Its homecoming time at high schools across the country. It has been a tradition in high schools and colleges since 1911,when the University of Missouri held the first one that was put together around a football game. It was originally an event where alumni were encouraged to attend. Two homecomings predate the University of Missouri event but were not put together around a football game. Southwestern University and Baylor held homecomings(without the football)in 1909.
It is unknown where the first high school homecoming actually took place, but it is firmly entrenched as tradition in all our high schools now. Parades were added to the festivities early on. The homecoming court with king and queen, was added sometime in the 1930's. Since then we have seen tailgating added as well as "dress up days" and dances.
Its one of the highlights of the school year for students, faculty and parents now. I look forward to it each year myself. Tonight I will be involved in Homecoming at Noxapater Attendance Center. I am looking forward to it!
We have been involved in several social issues over the years, but the one that just won't go away in Mississippi, is poverty. The statistics, are, well downright sad. Below are some numbers:
22% of households in Ms live below the poverty level that an income of 24,500 for a family of four. In my home county of Attala, its well over 30%
31% of children in this state live below the poverty level In my home county of Attala it runs closer to 40%
23.5% of working age women in Mississippi live below the poverty level
18% of working age men in Mississippi live below the poverty level
More disturbing numbers are these
20% of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are not in school or working
In 2015 only 77.6% graduated from highschool on time
For every dollar a man earns in our state women only make about 75 cents
21% deal with hunger and food insecurities
And this crazy number....only 14.7 percent of the unemployed in our state are helped by unemployment insurance
One issue we have worked on for quite some time is homelessness. The homeless population in Mississippi is somewhere around 3000. That is 3000 people on the street or in shelters. Most are on the coast and in the Jackson metro area. In Jackson, drive down the Farish/Mill Street areas along the railroad tracks. Or look across the street from the governor's mansion at Smith Park and you will see a dozen or more. That to me is striking. The opulance of the governor's mansion, then right across the street a dozen homeless.
People are not poor because they want to be. That guy standing on Lakeland Drive near St. Dominics with a sign up asking for food or money is not there because he wants to be.
Poverty is a complex issue that will not be solved any time soon in our state.
Community is something we don't think enough about these days. When I say community, I am referring to the groups of like minded people we associate with as we go through this life. With me, I associate with several "communities".......one being people involved with high school sports. Coaches, student/athletes, the parents, teachers and administration would fall into this community. Another would be photographers. I associate with a community of photographers, that engage in just about every aspect of photography even though 99% of what I do is strictly sports photography. Another community I am involved with would be made up of political activists and people engaged in social issues of these days. If you wanted to label me I would be a progressive.
In my sports community, I support it by taking photos at sporting events to go with the column in the newspaper about the event. I also write myself, in this blog, or share things on recruiting sites, or on areas on scout.com. I also, give the digital images away free to any parent or student/athlete.
The sports community, in turn, has so many times, given me work, other than the newspaper work. I have always appreciated this. The most important thing I have gotten though, has been the friendships and relationships that I have developed. I never tire of this and it has never seemed like work when I am out on the field.
With the community of photographers, for the most part, most of us support one another in several ways. Many times I have loaned camera bodies, lenses, reflectors, and strobes to other photographers. We share technical information with one another and we also give one another work as second shooters, or we fill in for one another for one reason or another. Just last night, I had to have someone fill in for me.
In the community of political and social activists, I have met so many good people. We have worked together in several different ways, from working with school districts with issues, to issues with the homeless and poor, to issues with legislation we did not agree with, mainly due to it adversely affecting one segment of society or another. I have documented several protests and marches and we have been successful in implementing change at times, other times we have failed miserably, but we continue on with the fight anyway. What have I received from this? Blessings, lessons, and satisfaction. We MUST help those that are not as fortunate as us. The poor and disadvantaged are not poor and disadvantaged because they want to be. God will bless us for this..God has and will continue to do so.
Another thing that comes to mind when I think community, is that we must begin again, support locally owned businesses, artisans and craftsman. Lets keep our money local as much as possible. Times are changing rapidly, times are hard for many. Many are struggling. Lets understand which communities we belong to, and support them..
I got into sports photography in an odd way. When Austin Bishop became sports editor in Kosciusko for the Star Herald, he looked on Scout.com for local people that were following the Kosciusko football team closely. Through that I met him for lunch one day and over the following weeks got to know him. At the time, I was photographing, of all things, pro "rasslin", for some friends of mine who owned a "rasslin" promotion. I had talked to Austin about doing a story on the promotion, because some of the workers, were former college football players. I did the photos for the story, and he said if you can shoot that you can shoot football, so I began shooting sports for him and the Star Herald. So, that is how that got started.
Austin left the Star Herald after a few years, and became a consultant, and I eventually, along with several others started, taking assignments that he would offer to us each week. I currently shoot a lot for the Neshoba Democrat, then some for the Kemper Messenger, the Choctaw Plaindealer, The Winston County Journal, and occasionally for other papers as well. Schools I currently shoot at are Noxapater, Louisville, French Camp, Ackerman, Kemper County, Choctaw Central, Nanih Waiya, Leake Academy, Union , Philadelphia, Neshoba Central and Winston Academy. I have shot all the high school sports, and occasional other assignments such as triathlons, and Stickball on the Choctaw Indian Reservation.
I currently work with Canon camera bodies, but I also occasionally use Nikon. At any game I will be holding in my hand a minimum of 3 thousand dollars worth of equipment. I use a Hewlett Packard Envy laptop and editing is normally done with Photoshop, Lightroom, and Topaz editing software.
Currently, I generally work Tuesday nights, Thursday nights, Friday night and some Saturdays when needed. Sports is what I do most, but I have also do some photojournalism work, as well as worked on some social issue projects. Some of my social issue work, has been in Huffington Post as well as picked up by MSNBC and various newspapers.
My favorite part of it all, though, is meeting people, building relationships, and watching student athletes develop into young men and women. Recently, I ran into a young man I had photographed from ninth grade through high school graduation, after which he went on to play football at Ole Miss. He came up, shook my hand, and introduced me to his wife, and told her, this is the man that took all those pictures of me.....That made my day.....
Last night's assignment was to cover the Kemper County/NW Lauderdale football game, the first of the season for me. Going into the game, I was certain of a Kemper County win. They ARE the defending Class 3A football champions and did win 15 games last year, with the only loss to 4A powerhouse, Louisville. The only game I saw them play last year was a 72 to 6 blowout of their opponent.
At the end of the half, they led 34 to 6. For sure, I was certain of a KC win, and almost left but didn't. As happens in football a lot, an untimely turnover by Kemper County turned into a score for NE Lauderdale. Then another turnover that turned into points for the home team. Now they were back in the game 34 to 20 and smelling blood.
They scored twice more, with the Wildcats not able to do anything offensively. NE Lauderdale's final touchdown put the score at 34 to 33 and instead of going for the tie, as I suspected they would, the coach opted to go for the two point conversion for the win and they executed perfectly and then led the game.
2:44 is a lot of time for a quick scoring team like KC, and with a long run and a long pass completion they got into the red zone with less than a minute to go. Lauderdale them held them on four downs but a defensive penalty(celebration) on fourth down gave the Wildcats another chance from the two yard line and NEL held them for an unbelievable come from behind win. A much needed win for this program I might add.
As I walked back to the car, for the 105 mile ride back home, I was thinking about football, and sports in general and the lessons in adversity that come with sports, and a quote by golf great Sam Snead came to mind:
The mark of a great player is in his ability to come back. The great champions have all come back from defeat.