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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

Slingshot: Civil Rights Hero Joseph Jackson Jr. to Receive Honorary Doctorate

Joseph Jackson Jr. walked into the whites-only municipal library in Jackson, Mississippi on March 27, 1961. The young Tougaloo College student arrived with eight fellow classmates, all of whom were members of the local NAACP Youth Council.

The Tougaloo Nine, as they've become known by history, had a simple mission in mind, to ask for books that didn't sit on the shelves of the segregated library for Blacks in Jackson and to challenge Jim Crow by staging a sit-in when refused.

Jackson, president of the youth council, petitioned a librarian for a philosophy book. When told to go to the "colored" library, he picked any old book off the shelf, sat down and started reading. The others did the same. Police arrived and hauled the civil rights activists off to jail.

The act of civil disobedience came on the eve of the Civil War Centennial in the state. The Delta Democrat-Times reported that policemen stood guard at the library for fifteen minutes after the activists were arrested. A white library assistant offered the newspaper the following quote.

"You cannot check out a book without a card. To get a card you must live in Jackson, work in Jackson or go to school in Jackson. Tougaloo is not in Jackson."

You also had to be white.

Sixty years after the Tougaloo Nine's courageous act, the historic event is enjoying a bit of a renaissance and Jackson is taking it all in from Orange County where he first moved to in 1968.

"The Tougaloo Nine had no other choice but to attempt to break down the laws of Jim Crow," Jackson tells the Slingshot. "Sixty years later, it's a proud moment for me because we, as Black people, are still in the struggle to secure our civil rights."

In addition to articles and news segments that have revisited the history, a book focused on the act of civil disobedience guided by the late Medgar Evers is nearing completion. Jeff McKinney of Early Riser Films also released a trailer for a documentary on the Tougaloo Nine, with Jackson's booming voice singing "We Shall Overcome."

And earlier this month, Jackson received news of the latest commemoration of the Tougaloo Nine's contribution to the civil rights movement, the presentation of Honorary Doctor of Human Letters degrees from Tougaloo College to the activists.

The official announcement for Jackson came by way of an April 10 letter from Tougaloo College president Dr. Carmen J. Walters.

"The honorary doctorate is the highest form of recognition offered by Tougaloo College to extraordinary and distinguished individuals who exemplify the College's mission, vision, aspirations, and institutional values," wrote Walters. "Your acceptance of this degree is especially meaningful as your honorary doctorate is among the first to be awarded since my inauguration as President of Tougaloo College."

After leaving Tougaloo College, Jackson finished his sociology degree at Cal State Fullerton. He recently turned 84 years old.

"To receive a doctorate from Tougaloo College is an honor that I will always be proud of," says Jackson. "I'm honored, proud and just grateful."

Papa Joe, as he is affectionately known by family and friends, will become Dr. Joseph Jackson Jr. during Tougaloo College's commencement ceremonies on May 2 at the Jackson Convention Center!

- Gabriel San Román

This independent newsletter in OC depends on readers like YOU! To keep the Slingshot! flinging the truth Venmo: @Gabriel-SanRoman-2. PayPal: @gabrielsanroman2

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Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina

Mouse Muckraker

When I begin traveling again, I'll have another reason to return to El Paso.

A neighborhood by Ascarate Park is now the proud home of a Coco-inspired mural! Graffiti artists Paul Rodriguez and Ruben Mariscal teamed for the project profiled in the El Paso Times.

The 125-foot mural is beautifully split between the world of the living and the dead with the film's characters animating both sides. Rodriguez was inspired to turn the backside of Torres Auto Service into the colorful tribute in memory of his abuela who lived to be 102! In return, the business owner only asked for a free logo design.

Now, that's bartering!

Seven artists collaborated to put the finishing touches on the mural within a month. Now that it's all complete, people are stopping by to take in the art. "We wanted to get a full recap of the movie itself," Mariscal told the Times. "It's like acting: You want to get into your role. As artists, we want to prepare and have everything in mind."

The best depiction in the mural comes courtesy of Miguel's abuelita Elena. She's shown with a menacing chancla in hand. Of course, it would've been a less funny spoon in the film if not for the input of cartoonista Lalo Alcaraz!

Travel tip: after checking out the Coco mural in Chuco, head over to Chico's!

Naranja Notes

On Wednesday afternoon, I have the privilege of being in conversation with Andrew Tonkovich, the author of Keeping Tahoe Blue and Other Provocations. Tonkovich hosted Bibliocracy for many years on KPFK-LA 90.7 FM and was a long-standing contributing writer to the late OC Weekly. We will be talking about his collection of short stories (and a novella), writing in OC and other provocative topics, I'm sure.

The talk is part of UC Irvine's Illuminations series and you can register online!

Lead photo: Interviewing Jackson in 2015 / Photo by Gabriel San Roman

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