One cold afternoon during my freshman year, I was hiking up the Rebel Drive hill from Martin Hall surrounded by other students heading to lunch, class or back to their dorms. Fifty yards in front of me, a group of African-American students walked together, chatting. A big truck flew past us and the white male students inside shouted degrading, hateful and racist words at the students in front of me. In broad daylight. On a college campus. In 2010.
What shocked me more than the hollers from the truck was the reaction of the students — they were unfazed. They continued walking with little-to-no reaction. I immediately reported the incident to UPD, but I neither had their license plate nor did I see the faces under the baseball caps. Nothing ever came from this moment. I received no follow-up call, and everyone, including the harassed students, appeared to shrug it off move on. But this moment, this glimpse into the racial tensions that still existed on campus 48 years after integration, followed me throughout the next six years of my education at the University of Mississippi. It pushed me to realize my own privilege and work harder to empathize and engage with those around me.
During an interview for the story about the removal of the state flag from our campus earlier this year, I asked professor James Thomas, the University NAACP chapter sponsor, how he feels walking on campus. Then, I explained the tension I feel when I walk on campus: A part of me loves this university, but another part of me fears what will be written about Ole Miss when I see it in the headlines.
Thomas explained exactly how I never knew I felt.
“Ambivalence,” he said. “It’s a really important disposition to have, the way you might be if you feel ambivalent about something. It allows for (you) to have and then maintain a very critical disposition. You are not willing to just have something wholesale whether it is one intensity or the other. You are at a place where you have to figure stuff out — you have conflict and you have to resolve that conflict.”
One could say this yearbook is an experiment in which my staff and I work to resolve this conflict. I feel I’ve developed a unique perspective of experience at the University, with six years and two degrees. I’ve witnessed our football team lose to Jacksonville State and then only five years later beat Alabama. I’ve seen the mascot change (by the way, I love Rebel the Black Bear, if you can’t tell). I’ve seen Colonel Rebel change to Mr. Ole Miss. I’ve seen the first black Homecoming Queen. I’ve seen students arrested for hate crimes. I’ve seen enrollment skyrocket and diversity intensify. I rallied for Dan Jones, cried when he left and turned around to welcome Jeff Vitter. Through this yearbook I wanted to identify the complexity that is Ole Miss while simultaneously creating reconciliation.
After completing the book, I’ve had to concede that conflict still exists on campus and beyond. And as you flip through the pages I hope you feel the tension but also the passion each student possesses for the University.
Through my time at the University, professors like Jeffrey Jackson, Ted Ownby, Charles Wilson, Patrick Alexander, Pat Thompson, Joan Hall, Jodi Skipper, Charles Eagles, Darren Sanefski, Cynthia Joyce, Jay Watson and Jennifer Snook transformed my worldview. Instead of filling my brain with ideas, they gave me the tools and ability to critically think for myself. I learned to read, ask questions, and listen.
I hope this book embodies those qualities. I hope we did our research; I hope we asked good questions; I hope we listened to the University of Mississippi student body as it is today.
Walking on campus, everyone you meet experiences the University in a unique and distinctive way. They each possess their own version of the University of Mississippi. I hope the book represents all of our voices.
Modern Mississippi to me is beating Alabama, again. Modern Mississippi to me is a brand new Pavilion with milkshakes and students cheering on the court. Modern Mississippi to me is gathering in the Grove on game day and drinking party tea (ask anyone from my tent about my famous recipe). Modern Mississippi to me is lifelong friendships formed over classes, community and rallying together over something we love.
We are Modern Mississippi.
We are Ole Miss.
Mallory Simerville Lehenbauer
On October 26, 2015, the University of Mississippi stopped flying the Mississippi state flag.
"50 years from now the University and others around the campus will see this as the moment that we became the University of Mississippi,” said James M. Thomas, assistant professor of sociology and sponsor of the campus NAACP chapter.
The flag came down early in the morning with only a few in attendance, including UPD officers and Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks.
“I am ecstatic that the flag has come down here,” NAACP chapter president Chukwuebuka “Buka” Okoye said to The Daily Mississippian the morning of the flag’s removal.
"It’s something that should have already happened a long time ago. And it's great that we were able to do it this year. Those kind of steps could have been taken in the early 2000’s.”
Not all students on campus approve of its removal. Associated Student Body senator Andrew Soper has publicly called for its return.
“I believe as a Mississippi-funded university, we should fly the state flag of the State of Mississippi,” Soper said to The Daily Mississippian on Oct. 27, 2015. “Ole Miss received over $7,000,000 last year from the state of Mississippi.”
Soper said members of the ASB Senate receive financial aid from the University and state; the Faculty Senate members are paid with state of Mississippi money.
“They should be supporting the state that offers these funds,” Soper said.
The governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant said the school’s decision goes against the people of Mississippi.
“Mississippians overwhelmingly voted in 2001 to adopt the current Mississippi state flag,” Bryant said. “I believe publicly funded institutions should respect the law as it is written today. It clearly states ‘The state flag shall receive all the respect and ceremonious etiquette given the American flag.’ ”
Some on campus, like Coach Hugh Freeze, support the administration's decision.
“It’s the right thing for this University, and hopefully the state will follow suit. (Taking down the flag) represents adequately our core values because this state is so hospitable,” Freeze said. “While (the flag) means a lot of positive things for a lot of people, it also brings up some hurt feelings for some too and I just think it’s time that we all move forward together.”
The current state flag with the Confederate battle emblem in the top left corner was adopted by the Legislature in 1894. In 2001, there was debate over redesigning the flag to remove the emblem. A statewide referendum to remove it was defeated. Following the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina this past June, the debate moved to the forefront once again.
The NAACP and Students Against Social Injustice, or SASI developed a plan during the summer to launch an initiative to have the flag removed from University property.
"We didn't expect in the spring that our activities in the fall would be what they were,” Thomas said.
The NAACP hosted an open forum on Southern heritage in September. After the forum, SASI helped them launch a letter drop campaign. One member of the chapter walked into the Lyceum and dropped a letter explaining their desire to remove the flag. The next week, two members dropped letters. The next week, three members dropped letters. This process continued until administrators called all the chapter members in for a meeting where they voiced their concerns of Confederate iconography on campus.
According to Okoye, the administration seemed adamant that nothing was going to change. The flag would remain.
"Without momentum, those kinds of demands don’t carry very far," Thomas said.
A rally took place on Oct. 16, 2015 and drew a crowd of around 400 students, faculty and community members.
"The rally did two things. One, it sort of put it out there that it was more than five or six students on campus who were frustrated about Confederate iconography,” Thomas said. “Two, while the rally took place, a counter-protest also took place from the KKK in Georgia, which makes standing with the flag seem extremist.”
The rally helped spur an ASB resolution drafted by Okoye and ASB senator Allen Coon. Coon introduced the resolution and ASB held a heated debate for three hours on Oct. 20, 2015.
"One of the real game changers was towards the end, when one of the senators stood up,” Thomas said. This senator had been against taking the flag down, “Then he saw the rally and the KKK showed up. He began listening that night at the debate and he realized that that flag being up there did harm to a certain group of students on campus, so that speech in and of itself was a real game changer."
Including the ASB senators, there were nearly 100 students in Bryant room 209 to watch the debate over the flag’s removal. After reaching capacity, the overflow went to Brevard 134, where a crowd of more than 200 gathered to witness the historic debate on a livestream.
The resolution passed 33-15-1.
The verdict divided the student body. But, Okoye said he experienced the tension both before and after the decision was reached.
"We are at a place where you have to be polarized,” he said. “You either agree with me or you don't."
After ASB passed the resolution, the faculty senate, the law school, the graduate and professional council and the staff council all voted, all almost unanimously, to pass it as well. This put the final decision in the hands of Stocks.
Six days after ASB voted, the flag officially came down.
"I was surprised, knowing the history of this campus, knowing what I know about James Meredith coming to this campus,” Okoye said. “This University and this institution is just known for not being proactive about how it deals with social justice or the morally right thing to do. For me, that's not something I would have seen my freshman year or my sophomore year."
At the 2016 IMAGE awards, the (University of Mississippi) NAACP chapter was awarded the Chairman's Award for its student-led efforts on campus.
"I was trying to find examples of where another NAACP Youth and College division activated itself and then, within 6 months, accomplished something,” Thomas said. “There's no historical precedent for it."
Stocks said in a press conference hours after the flag was taken down, “There was full agreement by the senior leadership team. We were careful in our considerations and our planning.”
“Mississippi and its people are known far and wide for hospitality and a warm and welcoming culture, but our state flag does not communicate those values,” Stocks said. “Our state needs a flag that speaks to who we are. It should represent the wonderful attributes about our state that unite us, not those that still divide us.”
Even in the aftermath, the debate continued. Alumni favoring the flag’s return erected a billboard near Batesville calling for its return. But on campus, the removal of the flag launched further conversations about diversity and inclusion.
"Now I feel more optimistic, I feel empowered to do more,” Okoye said. “We can change our campus. We can speak up and the campus will listen."
Published in The Ole Miss 2016
Cullen Patrick, a junior biology major, admits he came to Ole Miss because his girlfriend came here.
He knew nothing about the school, the culture, or the campus.
“A lot of people drive a nice car, they’re in the expensive fraternity or the expensive sorority, they wear the really nice clothes and I didn’t have the really nice preppy style clothes,” Cullen said. “The first semester, I was wearing cargo shorts and t-shirts and it made me stand out. I just didn’t look wealthy, I guess, and I wasn’t involved in that kind of lifestyle, that luxury to be able to spend money. I think that’s what made it the most difficult.”
To Cullen it felt like money also bought friends, “It was almost like it formed friends, everyone goes out and buys drinks or whatever, something I couldn’t do. My first semester was really rough, It was a lot harder than I thought it would be I kind of struggled making friends and finding my niche.”
When Cullen arrived in Oxford he had a ton of scholarships, but lost some because of his GPA going into his sophomore year. The biggest blow was a ten thousand dollar scholarship. This loss pushed him into taking out several loans and using the remaining scholarships.
“My parents never helped me with the tuition,” he said.
Initially they helped with spending money, but then he slowly started taking over more responsibility.
Cullen wrecked his truck, he said that catapulted his parents to stop supporting him financially. Loans and scholarships pay for Cullen’s tuition, but the rest is solely his responsibility. Cullen takes on multiple jobs, even driving to Memphis twice a week after class to work.
Even though Cullen doesn’t drive a new car or rely on his parents for rent and food, Cullen realizes he has adapted and assimilated into the Ole Miss culture. Not because he suddenly has money, but because he dresses and fits the bill.
“The way I’ve dressed changed my confidence a lot. I never thought about it, but it’s a huge thing,” he said. “I would have never worn tall white nike socks and New Balances, but then it just seemed like what the frat guys wear, so i said ‘hey, I need to get a pair of those shoes.’ It’s just, I didn’t have that sort of clothing going into college.”
Even if the students look the part, Ole Miss seems to lead many universities in offering financial aid with 83% of students receiving financial aid, the annual cost to attend Ole Miss is $34,752. The average Grant Aid Received (FT/First-Time) is $6,543. In 2013 Ole Miss was selected for the Top 20 of Forbes’ “Best Buy Colleges.” This list includes 650 colleges and universities and ranked Ole Miss number 20.
Tuition and housing are covered the first semester for most students, but Ole Miss students only live on campus their first year. Moving off campus offers multiple options in luxury student housing and offers less aid than tuition.
The most expensive apartment is SOLO, an apartment for a single person living off the square. A month of rent there costs $1,350 per month, while living with other students can cost around $700 a person, if you live in luxury housing such as The Domain or The Retreat. At Aspen Heights (luxury student apartments) in Starkville, Mississippi the cost for a shared apartment is around $500 a month.
In a Cost of Living comparison (based on national average) between Oxford, Mississippi and Clemson, South Carolina shows Clemson is merely 2% cheaper than Oxford. Clemson and The University of Mississippi reflect similar towns and campuses. Clemson’s enrollment in 2014 was 21,857 students, while Ole Miss’s enrollment was 20,112 students. The size of the towns and the universities are easily comparable. The major statistic that differentiates the two towns is their cost of housing. Housing is 20% cheaper in Clemson than in Oxford.
Jackson, Mississippi is a much bigger city than Oxford, with a population of 172,638, while Oxford has a population of 20,865; housing in Jackson is 51% cheaper. Tuscaloosa, where the University of Alabama resides, housing is 30% cheaper than Oxford. In Starkville, Mississippi the cost of living is 20% cheaper than Oxford, while otherwise the town itself is only 7% cheaper.
Cullen says he feels the pain of an expensive rent. He says his friends and roommates that don’t pay their own expenses ”don’t understand what it’s like to have to pay for things on your own.” Which he said can be very frustrating.
“I worked my butt off in the summer, just to be able to pay for food and girlfriend expenses for the semester,” he said. “I am just living sort of a minimalist lifestyle. I don’t shop for clothes and I just make do with what I have now.”
This minimalist lifestyle seems to differ from the student body as a whole. Cullen said he knows plenty of students with an immense allowance, and that it makes him angry. He often has to say no to friends that want to eat out or drink on the Square, but he feels the “rich kid” stereotype is unfair.
“My views of the school in general have changed, because I found my place. I acquired the sense of style in the last three years. I casually changed the way I dressed.”
Ole Miss students are notorious for their look, winning best-dressed tailgaters in the SEC often. But most students feel that this stereotype is not completely true. All students aren’t necessarily wealthy, they just appear that way.
“Their parents send them here, and it cost a lot more money to come from out of state, and I don’t think people really appreciate it,” she said.
Galen Phillips registered and became a student at Ole Miss after graduating high school, but after a year transferred to Delta State University.
“It was very fast-paced, it was never calm, it was just really stressful,” she said about the University. “A bunch of people that went there already knew a bunch of people and I never really found my place.”
She said the way students dress and act is “expected, because it’s always been like that. [Ole Miss] was very high end, you felt like you had to have the designer stuff. They kinda all look the same and have the same style, in their clothes and the way they act.”
When asked how the typical Ole Miss girl looks she responded with a specific outfit: The Ole Miss girl has curled hair, pretty skin (chuckles), blue jeans with booties, a dressy shirt and a fur vest, Definitely a Tory Burch or Kelly Lin purse.
“No matter what college you go to, you’re definitely going to run into that group of 18–22 year olds who have never paid for anything and you will also run into the other side,” Cullen said. “The thing with Ole Miss is that those wealthier kids get the majority of the spotlight.”
Other students automatically adjust to the culture and the ideal dress. Hayden Hudson graduated from Oxford High School and is now a freshman. She remembers the culture shift from high school to living on the university campus.
“I think Oxford is a boutique town, because it has all the small town feel, but also people try to keep up with the latest trends,” she said.
Hayden said she feels that the culture is not necessarily expensive, but requires you to be ahead of the game, to be in on what to wear and how to act.
“Its hard to be an individual,” she said. “Once I sat down and started to get involved in activities, I was a lot happier. I am not just being somebody in the crowd. I was around all the same kind of people, same demographic, same upbringing, that made me really comfortable, but at the same time uncomfortable. It wasn’t interesting.”
Cullen admits to this same tension, but feels that it’s no different than other campuses.
“Compared to other universities, we are just as balanced and have equal percentages as as everyone else, but it’s not the image outsiders see, they only see the rich snobby kids, which we have plenty of don’t get me wrong.”
Find the story here.
In May, my Dad, stepmother and grandparents flew in from Orlando and watched me walk across the stage at the Tad Pad.
They walked in when the announcer got to the Ls and disappeared as soon as they said “Mallory Simerville” and snapped a picture of me walking across the stage. As soon as I sat down from receiving my fake diploma (still haven’t gotten that real one in the mail) they sat in traffic for an hour trying to get to the Square and finally met me at home for a celebration over BBQ and cake.
At this point, I was set to work at a coffee shop for a year until my fiancé finished with graduate school.
As I write this from the beach in Destin, I’ll be attending graduate school in the fall, and we will be living in Oxford as post grads for another two years.
With my own future and career choices changing post graduation, the idea of such a shaky future combined with watching my friends struggle with moving past undergrad has become exciting and scary. I graduated with a wide variety of friends — and with that I’ve decided to categorize Ole Miss post grads. This is what I’ve found (to my friends, you know where you fall):
The Go-Getter – You know them, they’ve been searching for jobs since freshmen year, they’ve always had a LinkedIn account and they landed a job before they even graduated. By the time I’m 30, they’ll have invented something, won an election and/or be making more money than I can imagine.
The Married/Getting Married Grad - The Mrs. Degree is a real thing. Getting hitched can be all-consuming — but we all know that bride who has planned every aspect of her wedding and that groom who popped the question without realizing the monster he’s created.
The Seed Planter - This grad is planting their seeds all over the career map, they just haven’t figured out which ones to water yet. Although your 20s are about not knowing what you want, the seed planter takes this to a new level. They aren’t quite sure when or where they’ll move away from Oxford — and they definitely don’t know what kind of job they want. Their least favorite question at the bar, “So … what are you doing after this summer?”
The Hangout - Not quite ready to make a move, this grad either hangs out at home or hangs out in town — they have no interest in a career or a marriage, they just love being an undergrad or love eating out of mom’s fridge. Either way, they are the super fun to hang out with people who will always be around when you need them!
**Another version of the Hangout chooses to hang out all over the world. They take odd jobs in China or Iceland. Sometimes they just buy a ticket to Germany and you receive odd snapchats from them while they frolic through Europe.
The Procrastinator - Graduated from undergrad … and back on campus for grad school. Living near campus and spending weekends in the Grove. Not quite ready to graduate, and not ready to just hang out. This grad keeps living the dream walking on to campus every day.
The Lackey - This is the perfect not-quite-ready-to-grow-up, but I-need-a-real-job choice for any grad. The transition is easy, and the job is guaranteed: Work for mom and dad! Home you go, with all your high school friends and the joys of dinner on Sundays with your family!
Obviously, I know all of these categorizations aren’t true while and I claim three of them. I’m getting married, a multiple career searcher and the procrastinator of real life. And when I started as a freshman I didn’t want an Mrs. degree, or to procrastinate real life. Here, I am! Writing a column for The DM, working as a barista, moving into a new house in Oxford and preparing for a wedding at the Lyric. Hotty Toddy?
Published in The Daily Mississippian on June 26, 2014.
Food brings people to the table, it brings people to Mississippi, and this weekend it brings them to Oxford.
This weekend Oxford and the University of Mississippi will host the 17th annual Southern Foodways Symposium, titled “Who is Welcome at the Welcome Table?”
“We stage a symposium that’s really academically grounded, journalistically sound and playful at the same time. Our belief is that you can do all three,” Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge said.
The event sold out within three minutes, creating a hype for a progressive event in a broken place, once damaged by racial segregation and oppression.
Although the title and lists of chefs and restaurants may convince participants the focus is food, Edge said otherwise.
“We employ a humanities approach using food as a way to explore race, class, identity, ethnicity and sexuality,” he said. “All of those issues that the humanities confronts, we do, and we choose food as our pathway in.”
This year the symposium focuses on the 50th anniversary of restaurant desegregation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the past, the symposium has focused on specific regions of the South, the South in black and white and last year, women as entrepreneurs in a modern South.
“The symposium is the best expression of what the SFA intends to do and has been doing for 17 years, which is use food as a portal to get in big stuff; use food to challenge people to think about the region, identity and what role they will play in this region’s future,” Edge said.
The focus is to reflect on restaurant desegregation and then analyze what it means for modern times.
The table seems to have grown since 1964 to a variety of Southerners and even some non-Southerners. This list includes gay cooks, black cooks, white cooks, female cooks and cooks of all social classes.
The main focus of the speakers is to expand on the ideas of a changed South.
The invocation begins with national correspondent for The Atlantic Ta-Nehisi Coates discussing the concept of culinary reparations.
“To me, Coates is a really intellectually engaged American thinker,” Edge said. “I think the most exciting thing for me is to look at his trajectory of his writings and publishings and think ‘why hadn’t he been here already?’”
Coates wrote “The Case for Reparations,” which addresses many of the ideas and struggles faced by the South. He focuses on the past, celebrating some events and learning from others but not having the power to choose to forget any part of our nation’s history. Coates is one of the most in demand speakers right now, especially after being named the most influential modern African-American by The Root.
“I don’t really consider myself an activist, so much as I think of myself as a writer,” Coates said. “I was very honored by the award from The Root. I like to think I got it by just putting my head down and pursuing my work with all the energy I can muster.”
Edge said he wasn’t sure he would be able to access Coates, let alone get him to agree to speak.
He sent Coates an email explaining, “This is a university struggling with issues of racism, a university struggling with a peculiar and troubling history and at the same time, a university with a really bright future – this is the place you want to be to talk about the issues you care about.”
Edge said Coates emailed back within 15 minutes and said he would love to attend and speak.
“What Coates does so well is help you recognize that the back story, that not many of us take time to ponder, reveals these ugly truths about our past and compels us to take responsibility for a better future – that to me is at the core of what I want for our region,” Edge said.
Coates, along with his work as a national correspondent for The Atlantic, isthe author of the memoir “The Beautiful Struggle.” His works focus on culture, politics and social issues, specifically issues dealing with race relations.
“He’s doing a really great job of excavating American history and Southern history and framing it in a way to make it relevant in the present day, helping us understand the burdens of racism and the burdens of slavery and how they continue to resonate today and that’s, to me, a message that will find great purchase here,” Edge said.
Along with Coates, Clay Risen will speak on The Bill of the Century, followed by Marcie Cohen Ferris, who will speak on The Hungry South. All three will hone in on the Welcome table and who’s in it: food brings people to the table, and questions of race and history keep people there. At the table this weekend, discussions will be centered around food as a biracial Southern idea.
“Food is the way people represent themselves, offers you a way to think about all those big issues,” Edge said. “Food is the enticement. Food is the hook. But what we really want to do is tell you nuanced and complicated and challenging stories about this region, that compel you to look anew at your place. And understand your role in it and perhaps take a more progressive role in it.”
SFA leads a charge to create a South with a much larger welcome table than its past reflects. With that, many questions of the past and how it affects us today will be asked, working to guide an open discussion on who’s truly welcome at the welcome table.
“To study this place and by revealing truths about this place, and by revealing interdependencies in this region. we work towards a better region,” Edge said.
And of course, plenty of mouths will be fed.
“Looking forward to a good dinner on Friday,” Coates said.
Daily Mississippian Opinion Editor Sierra Mannie will introduce Coates at the event.
Originally published in The Daily Mississippian on October 24, 2014
Everyone wants to be friends with Erin Abbott. Her style and love for art add a unique flavor as an Oxonian. As one who resides in Water Valley, but frequents the 38655, Abbott has made an artistic, creative influence on both towns and woven herself within the locals.
Most easily recognized for her unique shop attached to the Lyric, Amelia, Abbott has lead an interesting and whimsical life in and outside Mississippi. Raised in the home of an Oxford writer, Abbott considered authors Willie Morris, Richard Ford, Barry Hannah, Eudora Welty and Shelby Foote to simply be close family friends. Not until college when Richard Ford won a Pulitzer and a PEN Faulkner Award did she realize their worldly popularity.
“All these people that were iconic to our state were just my mom’s friends,” Abbott said. “It was really very neat growing up around people clearly were defining the literary world.”
Abbott moved away in the mid eighties only to return to the Water Valley Oxford area in 2005, and in 2009 to open the shop Amelia.
“I knew that I wanted to one day eventually open up a little shop. I wanted to open up a shop like the one I was always searching for. And it didn’t exist in Oxford,” Abbott said.
Abbott spent time after college working as a traveling nanny for bands and celebrities like Nascar driver Jeff Gordon.
“I went on all their family vacations. We went to Mexico twice and then we did a ten day yachting trip through the South of France. We took a private plane from New York to France, which was pretty spectacular, something I will never experience again in my life.”
As she traveled from town to town, she would search for a shop that had unique items, items you probably couldn’t find anywhere else in the world. And when she returned to Oxford she opened one of her own, Amelia.
“It kind of all fell into place perfectly,” she said. ”The owner of the lyric and I had known each other since preschool and we both moved away from Oxford at the same time and both moved back at the same time. This little 187 sq feet of space was just sitting here as his storage room, and I asked him if I could open up a shop.”
Abbott lived in Oxford until she reached the fourth grade, remembering the town as a very magical place.
“I am glad it necessarily wasn’t so busy when I was kid, though,” she said in regards to the hype and population boom Oxford experienced in the last couple years.
“Growing up here, I love the small town mentality, but Oxford definitely offers as much as a larger city. There’s always things going on. I like being able to walk to the same coffee shop and know people there and I like being able to support local businesses. I just like that mentality as opposed to the big hustle and bustle of a big city.”
Although Abbott, her husband, former Colour Revolt member Sean Kirkpatrick and their son, Tom Otis, live in Water Valley, they consider both Oxford and Water Valley home.
“When I was a kid there was like four or five restaurants [in Oxford]. Summers felt like they were 6 months long. As an adult, I don’t know if I would have had the same mindset.”
Abbott says she believes Oxford and Water Valley work together to create an atmosphere for the art and music world of North Mississippi.
“Water Valley definitely reminds me of what Oxford was like when we left in 1985. Everything is on main street, and its very quaint, kids still playing the front yard. The post office is on Main Street. You don’t really have to drive anywhere you need to be,” Abbott said.
Tom Otis, born in 2012 can be found all over Abbott’s blog ‘My Mornings with Tom Otis” as she takes him on many adventures and experiences. One of Abbott’s most fond memories was Oxford on the Fourth of July at Avent Park pre-playground with fireworks and friends. The three still enjoy Avent Park along with the occasional trip to Square Books Junior to read next to the giant Curious George.
Although Oxford has grown immensely, Water Valley has maintained the appeal of a small town, the same appeal Abbott said she experienced as a child, playing in the woods and riding her bike in the front yard, an experience she wishes Tom Otis to have.
Abbott considers herself somewhat of an idea generator, as a photographer, music lover and creator, she works to show off many of the artists around her, from founding the Motel Art Show at the Ole Miss Motel and continuing it from its start in 2009 to helping locals to create an art show in an alley.
“If I don’t come up with a new idea every day, I kind of beat myself up,” Abbott said.
Originally Published in The Daily Mississippian on January 23, 2014