Right now we’re sitting on a comfortable sofa at Holliday Inn in northern Jackson, Mississippi! After having spent three gorgeous day in this southern state, we’re ready to move on to the biggest state in the US – Texas.
It wasn’t even dawn when we woke up four days ago in Washington DC. We took of towards Missippippi at 4 am, and Golnaz drove the first four hours until breakfast in Lexington, West Virginia. Although none of us was hungry (except Fritiof), we ate a typical American breakfast – blueberry pancakes with syrup and scrambled eggs with bacon.
Alex was next. He drove for eight hours while the others were sleeping. When we entered the state of Mississippi there were cornfields and cotton fields almost everywhere. Fritiof, Jamila and Golnaz, who had awoken after more than six hours of sleeping, were amazed by the countryside. They fell asleep somewhere in southern Virginia, and for them there was a huge difference between the countryside in Mississippi and Virginia!
When we finally arrived to the capital of the state, Jackson, we weren’t surprised at all by the donut stands and junk food we saw almost everywhere. There were plenty of junk food corners and almost in every corner there were hotdog and donut stands. The reality in Mississippi was consistent with the picture in our heads – a majority of obese people.
We had been driving for more than sixteen hours that day, so we didn’t have any plans of visiting downtown. After checking in at Holliday Inn, we had a delicious supper in the Hotel. We were talking about the demographics of the city. Golnaz mentioned that she saw more black people than white people. The rest of us agreed. And she was right. The receptionist explained that more than sixty percent of the inhabitants in Jackson are African-Americans.
The very next day we ate our breakfast pretty quickly. Our plan that day was quite odd. Since we had heard that Jackson has a majority of African-American we started to think about the slavery in US. The slavery took place mostly in the southern states of America, including Mississippi. We wanted to know more about it. Unfortunately there wasn’t any museum of that in Jackson. Instead we thought about visiting a normal African-American family somewhere in the city. But how were we going to visit a family? We couldn’t randomly just ask a family in downtown if we could visit their home… That would be veeeeeery embarrassing…
Anyway, after the breakfast we took the bus to downtown Jackson. Thank God, that day was lovely! The sun was shining and the temperature was around twenty-five degrees celsius! Along the well-known North West Street we saw famous landmarks, such as the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion. The architecture of the older buildings was amazing! Especially the State Capitol, which was very similar to United States Capitol in Washington D.C. From nowhere a woman voice shrieked:
“Stop him! Stop the thief!!”
A middle-aged man was rushing towards us with a purse. We had to act quickly. Jamila and Alex hit him in the face simultaneously! The man fell on the pavement. And then the women who screamed came to us.
“God bless you, kids! Thank you so much! I had more than sixhundred dollars in my wallet. Here, take hundred dollars!”
“Thanks ma’am, but we can’t accept the money”, said Fritiof.
“But how can I thank you? I’ll do anything!” said the woman.
All of us were looking at each other. We were thinking exactly about the same thing. This woman was African-American, and her husband was behind here along with their children. After a couple of seconds Fritiof said:
“Ehm… We come from Sweden and we’re having a road trip here in the US. In every state we’re finding information and exploring the culture. And know we’ve ended up here in Mississippi. So we want to see how a typical African-American family is like, and how it’s like being African-American nowadays…”
The woman answered immediately.
“That sound’s lovely! Do you want to come to our place and join us for dinner later?”
“Well, we don’t want to bother you…”
“Don’t say that”, said the woman. “We’re living at 159 Pittsburg Street! Come over to our house around seven o’clock, if it’s okay?”
“Absolutely!” we said at the same time. “Thank you so much!”
We took their phone number, and happily continued to walk in downtown Jackson.
Around 6.45 pm we took a taxi to Pittsburg Street. The trip took only ten minutes and it costed twelve dollars. We thanked the taxi driver and stepped out of the cab. The house of the Pfeiffer family was like we expected it would be – a bungalow with a small garden and a car parked at the street.
The woman, whose purse was taken by the thief earlier in the day, Sheniqua, opened the door and welcomed us into their home. Her husband, Jamal, was pleased to see us. Their children, Michael and Sheryl, was playing football outside in the garden. Firstly, we told them about the other states we had visited in the living room. They were very impressed and listened curiously. After the conversation it was time for food. Sheniqua said that she had cooked a typical African-American dinner.
The meal consisted of fried chicken, candied yams, beans, macaroni and cheese and – a pretty well-known southern bread – cornbread. We enjoyed every bite! After the delicious dinner we sat at the sofas in living room and talked about the African-American culture. Sheniqua said that there’s a big difference between black people in the southern and in the northern parts of the country. In New York for instance, the concentration of blacks is mostly the same in every neighborhood. Therefore it doesn’t occur any prejudice. Unfortunately it isn’t like that in Mississippi. Sheniqua explained that there are mostly black people living at Pittsburg street. On the other side of the city there are almost only white people. She thinks that this is really bad. This occurs prejudice… But one day she hopes that there won’t be any prejudices at all in America.
Later that evening Jamila asked about the slavery in the US. Jamal knew everything about it. His grandmother had told him real stories about his great-grandmother. She was a slave in southern Mississippi and the black people didn’t have any rights at all. They were threatened like if they weren’t human beings. In 1865, slavery was forbidden in the country. But the black people hadn’t the same right in the societe as the whites for ages…
We didn’t want to talk too much about depressing things, though it was very interesting to listen. Thankfully, Sheniqua was a humorous person. After having had a few laughs with the Pfeiffers, we decided to go back to the hotel. We thanked them a lot, and gave them our phone numbers as well. We’re surely going to stay in touch!