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Thank you, Jan Griffey

This one’s for you, Jan.

I began writing this column two years ago because Jan Griffey, then the editor of The Post, wrote a column herself asking readers to become the paper’s “community correspondents” — people more in touch with the community itself than the reporters themselves could be. And I wrote her back, saying I’d like to try. So she said to write something, and I did.

She also said I wouldn’t get rich. She was honest and forthright about that. I Googled “community correspondents” and found out they were newspapers’ traditional arms into new births or birthdays; new jobs, cars, or houses; graduations or funerals, and such. And I also found out that they didn’t pay much, and mostly with free subscriptions. But I’m an old English teacher, I like to write, and I had things to write about: The Jacqueline House and Beulah Cemetery among them. I had lots of stories to tell. And besides that, the pay was a check.

But I also became quickly disappointed there weren’t more of us telling them. I hope that soon changes. And if it does, when it does, it’s entirely because of Jan Griffey.

The question I’m most often asked, though, is if this newspaper, or Jan Griffey, had ever tried to stifle me. And the answer is no, never, not even once.

There was never a time in these two years when this newspaper ever asked me to modify, mitigate, or change what I wrote — although, once when I wrote about cookies, Jan did correct me to say that Biscoffs were not only available at Rite-Aid, but at Krogers and Walmart as well. She knew because she had bought them there — and took her editing seriously.

She was always encouraging and kind and sometimes even complimentary.

When I was a child, there was a weekly column that appeared in The Vicksburg Evening Post called “Among Colored Folk,” the work initially of Professor J.G.H. Bowman and then his successor, Professor O.W. Howard. I don’t know — there’s no way to tell — if that column had been a forced and reluctant acknowledgment of black peoples’ lives and achievements set apart, segregated, from the rest of the paper. Or a willing and ahead-of-its-time recognition of all that we were and did. I suspect it was both.

More than anything, though, I wanted this column to help resurrect black writers, to show kids doing essays at school that they could write for a living, and that there was joy in words and truth in stories. Jan Griffey helped me to do that. And this is my Thank You to her.

In a short time, she will become the General Manager of her hometown newspaper in Natchez. She will be leaving us. But I hope she’ll come back again and again. We — I — owe her so much.

So at the end of this column, I’m asking my editor to please print the old way of saying that’s everything.

Thank you for everything, Jan.

yolande

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Yolande Robbins is a community columnist for The Vicksburg Post. Her column appears each weekend.