut the size of a man and that in itself is just wrong. So I guess what I’m saying here is always avoid Nazi spies and horrifying genetically modified gigantic legumes. They are terrible people.
THINGS I HAVE LEARNED FROM B-MOVIES
1) Prior to 1961, the decision of who will be the first man in space and/or on the moon is always made 5-minutes before liftoff of the atomic rocket. Mission Control is actually only four people, one of whom is always the astronaut’s wife or girlfriend.The only sounds in space are that weird EEE-OUU-WEE-OUU theremin part of Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys, and the machine that goes “BING!”
2) Sometimes the actors are so terrible and the dialogue so awful, you root for the half man/half lizard creature to devour the entire town and emerge victorious over all mankind.
3) If your home is being attacked by a 60-foot spider, close your front door so it doesn’t come inside.
Bullets are useless, so have your local scientist and/or professor ram the spider in the butt with a ’58 DeSoto to distract it. Giant atomically grown arachnids are attracted to giant car tailfins inspired by the jet age. Finally, have the scientist and/or professor build his failed experiment 50 times its normal size. For some reason the larger size makes the experiment function perfectly and that is always the only thing that can kill the monster.
4) The smartest people in town, i.e. professors and/or psychiatrists, have pipes they never smoke. They just like holding the pipe and occasionally placing it in their mouth. This is also the sign of an understanding father who believes the kids did see something out at the old Johnson place, Roy…maybe a spaceman, maybe a blob monster, but he’s sure his son and/or daughter is a good boy and/or girl who just wants to go to the big dance and/or gender reassignment surgery.
5) Vampires and mad scientists are totally unaware of the dangers of open flames. Inevitably, candles and/or Bunsen burns will tip over during a climatic moment, ignite curtains and/or demented and/or hunchback assistants. The flames spread quickly and the damage is not covered by most castle owner’s insurance. Thus, vampires and mad scientist cannot survive a fire.
6) If your dog or cat growls or hisses at your boyfriend or husband, he or she is a space alien or ghost or vampire or general member of the living dead. If this happens to you, breakup immediately or file for divorce or call NASA or Whoopie Goldberg or drive a stake through their heart or start screaming, “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!” If none of those things work, you may want to consider trading the dog or cat for a goldfish.
7) Every film and small town must contain the following characters:
Doug Martin Betty Morgan Gramps Kurt Gas Station Attendant Blond Stripper
8) Space women are ROCKIN’ HOT! Oh, you may find the occasional butterface due to too much radiation, but they always have smokin’ hot bods. Space men, on the other hand, are either total creeps, ambiguously gay or both. The gay ones are usually the BFF of the beautiful queen. That appears the case throughout the galaxy even on our own planet, so that my dear friends is why I welcome the coming space alien invasion.
9) Only the greatest scientific minds have alligator habitats in their basements.
10) Prior to 1960, advanced alien life forms out to conquer Earth had no access to television and radio stations. Thus, they contacted the earthlings via public address systems at sporting events. Many of the world’s great scientists and military leaders were also hockey season ticket holders.
11) All low-budget movies about invisible creatures or humanoid space aliens have a costume/special effects department consisting solely of whenever the actors have in their own personal wardrobes.
12) In every pack of marauding zombies, there’s always a woman in a wedding dress. She’s not really a zombie, she just had too much champagne and Red Bull and got carried away in the conga line at the reception.
13) Selling islands to mad scientists interested in human/wild animal gene splicing experiments was a booming business for realtors in the first half of the 20th Century.
And just so you know, a crucifix does not work on Jewish vampires.
The sand is pitted with little bones and
shines alabaster white like the end of the world,
a way around distance, just fold this glare
into that cool and swap Florida for Morocco.
I’ve come a fur piece. The tides go this way and that,
the world is smaller, and the sun hits
like a spike on moon and sea and sand.
Bars—for those of us who frequent them—provide insights of the most profound sort into the human condition. This I firmly believe is because bars combine by their very nature the easy-going, ruminative atmosphere of an agora with the somewhat less philosophical and contemplative aspects of a boisterous opium den, making them the perfect stages for a meeting of minds between people who have hitherto never set eyes on one another.
So it was that in a bar in St. Augustine, Florida, the waitress, after serving my fourth beer along with a pound of boiled shrimp asked, “Would you like to try our datil pepper sauce with these?” Intrigued as a Southerner, more specifically as a Mississippian and a pepper-head to boot, I replied in the affirmative and was served a fluted ramekin containing a creamy sauce flecked with black pepper. “It’s got a bite!” she warned.
And indeed it did, but not at all what I—a seasoned if not to say jaded veteran of salsa skirmishes—would consider fierce or fiery, but I had to ask, “What the hell is a datil pepper?” Of course, bless her heart, she was a newcomer from Missouri, so she marched off to the kitchen and came back with the chef, who was a proud native of St. John County, and a descendant of those St. Augustineans who came from Minorca as indentured workers in the late 1700s.
“The datil pepper,” he explained after hoisting himself–nimbly, I must add–on a stool beside me and ordering an O’Doul’s, “is a very hot pepper, a type of Capsicum—you say you know peppers, so you’ll recognize Capsicum (I nodded)—chinense–this he emphasized by holding up an index finger–that came to Spain, then to Minorca, from Cuba. My people brought them with us. What we have done here with our sauce is to combine the fiery datil—which is similar in taste and appearance to the habanero—with mayonnaise, which as everyone knows was invented in Minorca in ancient times and is named for the capitol city, Maó-Mahón. Do you like it?”
Of course I told him I liked it, though to be quite honest putting a spicy mayonnaise on shrimp ran somewhat contrary to my tastes, which tend to a pungent, horseradish-and-lemon juice infused tomato condiment. When I asked where I could get seeds, he stated emphatically that he could get some seeds for me at the end of the season, or I could contact the St. John County extension office. I gave him my address with many thanks.
So I finished my shrimp, ordered another beer and was sitting there in what some might term the glow of culinary discovery when this seedy-looking little skinny guy in a Dolphins jersey sidles over and says, “You’re not believing that crap are you?”
“Why not?” I said, my reverie reduced to embers.
“Oh, hell, that pepper’s just something one of them crackers found growing in a pile of horseshit behind the city hall, and they decided to make a big hoo-hoo about it. They just tell you tourists that bull turkey so you’ll buy a bottle and take it home and brag about it.”
After all that, I had to ask him where he was from. “Key West,” he said smiling. “Where we grow those yellow limes.” I just grinned and bought him a beer.
In 2005, Jackson’s Belhaven neighborhood passed two landmarks: the first Bright Lights, Belhaven Nights, and, shortly thereafter, the most devastating storm ever to impact the state of Mississippi. The damage wrought by Katrina has long since healed, and tomorrow, for the thirteenth year, Bright Lights, Belhaven Nights will illuminate the capitol city. In this excerpt, Virgi Lindsay, former executive director of the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation (GBNH), remembers how Jackson’s biggest neighborhood event all began.
“Camp Best, who was director of the Fondren Renaissance Foundation at the time, suggested that the GBNH should have a neighborhood festival in Belhaven. We’d been working hard on Fortification Street, and we wanted to do something fun and visible to bring people to the area. Camp and I were having coffee at Cups, and he said that we needed to do a street festival. I agreed; we already had the Belhaven Market going on, which was a Saturday event, but it was clear that we needed to take the next step.”
“There were several occasions that Virgi and I met for coffee at Cups in the early days of Fondren Renaissance Foundation and the Greater Belhaven Foundation,” Camp said. “We were fellow urban warriors in the trenches together back then, supporting each other in whatever way we could. The Fondren Renaissance Foundation had experienced some early successes with our Arts, Eats and Beats, Fondren Unwrapped, Symphony at Sunset and ARTMix (the early precursor to Fondren After Five). All of these events had one purposeful thing in common: get people outdoors in your neighborhood to show the world that it is safe to have fun there. Make it free, so everybody can come, and, use local music and art as the draw.”
Camp said that when he suggested to Virgi that she consider doing the same thing in Belhaven, she worried that they didn’t really have any restaurants or galleries for people to come to back then. “I said it didn’t matter. Make it up; make it look like you do, put the music and artists in the street and people will come. And they did.”
“So in a couple of weeks, I really began thinking about where it could be and when,” Virgi said, “And I began research on a good time to have a festival in Jackson when we wouldn’t have a lot of competition. I quickly found out that every month when the weather could be expected to be great was just full of events. But about that time, Chuck and I went to New Orleans in August, and just happened upon White Linen Night, one of the first ones they held. At that point, it was still a very quiet little event run by the residents on Julia Street. I looked around at this lovely, wonderful neighborhood event, and I thought that if New Orleans, Louisiana can have an outdoors event in August, then Jackson, Mississippi can, too.”
Virgi said another reason the Belhaven foundation chose August was because they knew that if they were doing an event in April or October that the competition for sponsorships would be very tough, so scheduling an event in August helped guarantee that the sponsors would be more generous. “And yes, everyone thought we were nuts, but we decided to give it a go. We worked with the theory that it would be the last party of the summer, so we’ve always held Bright Lights, Belhaven Nights the weekend before school starts, the weekend before football season starts.”
The very first year, 2005, Katie Hester and Cheryl Grubbs were the co-chairmen of the event. “We were going to open the gates at 5:30, still figuring things out, not sure at all how it would go. We looked up at 5:15, and there a good 500-600 people walking down to Carlisle Street. We had over 1500 people to come that first year. The Belhaven Improvement Association (BIA) volunteered to cook hot dogs and hamburgers in McDade’s parking lot. It was probably the hottest year we’ve ever had, with temperatures hovering around 100 at five in the afternoon. We had some food vendors, and BIA bought every hot dog in McDade’s, but we still ran out of food, we ran out of drinks, we ran out of everything, but as far as we were concerned, that was the most wonderful problem to have.”
Virgi remembers many near misses. “That July, Winn-Dixie had pulled out of the old Jitney 14 space, which was the second time in a short period that the neighborhood almost lost its grocery store. But just four days before the first Bright Lights, Belhaven Nights, GBNH could finally announce that McDade’s was going into the space. “There was a time when we thought that we were having our first festival and our one big anchor in the neighborhood would be lost. It was touch and go, but a week before Bright Lights, Greg McDade moved in. So instead of there being a big, dark, padlocked building at the festival site, we had a vibrant neighborhood grocery with all the energy associated with it.”
“Nobody knew what to expect,” Virgi remembers. “McDade’s ran out of change, everybody ran out of water. Then nine days later came Katrina, and retrospect it’s very emotional when you think about what a wonderful time we all had together that Saturday night, when we came together as a community without any realization that within a very short time we would pull together again in a totally different way.
We had grounding; we came to know that we’re here, we’re together. It’s a powerful memory.”
Stem, seed and devein small sweet peppers. Season inside with salt, pepper, paprika and granulated garlic, and then stuff with slices of smoked Swiss or Gouda cheese wrapped in thinly-sliced ham or smoked turkey. Place in a very hot oven (I put them in mini-muffin tins) until cheese is melted through. Serve hot as a nosh or with hefty pasta such as lasagna or cannoli.