Exploring the American South

Igor Aksentijevic, a Political Science major from Montenegro who is studying at the University of Mississippi this year, writes about his trip to Kosciusko, MS and what made him interested in visiting this town in Central Mississippi.

Studying in the American South – especially at an institution as culturally significant as Ole Miss – triggered my interest in exploring its unique culture. After doing research on historical towns of Mississippi, I realized that the closest one to Oxford was Kosciusko.

Located in the heart of Mississippi, Kosciusko is best known as the birthplace of Civil Rights activist James Meredith and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. Despite its importance for understanding the Civil Rights Movement, Kosciusko is not very well taken care of. More than 30% of its population lives below the poverty line, the majority of those being African Americans. Its level of educated youth is also one of the lowest in Mississippi.Igor A. blog

I taste rebuke each time I remember the town’s landscape – a dozen houses separated only by streets of sorrow and squalor. Homelessness is one of its momentous imprints, while poverty stands as its merciless enemy. Not even the weather was in my favor; the dark clouds appeared as a symbolic executioner of the town’s inescapable demise.

I am always bothered by social issues, and continuously am trying to address them through all of my work. The state and being of Kosciusko does not bother me, it horrifies me. How can the birthplace of world’s most well known woman exist in oblivion? I guess giving cars and airplanes to middle-class women who fell in despair due to being insecure is more prosperous than taking care of the well-being of your hometown.

The important aspect of Winfrey’s power is not in fact the amount of money she claims in her bank, but rather the boundless platform that she had created through her work allegedly “for the sake of others”. Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that she has helped many individuals. That is, however, the point that always gets me. If all of the celebrities – especially the ones as powerful as Winfrey – would use their knowledge and platform to lobby for a change of laws that would address issues that they are constantly talking about, change would be more efficient and noticeable.

People are too concerned with numbers. Massive amounts of money going “to charity” leave many in awe of public donations. The point is that there is always more to be done. Chasing the numeric value of help will not resolve problems of humanity. Money is but a temporary reserve that keeps the river of social issues from running faster. It does not stop it, though. Prevention is what we must focus on. We must prevent the spread of social issues that society is currently dealing with as well as impede with the birth of new ones. What ever happened to the social platform that the muckrakers and feminists of the Progressive era left us to provoke change? It seems as if modern capitalist societies are directing actions solely to the Gospel of Wealth concept.

While the little town of Kosciusko sleeps in wretchedness, I am going through pages of my daily journal only to come across a Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

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