The Meek School of Journalism and New Media

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Posts Tagged ‘Oxford Stories’

Opinion: What the ‘It Starts With MEek’ campaign taught me

Posted on: April 28th, 2017 by ldrucker

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It Starts With MEek is a campaign that affects every student on and off campus. Behind each talk is an obstacle every human being faces at least once – racism, sexism, homophobia.

The first event I attended was led by Jennifer Stollman, who spoke about about how difference is good when building a healthy community. I was more than thrilled to hear about her talk of cultural difference, since I come from a mixed background.

Being from the Dominican Republic with an Italian mom and an American dad and ending up in Mississippi is not entirely easy. However, Stollman’s talk made me realize it is not supposed to be easy. Instead, it has to be challenging, and it’s an opportunity I am lucky to have.

What are we without culture? Without difference? These are questions I have never dared to ask myself until now. I realized that without diversity I am not myself. Diversity is what makes me, and I am what makes diversity.

Everybody on campus has difference in them. That can be in the way they talk, think, dress, and even eat. We are all different in different ways. Without it, as Stollman said, we become “bored, ill and depressed.” Imagine if everybody had the same ideas or thought the same? How boring would that be?

“Welcome to the world! Nobody is the same,” Stollman said proud and loud. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. “You interact with people different then you everyday,” she said.

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Jennifer Stollman giving her speech on cultural difference. Photo by Jessica Duffield.

I thought about these words for a long time. I came to the conclusion that we tend to not see this anymore because we have become such a selfish world where change scares us. We run away from people and things that don’t look, think and talk like us. We want everything to feel like home. Safe. Comfortable.

From my personal experience, nothing is going to feel like home, but that is OK. I can try as hard as I want to make Mississippi my home, but it is not. I, instead, adapt to it. I live it. I learn from it. And I promise, if you do this, you will survive, you will make it, and you will learn much more than you ever will in your home.

If it feels like home, you are doing it wrong.

The biggest challenge we face as a community is to listen. “How can we learn about difference if we do not listen?” Stollman asked.

If we do not listen to others about how they have lived, then we do not get to judge them.

I have been told,”You don’t have an accent,” or “You don’t look Dominican,” or even, “Are you sure you were born in the Dominican Republic?”

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MEek campaign slogan, photo by: Jessica Duffield

Listen to me. Don’t stereotype me. You listen to Spanish music. You eat Spanish food, but you don’t listen to me.

Stollman said: “Put yourselves in other people’s shoes, not your shoes on somebody else.”

We have to try to understand other people before they can understand us. Live their story, understand their thoughts, and most importantly, listen to them. If you do this, if you engage in other ways, then they will engage with you.

Stollman said that by sharing stories, people are “not trying to fix you, but share with you.” They are not trying to convert you to think the same way they do.

I am not trying to convert you to think the same way my culture taught me to. I just want to share with you. Don’t be afraid. It is not scary to realize that people live life differently from you. Stollman taught me that my culture, my difference, my language, is my power.

Jessica Duffield is Meek School student and a reporter for Oxford Stories. She can be reached at jfduffie@go.olemiss.edu.

Miss University dreams of becoming Miss Mississippi, Miss America and a broadcast journalist

Posted on: March 7th, 2017 by ldrucker

A University of Mississippi senior, also known as Miss University, is studying to become a broadcast journalist, but dreams of becoming Miss Mississippi and Miss America.

Leah Gibson grew up cheering, singing and doing community service work, such as working with the organization Teens for Jeans to collect 100 pairs of jeans for the charity.

Gibson was part of the broadcast journalism program in high school. As one of a five-member staff, she helped create a newscast during her lunch hour, and she became became a features writer for her high school newspaper in 10th grade.

Gibson tried several majors before deciding on journalism. She first considered studying to be a lawyer or psychologist until she thought about the time those degrees required.

Instead, she wanted to do something that allowed her to be more creative and didn’t want to sit behind a desk daily. Gibson soon realized she loved being in front of the camera, going out and getting stories, and finding different angles for stories that have been told thousands of times.

Before deciding what college she wanted to attend, she initially had Mississippi State University in mind until she met former Chancellor Robert C. Khayat in Washington, D.C. while she was a Al Neuharth Conference scholar. He convinced her to look into the Meek School of Journalism and New Media program, and she decided on UM based on information she received from each school.

Gibson said she loves the Ole Miss sense of unity. She believes Ole Miss accepts its past and that the community wants to move forward.

“Every time something bad happens in the media, Ole Miss faces it head on, puts together focus groups, put out new policies, and ensures that everyone feels safe,” she said.

Gibson has volunteered as a cheer coach for Upward Basketball and cheerleading in Oxford, and believes this has made her a stronger person. She said she liked the idea of sharing something she was passionate about with other girls and hopes they will participate in competitive cheer.

She also volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club for a year and a half and started a mentoring program called GLAM squad. GLAM stands for Giving Learning Achieving Maturing, and focuses on teaching girls to accept who they are. She also focused on her pageant platform, highway safety.

Gibson has been active on campus for four years, but she is now involved with the Black Student Union, her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc., being the Rebel Radio station manager, and fulfilling her duties as Miss University.

Some may wonder why Gibson wanted to be Miss University. It’s a dream she had many years ago. When she first began competing in competitions, they were small beauty reviews. She did the National American Miss Distinguishing Women Competition in high school, and did not win, but she wasn’t ready to give up.

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Gibson spends a lot of time in the S. Gale Denley Student Media Center.

Determined to win a title, her mother found the Outstanding Teen program within the Miss America organization. As a teen, Gibson placed within the Top 10 her first year, but soon realized she had aged out and could no longer compete because she was a graduating high school senior.

She then competed in Miss University and did not win, but her talent for singing did. She still felt like she wasn’t finished with competitions and went on to win Miss Meridian. She loves to compete because, for her, competitions are more than just pageants. She thinks about people from her hometown or little girls she might inspire in the process.

“You have to go through hurdles to get to where you’re trying to go for your ultimate goals to come to life,” she said. “I want people to remember me, not as someone who had potential, but as someone who always went after their biggest goals.”

What makes Gibson stand out? After working with her during the UM Apex leadership summit for rising high school seniors in 2012, Chad Knight said they didn’t talk much in college. However, they later both became orientation leaders and were Lucky Day residential community assistants.

A relationship formed, and he said Gibson is a vibrant individual, happy at all times, and has genuine care and concern for others. During her Miss University campaign, he watched her disconnect from everyone to focus, and that showed her passion and drive.

“Leah stands out from other Miss Universities in the past because of her drive and commitment to the title,” he said. “I believe she knows she is representing something bigger than herself. She is living up to the work of the title and not just the name.”

Gibson’s dream is to become Miss Mississippi, then Miss America. If that does not work out, she plans to take a year off after graduation and study abroad, because she believes traveling and culture is something you cannot teach, but something someone has to experience.

The author of this article, Lydazja Turner, 18, is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. Her dream is to become a radio host or vlogger. She has studied ballet most of her life and dabbles in yoga. Her schedule is packed with schoolwork and involvement in the Black Student Union. She wrote this story for a Journalism 102 class, and she is a writer for Oxford Stories. Read more stories about Oxford and North Mississippi people at OxfordStories.net.