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My MFP role helps me pass the torch to other badass black Mississippians

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To be honest, writing to you is a challenge for me.

It’s difficult because I refuse to take lightly the impact of your support on my day-to-day life, my livelihood. Every dollar you’re generous enough to give to the Mississippi Free Press nonprofit puts gas in my car to make sure I attend every interview; pay my rent and utility bills, including my phone bill and auto insurance; fill my Wonder Woman mug with the strong coffee I like it: strong, creamy and sweet; allows me to do grocery shopping for myself and my furbaby Khloe; provides the countless notepads and my favorite ballpoint pins that won’t smudge since I’m left-handed.

Your unwavering generosity literally supports my dreams of honing my natural writing talent while giving me the opportunity to grow as a publisher. Thanks to you, I can continue to perfect my art while simultaneously organizing other brilliant underdogs like me to pursue their passions in journalism. These young professionals are stepping into a world of opportunity they never knew existed, just like me.

Many black writers from Mississippi, like me, need only see that it is possible. Your support, your readership, your empowerment all show us that it is possible.


Azia Wiggins, associate editor for Voices and Systemic Reporting, works primarily from home in her downtown Jackson apartment, armed with her Wonder Woman mug. She is grateful for the chance to learn and pass the torch of opportunity to other black Mississippi writers that she recruits and edits at the Mississippi Free Press. Photo by Azia Wiggins

I remember when I first saw an editorial assistant’s ad with Jackson Free Press on Facebook in 2019. I had recently graduated from Mississippi College in Clinton with a Masters in Biological Sciences, I had just completed a MCAT prep course at UMMC, and worked several odd jobs just to stay afloat. I was excited, fearless, incorruptible. Even though I was proud of myself for not giving up on my dream of becoming a doctor, I was so tired of having so many doors shut.

It has always been my fear and frustration that I was just a jack of all trades and a master of nothing. Despite my life and college experience, I was just another black woman from Mississippi, kicking and screaming into the void, “Someone please just give me a chance.” I tried everything, using all the degrees and skills to apply for any job I qualified for: all government jobs working in any forensic lab in the country, assistant professor, work administration for mentors, cleaning of homes and offices, tutoring, writing documents for students. I was also a full time direct care provider.

I emailed Donna Ladd, then editor-in-chief of JFP who later co-founded the Mississippi Free Press, and frankly let her know that although I have a broad scientific background and don’t never worked in journalism one day in my life, I was a natural artist and writer who found herself in a place hungry for creativity. I asked her if she would just consider allowing me to come and sit under her and be at the desk, just so I could be inspired and feed that hungry side of me again, because I knew I didn’t. was not the best person for the job she advertised.

But Donna saw something different. She took her chances with me, then brought me to the MFP to help launch it, then promoted me to associate editor. Donna opened a door for me that opened others, and then she positioned me to open those same doors to other nontraditional, passionate and evil black writers and artists like me.

Three women at a table doing the planning
In early December 2021, BWC project members Aliyah Veal, Torsheta Jackson, and Azia Wiggins (left to right) came together to brainstorm a set of shared solution stories on the mental health needs of black women in Mississippi and beyond. their families. Aliyah reports on the systemic causes of crime and violence in Hinds County, Torsheta on education disparities in Noxubee County and Azia on access to health care in Holmes County in the MFP “(In) Equity and Resilience: Black Women, Systemic Barriers and COVID -19” collaboration with the Jackson Advocate. Azia is also the project coordinator. All three reporters grew up in Mississippi. Photo by Donna Ladd

Now, thanks to you and your passion for advancing our State of Magnolia, I have been properly trained and positioned to run confidently with the torch lit to hold the predominantly white and powerful rulers of the state accountable for the state of my house.

Thanks to you, Mississippians don’t have to relegate our stories to national media reporters who parachute over our state or the neighborhoods my family grew up in just to write sensational stories with misleading headlines about the communities with which they have no relationship, only to put on a show for the money and weight that comes with clicks and views. You allow us to hire more staff who truly have a heart for Mississippi, and allow the communities we report to tell the stories the way they want them to be told without bias.

With your support, MFP can continue to mend broken relationships between people and media through our transparency and investigative journalism that focuses on truth and solutions. You are the reason we can continue to set an ethical standard in journalism as an example for newsrooms that wrongly charge their own audiences for the publication of opinion pieces and stories that amplify the needs of the media. population. Your donations fund editors like Donna, Nate, and me, who are only interested in supporting journalists who want to tell the real Mississippian stories, not to sell personal or corporate agendas or despise our state. You fund projects like “Black Women, Systemic Barriers and COVID-19”. (Watch for my Holmes County stories soon.) You fund outstanding journalists.

The “(In) Equity and Resilience: Black Women and COVID-19 in Mississippi”, which the team internally calls the “BWC Project”, initially focuses on three main counties – Noxubee, Hinds and Holmes – with d other counties and systemic orientation topics on the way. Torsheta Jackson’s Noxubee County (education) package is on the microsite at mfp.ms/bwc with the publication of Aliyah Veal’s Hinds County (crime and violence) package in early January 2020. Map by Kristin Brenemen

So no, I don’t take your support lightly. Your time, money, resources are invaluable to us – you’re not just financially supporting a brand or other news publication, you are funding a movement to bring more effective journalism to Mississippi for all of our people. You are funding appropriate representation for all of us who are talented, honest and compassionate and who dream of not only making a difference, but the change Mississippi needs.

Please give all you can before midnight tonight and the New Year is ringing. Every penny counts and know that everything you give keeps us excited, fearless, confident and incorruptible. I know all of us at MFP are here because of you, so I only want to do this job if I can continue to stand up and build a better Mississippi with you.


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