I am outraged, shocked and angry. Really angry. Some folks, fools to be sure, have invaded my holy ground wearing hobnailed boots, spewing threats, and shattering Belhaven’s quiet tranquility. This is trespassing and a violation in the first order. Here I grew up, learned to walk, talk, make friends, and begin life at Power School – both old and new. Our house, located on Laurel Street between St Mary and St. Ann, wasn’t grand. It was an aging leftover built long before World War II that nobody really wanted. But it was available and my parents needed to move out of a tiny second floor apartment on North State Street. It became my house and my home. In short, my holy ground.
Holy ground exists in every part of Jackson, no matter who lives where. We all have it, even if it exists only in memory. Race or religion doesn’t matter, neither does life experience, income, or current circumstances. It may be Mamaw’s small patch of grass on the edge of town, a once vacant lot on Laurel Street, the bubbling creek transecting Belhaven, or even a dust dry backyard where a rope swing hangs from a sturdy pine tree. For some, holy ground exists now, as a place where family is safe, children run free and splash in a blow-up swimming pool. A place where people sit in front porch rockers, drink sweet tea, and talk last week’s game. It’s a place where gardens are tended, basketball goals are raised, and smoking ribs send fragrant aromas into the cool, night air. Sometimes, chickens share space with a rooster, pigeons, or maybe a few stray goats. The doghouse is there, too.
Holy ground may exist in a well-fortified upscale neighborhood or a struggling down at heel street which only sees police cars when something goes horribly wrong. Most importantly, it includes that tiny second floor apartment and the family who calls it home. Every citizen, absolutely everyone deserves, a safe place.
Before the usual plethora of comments crash in, here’s a story from my grandfather. It’s simplistic, but it ages well. “My Dad was rough,” he said. “He told me never to think things couldn’t be done. If I ask you to milk a cow through a picket fence, I expect you to try.”
“But nobody can do that,” I replied. “Why did your father say that?”
“Because he wanted me to figure it out.”
“Figure out what?” I asked.
“You don’t have to accept things as they are. If it’s time to milk the cow, don’t let a fence stop you. Climb over the damn thing!”
So listen up, Jackson poohbahs, whoever your are. It’s time to control crime in Jackson. Our holy ground is in danger; don’t let the picket fence of politics, greed, unrest, or sharp words stop you. It’s time to climb over the damn thing.
Averyell A. Kessler is a writer and a native of Jackson.