Choctaw Baseball Finds its Groove Amid Fielding Position Changes / Caroline Hunt

Cooper Gadman No. 18 gingerly walked onto the mound at Frierson Field mid-sixth inning on a Tuesday night game when the Choctaws faced William Carey in a baseball matchup. With bases loaded, Gadman took the reins from Clark Presley, who had been the third pitcher subbed for the Choctaws that night. 

Stuck between a rock-and-a-hard-place, with the Choctaws leading only by a few and the scoring gap slowly closing, Gadman pitched himself out of a hole. He sealed the sixth inning with only a few hiccups in which the William Carey Raiders scored two runs. With the score 9-6 Choctaws leading, Gadman was able to aid his team to a much-needed midweek victory. 

“When I came up there, Coach Cargill [assistant coach and MC pitching specialist] just said that we’ve got a five-run lead, to just get the outs, get us back in there, limit the damage; that I’m not trying to strike out three guys in a row, but let them [the Raiders] put it in play, and let the defense work,” said Gadman, the Brandon, Miss. native. 

Gadman received the save for the night, becoming the anchor that sailed MC through to the final score of 11-6, never letting the Raiders see another point on the board after the inning Gadman stepped on the mound. Gadman hasn’t seen much playing time this year as an up-and-coming sophomore with this William Carey game being his seventh appearance all season. Yet, head coach Jeremy Haworth is optimistic about this player’s future performance. 

“Gadman has been a good bridge guy for us. When he goes in, we know the lead is safe. We just need other guys to step up like Cooper. He is valuable and confident in that role for us. You don’t really wanna change something when it’s working,” said Haworth, who is in his sixth season with the Choctaws. “We don’t need him to fall on the sword just because we want him to do something bigger. He’s young. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s doing a great job.”

Recently, the Choctaws have been experiencing some turbulence in starting position changes in vital areas of the field like on the mound and also behind the plate. Over the weekend in a 1-3 series against Valdosta State, the Choctaws utilized Caleb Reese, who has played primarily first base this season. This is the result of some inconsistencies at the plate for some season starters who are also battling injuries. 

Reese was given the catcher’s gear and continued his stint behind the plate on Tuesday night, only being relieved toward the end of the winning game. Matthew Priest took over soon after. Reese is only one of many season starters combating injuries, his being an injury to his foot. While not ideal for a catcher to have a bum foot, Haworth is making do with the resources at his disposal. 

“It’s a tough situation right now. We’re having to ask Caleb to come in and do something he hasn’t done in three years and he’s getting beat up because of it. Priest is the one who is healed up, while Derrek [Lathon] has an elbow issue,” Haworth said. “We’ve been a fragile team all year. So, we’re just gonna have to try to stay healthy and compete with what we’ve got.”

The Choctaws saw two big-hitting gains this game with two of their own slugging two home runs over the WC Raiders. Tristan Tigrett slapped one to left field in the fourth inning allowing two RBIs and Cody Crifasi homered in the sixth inning with a big jump of two RBIs as well. 

Tigrett, who also had three hits, including a double, attributed the Choctaw win to knowing the basics of baseball and relying on well-rounded training to see the victory through. 

“William Carey was a really good team, and we knew that coming in. Just trying to play our best and do the little things right, like hitting the ball well, managed to get us a win,” said Tigrett, an infielder and Hinds CC transfer. “Baseball is a tough game if you’re struggling. If you’re harping on that, you will never get better. You have to let it go, go to the next thing, and try to do better.” 

Crifasi’s home run signaled a lead in the score that sealed the game as early as the sixth inning ball went out of the Frierson right-field fence. 

“What that [an 11-6 lead] says to an opposing team is that they can’t catch up. So, it’s psychological warfare out there. Our offense did a good job of keeping on grinding it out, and then Cooper comes in and just slams the door.” 

The Choctaws will face the University of Alabama Huntsville in a weekend series starting April 1 at 6 p.m. at UAH. The upcoming weekend face-off will mark the middle of the Choctaw’s season in conference play and determine what the Choctaw ranking will be as the GSC National tournament is slated for May 6-10, 2022.

MC Athletic Directors Attend Landmark NCAA Convention / Charles Williams

The past months have been some of the most eventful in NCAA history, as multiple big changes have changed the landscape of college sports across all levels. Due to these changes, the NCAA deemed it necessary to make changes to its constitution to keep up. On Jan. 20, the new constitution was passed, instituting changes that would affect every athletic program, including MC.  

“This year, in particular, was a special year,” said MC Associate Athletic Director of Compliance and Senior Woman Administrator Susan Musselwhite, in reference to the changes being made to the constitution. “Sometimes you could get a feel that it wasn’t necessarily student-friendly,” she went on to say about the old constitution, before praising the fact that the new constitution was opening the door for student-athletes to profit off of their own likeness. 

Athletic Director Kenny Bizot echoed this sentiment, saying that he enjoyed his first conference and liked how the whole conference seemed “geared toward the student-athlete and making sure we’re protecting the student-athlete.”  

Much of the new legislation in the revised constitution is centered around the NIL legislation that came out this summer, allowing college athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness for the first time. This means college athletes across all levels are now able to sign endorsement deals, something that has already greatly affected college athletics.  

However, since this change mostly relates to the marketability of the athlete, the changes relative to the new NIL legislation will affect each division differently. For this reason the committee decided to give each division the ability to make their own rules regarding those changes. According to Musselwhite and Bizot, the changes will primarily affect Division I, so the ability for each to make their own regulations will let them tailor those regulations to Division I’s situation. This also allows Divisions II and III to make unique rules that will fit the situations of the smaller schools and programs in their divisions.  

One of the potential side effects of the new NIL rules that Musselwhite foresees is that bigger schools will end up using it as an advantage over smaller schools in recruiting because of their potential to offer better endorsements. However, overall both she and Bizot expressed excitement that athletes at MC could be compensated.   

Since she was once a student-athlete herself, Musselwhite praised the fact that student-athletes could now earn money despite the busy schedules that come with playing a sport.  

“I think it’s great…I’m all on board for our student-athletes,” said Bizot, adding that as long as they followed the rules he was absolutely in favor of MC athletes utilizing the new rules.  

While we still have yet to see how Division II and the Gulf South Conference institute their specific changes, there is no denying that these changes are going to be extremely impactful to college athletics. Mississippi College and other universities of our size may not be the ones getting headlines, but the new rules will impact us in an equally big way.   

Choctaw Track and Field Rewrite Record Books in 2022 Indoor Season / Caroline Hunt

Photo: The men’s distance medley relay team poses for a first-place picture after their race at the 2022 South Carolina Invitational; from the left: Gabe Hodson, Cole Benoit, Hunter Kurz, and Jake Russell. They finished the race with a time of 9:47.93. (Photo by Brock Kelly)

Mississippi College’s track and field team traveled to Columbia, SC at the end of January and left many competitors in the dust at the University of South Carolina Indoor Invitational. Cole Benoit and Jazmin Hernandez were among the athletes with winning records. The team finished the meet weekend holding eight school records and three event titles in their grasp beating out many Division I contenders. 

Hernandez broke her school record in the women’s mile at 4:53.75, making her the first Choctaw in school history to break the five-minute mark in the women’s mile. She also participated in the winning distance medley relay team who won the title and set the school record at 11:55.71, the fourth-fastest time in Division II at the time. 

Cole Benoit also took some titles home, including a school record in the men’s 3000 meters at 8:07.67, placing him fourth in Division II standings at the time and fifth place at the South Carolina meet. Benoit, a member of the first-place men’s distance medley relay, aided the team in picking up a 9:47.93 time, the third-fastest time in Division II at the time. 

Other noteworthy performances included Al Ferrill, a men’s thrower, who set a men’s shot put indoor school record of 16.06 meters, putting him in second place at the meet. Sprinters Fabio Palmieri and Shemar Patten both broke school records, with Palmieri’s second-place 48.05 in the men’s 400 meters and Patten’s school record of 8.15 in the men’s 60-meter hurdles. 

With so much success in individual athletes’ performances at the January meet, one may wonder how the composure of the team stays intact. The pressure to perform as one unit is even more potent in the context of a race like the distance medley relay. During this race, four runners who specialize in different solo races compete as one. The four relay legs are 1200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, and 1600 meters. 

This brutal event forces runners of different backgrounds to work collectively to achieve a spot on the podium. Benoit, a member of MC’s men’s “DMR” team, noted how as an entire team the Choctaws are growing their program mentality to encompass what this unique relay requires: teamwork in individualism. 

“What we did in that relay [in South Carolina] wasn’t just because of what we, the people in the race were doing, but because of what we as an entire team are doing. The other guys in my relay all knew the pieces we needed to get that top time. We just had to do it together,” said Benoit. 

Hernandez weighed in on how the team will continue its streak of hard work paying off.

“Really lifting each other up, keeping that momentum going, and staying healthy will be key when we go compete at conference championships coming up. That meet will be a bit tougher because the competition is stiffer, but we will just go in trying to execute a good race each time we get on the track.” 

Wondering what their recipe for success looks like Benoit stated that there were two simple things keeping the team focused: faith and family. 

“The question really is what is making us work so fluidly. I think it has to be that when we all race or practice we do it for God. We want people to see that the work we do is to honor him. The second thing is that we work together as a family,” Benoit said. 

“During my 3k, my ‘big race,’ I don’t remember the strategy or the competition. All I remember is that for 15 laps straight, every time I made it around the track, I saw my coach believing in me and 15 of my best friends losing their minds, cheering me on.” 

In the Gulf South Conference Indoor Championships held in Birmingham, Alabama, in mid-February, both MC teams more than proved why they are among one of the best track programs in the country. 

The men placed third with 151 points, behind Alabama-Huntsville and Lee, who took the crown with 172.5 points. The women on the other hand were second place finishers with 123.5 points, with Lee once again coming out on top. In the process, the Choctaws almost completely rewrote the record books in MC and GSC meets.

Among the top performances by MC in the meet were the men’s distance medley relay, as they won the event with a GSC record time of 9:53.94; All-American Tytavia Hardy won the women’s triple jump with her mark of 11.90 meters and the 60-meter hurdles in her 8.60 PR time; Fabio Palmieri won and set a conference record with his 400-meter time of 48.19; freshman Wesley Gibbs secured gold in the 800 meters; and men’s 4×400-meter relay set a new GSC record with their winning time of 3:16.95.

In total, 26 medals were won across the two teams, 10 by the women and 16 by the men. With the track team’s indoor season behind them, the Choctaws shift their focus to the outdoor meets, with the MC Season Opener on March 5 and the GSC Outdoor Championships also held on MC’s campus May 5-7.  

Jenna Ergle: From BC to MC / Jace Aymond

Photo: Avery Barnett (#16) is encouraged by Jenna Ergle (#33, center), Jordan LaFosse (#6), and Brooke Fagan (#9, right) during their game against Lincoln Memorial in Huntsville, Alabama.

For athletic programs in the Gulf South Conference, and across the entire Division II landscape, transfer athletes are invaluable because of their matured mindset and previous collegiate playing experience, no matter what level they come from. 

Typically, those transferring to play for Mississippi College come from junior and community colleges across the states of Mississippi and Alabama. However, sometimes a special player from a much bigger school falls into a program’s lap like a gift from above. For the Lady Choctaw softball team, that gift is Jenna Ergle.

The graduate student from the small town of Sumiton, Alabama, racked up countless awards during her high school career at Sumiton Christian School. The two-time All-American, multiple-time all-state selection, and the 2014 National High School Softball Freshman was recruited heavily from universities all over the country. After much consideration, it was Boston College where she chose to continue her education and softball career.

Although she didn’t choose it because it was similar to her last name, Ergle shone brightly in the four seasons she spent with the Eagles, who are a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 2019, she started in 43 games where she hit .220 and 15 RBI’s after missing the season prior due to injury. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, she started all 21 contests and even led the team with four home runs while hitting an even .200. Last year, although her playing time and batting percentage slightly dropped, it was time for Ergle to call somewhere else home for her graduate studies and step onto a fresh field. Luckily, that place was here in Clinton.

“I took it as a learning opportunity,” said Ergle of her time at BC. “I’m thankful to have gotten a great education there and I think it set me up to feel like I could make a huge impact with this team and academics. I grew as a person at BC, and I’m so thankful for that.” 

With all her success, why MC? For Ergle, it was the whole package. From a singular person’s mindset, the master’s program, and the Christian atmosphere that surrounds the entire campus, it truly was a perfect fit.

“When I came on my visit last summer, Coach O’Hair told me that she’s looking to create a team to make it all the way to the end, but also create a family. In just a few hours we talked that day, I could tell that she really did want to see me grow not just as a player, but as a person.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’m able to be in my faith and able to represent a school and a religion that’s bigger than myself. I’m also getting my master’s in Administration of Justice and I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Porter. Just being able to sit and talk with him about the program for a few minutes made me realize that all I ever wanted was to be in a program like that and MC gave me every opportunity to make it happen.”

Many would think that the switch from Division I to Division II softball would be a major downgrade, but the new Lady Choctaw wearing number 33 sees many more positives.

“At the end of the day, it’s the same game between the same lines; it’s passionate women wanting to play the game. I mean, of course there’s a little difference. You may not get the noticeable names or the Division I hype, but I think that’s one of the things I like about being in Division II is that you get to make it for yourself that way. You go out there and you want to represent your school and you want to be well-known, so that’s something that’s admirable across all divisions and it’ll never change.”

Already in the few games to start the season for the Lady Choctaws, Ergle has proved that she is one of the leaders on the already strong MC roster. In the dominant 17-6 win over No. 5 North Georgia in Gulf Shores, she had a career game with three hits, five runs scored, two RBI’s, and a home run to top it all off.

On how her first few games went with the team in Alabama, Ergle said that even with their 2-2 record in that span, “After the way we played, I know that we have so much potential for the season. They were tough losses on Sunday [against Nova Southeastern and Columbus State], but we were fighting the whole way and I think that really encouraged us as a team just to see that even down to the last out we were fighting all the way through it. I think it’s a really good token to take forward into the season.”

After their Gulf Shores trip, the Lady Choctaws played an additional five games in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Charger Chillout. They dropped contests to both Young Harris College, 6-1, and Carson-Newman in a 9-8 extra innings clash. They keep a winning record heading out of their preseason tournaments at now 5-4, beating Tuskegee University 14-4, Southern Indiana 14-4, and a major victory over No. 13 Lincoln Memorial 14-10 in a game that went all the way to 10 innings.

Ergle started in all nine contests with a .273 batting average, six RBI’s, and two home runs to her name. For an MC team that made it all the way to the conference tournament championship game last season, Ergle and the experience she brings will no doubt prove to give the Lady Choctaws a massive boost as the season progresses  They head into the GSC opener at West Alabama with their home opening series against Spring Hill a few days later. Their first home conference series is against Christian Brothers on Feb. 26-27 and their biggest test of the season against No. 2 Valdosta State is exactly a month later here at home. It’s safe to say that the former BC Eagle is more than ready to soar with her new squad at MC with their successful start to 2022.

Student Dining Options Change & Expand / Gracie Lee

Throughout the last few years, MC’s campus dining has changed drastically. Students who were freshmen in 2018 or 2019 have seen the decline of Pimentos and their beloved 1826, as well as the emergence of Einstein’s and Chick-fil-A. As a result, the fast-food scene on campus has transitioned from those MC trademarks to chain restaurants.

         Despite their new surroundings, many students miss their favorite haunts, like 1826. “It may not have been the healthiest, but the food was good,” Todd McInnis, a junior, said. The popular burger joint closed in 2020 and is now only utilized as an event space. Its famous menu items included sliders and quesadillas. It also stayed open in the evening hours, unlike other campus dining options, which allowed students to eat after their labs and night classes. 

         Pimentos, the sandwich shop on Jefferson Street, temporarily closed on Jan. 19 due to COVID infections in their staff. It previously closed for the first time in February of 2021, and again in September, for the same reason. Since then, its doors have remained dark.

         Even so, the arrival of Einstein Bros. Bagels and Chick-fil-A in the fall of 2020 appeased most students. Between the two, students have the option to eat before their morning classes or enjoy dinner with their friends. Einstein’s hours are 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7:30 a.m to 2:00 p.m. Friday. Chick-fil-A is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Friday. Both restaurants are closed on the weekends, except for Chick-fil-A, which closes early at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. 

Eliza Mims is a student worker at Chick-fil-A.  “It’s nice to get to see all the different students that come by. I love the people I work with too,” she said. “They’re some of the best people I’ve met on campus.”

         Cups, while not directly affiliated with campus, is never empty of students studying, drinking coffee, or meeting with professors. Students who choose not to frequent the ever-booming Commons claim it as their cozy hideaway to get homework done. Its presence has stayed constant throughout campus dining’s transitions with the times. 

After hearing of the city aldermen’s approval of a new Arby’s at 320 Highway 80 East, students have many ideas as to what additional eateries should fill campus’s empty spaces. 

Although Mims loves her job and appreciates its challenges, she doesn’t eat her complimentary employee’s chicken nuggets as often as her peers might. “I wouldn’t mind a spot that serves something other than fried food or bread,” she said. “When you eat chicken every day, four to five days a week, it really starts to feel mundane.” Many other students agreed, wanting healthier fast food, like Tropical Smoothie, Chicken Salad Chick, Subway, or Newks. 

Most students voted that Clinton should soon house a Raising Cane’s. Some may argue that the local area doesn’t need another fried chicken dinner restaurant, but those in favor disagree. “No one wants to go drive to Flowood for Cane’s. I go to Chick-fil-A for the chicken. I go to Cane’s for everything else,” Maria Guay, a sophomore said. “I go for the sauce, the fries, and the toast–everything but the chicken.” 

Whataburger came in second in student support. “We all need a honey butter chicken biscuit in our lives,” Sarabeth Tidwell, a senior, said.

Lions Club: The Reinvention of Fun / Evan Espinoza

Photo: Kaleb Jefcoat (left) and Spencer Hayes (right) enjoy a round of cornhole at Lions Club Park. These jolly fellows are thrilled that there is finally a free cornhole set to use so close to campus. 

Lions Club Park, located in Olde Towne Clinton, is an inclusive park which adheres to ADA guidelines and accommodates the visually impaired. While the park was built with this kid-friendly, all-inclusive mindset, the adults were left out of the fun. However, Lions Club has recently added a new section to its existing facilities for the “big kids” to come out and have a good time. A small gravel pit with concrete cornhole boards and free-to-use bags now exists at Lions Club for anyone to get a game in, or for parents to relax and have a bit of fun while their kids get some daily exercise. 

This addition to the park was long overdue. Adam Wade, Director of Parks and Recreation in Clinton, was excited to finally get this fun project finished and open to the public. “This was actually always a part of the plan for Lions Club … We recently gained the private funding to be able to move forward with the new developments,” said Wade. Even though the new section is a fun addition to the park grounds, the Parks and Recreation department is being careful to not overcrowd the area but is always eager to improve upon what has already been done.

The new cornhole sets at Lions Club are also a big draw for the students of Mississippi College. This was in mind as Adam Wade and his department proceeded with its addition to the park. “With cornhole being such a popular game and the park’s location being so close to MC and the brick streets, it was something we just really wanted to add,” Wade said concerning the strategy of updating the park. 

Now that the cornhole sets exist at the park, students have extra incentive to pay it a visit. “Cornhole is fun,” said Dalton Wheeler, a junior at MC. “I don’t find myself at Lions Club too often but if someone wanted to go and play some cornhole, I would definitely be down.”

Jackson and Student Safety / Evan Espinoza

Caption: Officer Travis (left) checks in with MC student Nathanael Smith (right). Officer Travis works with the Office of Public Safety on campus and regularly communicates with students like Nathanael to create a comfortable level of trust.

Many students at Mississippi College do not confine themselves to the boundaries of Clinton. Many students frequently visit the Jackson area for many reasons ranging from church on Sunday morning to a night out to eat with friends. However, safety can often be a concern when visiting Jackson. By the end of 2021, there were over 150 recorded homicides in Jackson. With the homicide rate so high in a city so close and popular to campus, whether or not students feel safe in that area is in question. 

When MC junior Brennan Heard reflected on the homicide rate, his heart went out to the many families in Jackson. “There’s families with newborns that probably have to consider living in areas that aren’t safe … It also definitely makes you rethink staying around Jackson after you leave Mississippi College or at least stay in the safer areas.” 

Heard’s words reflect what many families in Jackson are thinking as many of the recorded homicide victims and suspects are young men and women, as well as children. As students graduate, many do not stray far from campus, seeking job opportunities or even a life of marriage in or near Jackson. The Jackson Police Department and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office provide up-to-date data and maps detailing the year’s homicides for the benefit and safety of the public. 

Although our campus is not in the middle of the city, Clinton is only a short drive away from the outer limits of Jackson and some of the more dangerous areas. Officer Travis of the Mississippi College Office of Public Safety provided further insight into how campus safety protocol keeps students on campus secure. 

“We always have at least two to five security officers present, as well as Clinton police,” Travis said. “We also try to build a rapport with students, so they are comfortable reporting anything to us that makes them uncomfortable on campus or the surrounding area.” 

There are also a number of security cameras in place around campus as well as the “blue poles.” These poles exist for all students to use if they are somewhere on campus where they feel unsafe and need to get ahold of the security office. The Office of Public Safety can also be reached at (601)-925-3204. 

Officer Travis also made note that many of the homicides in the Jackson area can be attributed to gang violence, but some other crimes that can flow into the areas around Jackson are drugs and theft. 

Junior on campus Nathanael Smith has lived in Jackson for most of his life. He discussed some of the dangers he experienced growing up and how best to approach safety in the area. “One thing is just understanding the layout of Jackson. You can be in the niceness of Fondren then the next thing you know you’re in the middle of sketchy industrial areas.” 

Smith stressed that while the “safer” areas of Jackson are largely sectioned off, it is important to know your surroundings and to travel with a buddy if possible. He also noted that come nightfall, it’s best to just avoid some of the higher risk areas. “We had a lot of car break-ins even though we lived in a nicer neighborhood so you should always make sure nothing valuable is visible if you leave your car.” While homicide is scary and especially prevalent this year, vehicle theft is another leading crime students should be aware of when in Jackson.

Administration at Mississippi College works closely with Public Safety Director Mike Warren to stay informed on crime spreading from the Jackson area and keep up-to-date protocols to deal with said crime. Warren is a former police officer and keeps in touch regularly with local law enforcement in order to have a clear idea of what exactly goes on in Clinton to keep campus safe. 

“CPD can and will share any information with us [Mississippi College] on things that may or do affect the campus as long as it’s not detrimental to an ongoing case they’re working on,” said Warren. An MOU, or memorandum of understanding, exists between MC and the city of Clinton that information will be shared that is not harmful to either party. 

Warren stressed the amount of care put into safety on campus by both administration at MC as well as Clinton law enforcement, but continuously urges any students traveling into Jackson to exercise a level of caution. “As much as we try to prevent [criminal activity on campus], it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. We’re blessed to have the security we have, but extra personal safety is the biggest help you can give to law enforcement.”

Local Musician and MC Student Naomi Taylor Releases Debut E.P. / Caroline Hunt

Naomi Taylor sits across the table in a vintage denim jacket bedecked with cloth patches that tell a story as rich as her music. She details her start in music, her spontaneous, flowing writing process, and how she balances the life of a creative with her full-time job and student responsibilities at Mississippi College. 

The Lucedale, Miss. native laughingly jokes how the denim jacket was a friend’s grandfather’s that she borrowed for a gig. While describing the origin story of the article of clothing, she begins the story of how she became an artist. 

Every musician has their “this is it” moment. Taylor remembered learning a Lynyrd Skynyrd song from her guitar-playing dad and how her hands strummed the chords for the first time. This was something she wanted to do for the rest of her life, in any capacity. 

The indie/pop-rock Jackson musician described her style as if the Band Camino and LANY were a folk band. In fact, her ideal setlist included tunes like “Dream On” by Aerosmith, “Love Me Like A Man” by Bonnie Raitt, “Life By the Drop” by Stevie Ray Vaughan, and “Shelter Me” by Tab Benoit.

“I honestly play a little bit of everything and I also write a little bit of everything. I’ve done country, rap, pop, rock, pretty much all of it,” Taylor said. “Although my favorite thing to play is blues-rock, like true classics. And I would say my favorite writing style is probably more indie-folk stuff.”

A friend–and sometimes co-writer–Hayden Rowell described Taylor’s writing style as completely her own, with a unique aesthetic in her verbiage. 

“Naomi tells stories. She is intentional with every line she writes and word she chooses, but somehow never just forces the words together. They all just flow,” said Rowell, who is also an MC student. “The really wonderful part of her writing style is that it’s so charismatic. Her lyrics tend to be poetic and altogether simple.”

Taylor is fresh off of releasing her first E.P. titled “We’ll Find Our Way.” It features four melodic tracks detailing the stirring excitement of new love, the unfamiliar happenings that come along with it, and the pain when it ends. 

The first track on the record, akin to The Lumineers’s “Cleopatra,” tells the story of a couple finding their way to each other after life has thrown them off course. “Lost at Sea” by Taylor is the happy ending of what didn’t happen in The Lumineers’s upbeat juxtaposition and slice-of-life song: a lover finding their partner through hardship, contrary to a relationship crumbling because of it. Taylor’s clear, silvery tone invites, “Back on solid ground / Your hand touches my face / So take my hand and / Won’t you dance with me / Around this dark and unrelenting sea?” 

Another stand-out on Taylor’s debut E.P. is a sanguine track about the process of falling into a relationship and being taken aback by the feelings bubbling up. The last track on the quartet is “Under Pressure.” It frames the beginning of a relationship–something that is usually thrilling–as a time of unfamiliarity and enduring a certain “pressure.” The bridge of the song states over and over, “I’m not good under pressure / Testing me, testing me / I’m not good under pressure.” 

In addition to trying to balance school and her creative passion, Taylor works full-time at a Jackson accounting firm as an intern. As an accounting major, her academic and professional worlds collide with her art. She remedies her time in the office and classroom during the week with time on stage under lights, performing every weekend. 

“Trying to balance everything looks like what my desk at work looks like. I have two computer monitors in front of me and a million tabs open. That’s what my brain looks like,” Taylor said, when detailing her busy schedule. “I go to work because it pays the bills. I’m going to classes to just finish my degree and in between my drive from school and work, I’m listening to music, writing verses down in my head, imagining what different sounds I want with what words.”

Another friend of Taylor’s, Bethany Miller, noted that what Taylor does is for one special purpose: a passion that feeds the soul. 

“One of the sayings Naomi lives by is ‘For the soul.’ She knows that if it makes her soul happy or knows it’s good for her, she thrives. She’s also crazy driven about the emotions we all feel and making those into something beautiful that others can dance around to and sing to,” Miller said. “Naomi really cares too. She really values the relationships she builds between those she shares her music with.”

Miller recalled a particular relationship-building instance with strangers through Taylor’s music. When playing a big gig, she noticed a blonde-haired little girl sitting enraptured by the stage. After the night was over, Taylor introduced herself to the little girl, invited her on stage, and they sang together. Two single voices sang in an empty venue as the little girl’s mother pulled out her camera and captured the moment. 

“Naomi wanted that to be something that little girl would never forget. She wanted to inspire her to maybe pick up a guitar or sing a little more because she used to be that same little girl,” Miller said. “That is what sets her apart in my mind from other artists. She loves the people she plays for and just wants to share her love for music with anyone she can.”

Taylor can be found on all social media platforms and her new E.P. can be listened to wherever music is streamed.

Black History Month Celebrated at MC / Rachel Faulk

 Photo: Camryn Johnson showcases one of her favorite books in one of the library’s Black History Month displays. Johnson worked with Heather Moore to coordinate several book displays in the library to celebrate Black History Month.

Over the course of the month of February, MC students and organizations celebrated Black History Month in a variety of ways. A number of smaller events and projects led up to the highlight of the month, a theatrical production on Feb. 24 called “Celebrating the Black Legacy.”

Senior Camryn Johnson, founder and president of the Multicultural Student Association (MSA), recognized the importance of celebrating Black History Month on MC’s campus. “It’s a month to celebrate Black history, celebrate Black people from the beginning all the way up to now,” Johnson said. “It’s a moment to celebrate who we are, not necessarily focusing on the bad side of history but the good side of history where we’ve had people thrive and overcome a lot of things.”

Johnson added that it is important to her to celebrate not only Black History Month but also Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, and other such months, “because we have students and faculty and staff here who make up those populations, so we want to make sure that we include and make everyone feel celebrated.”

Those celebrations took a variety of forms over the course of the month. 

To start off Black History Month, the Cross-Cultural Committee hosted a business expo on the Quad highlighting small, minority-owned businesses in the Jackson area. Businesses present included an African art gallery, a vegan restaurant, mental health-based businesses, as well as a few student organizations.

Johnson also worked with Heather Moore, Head of Special Collections at the Leland Speed Library, to put up book displays highlighting Black History Month. Book displays were set up by the library entrance, in the Discovery room, and downstairs by the juvenile section. A display highlighting MC’s first African American graduates was also set up on the main floor by the entrance.

Similarly, the RA staff in West made posters highlighting lesser-known Black historical figures and put them up in the dorms across campus. 

“Bree Chastang, she came up with the idea, and she asked me to help her,” explained Queen Washington, one of the RAs in West. “It started off just for West, but I was like, why not just make posters for everybody?” 

Washington, who is also chair of the Cross-Cultural Committee, added, “I think it’s great when you’re walking around and you see something that you recognize or you just feel appreciated in some way. Because [the Cross-Cultural Committee] did the same thing last semester, for Hispanic Heritage Month, and a lot of people enjoyed that, just seeing your culture and the famous people in your culture outside of the basics. One thing I was focusing on is getting people outside of, you know, MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, W. E. B. Du Bois—just something that people don’t know about.”

Beyond these more subtle projects, the highlight of the month was the campus-wide program held in Swor Auditorium on Feb. 24, “Celebrating the Black Legacy.” The show was a dramatization of the eras and events of Black history, including the kingdoms of Africa, slavery in America and emancipation, the Jim Crow era and the Selma March, a focus on powerful Black women, President Obama’s inauguration, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Johnson is the creator and director of the program. She got the idea for the program while watching the Swerve dance competition last spring and has been working on making the program a reality ever since. 

“Everything that’s happening, I wrote it or made it or mixed it,” Johnson said, “by God’s grace. I feel like He gave me the vision for it … It’s been real smooth; I’ve gotten a lot of support, not just with students but with faculty and administration. It’s been an experience and it’s been fun.”

Johnson hopes that the program gives viewers a new perspective on Black history and a desire to learn more about it. “I just want people to understand that we’re all created in God’s image, and for us to live with one another and understand one another, love one another, we have to understand each other’s past, each other’s present, in order to make a better future. And so I want a lot of people to take away from the whole program, the whole month, that it’s okay to celebrate Black history. And I wanted to really focus on that it’s not just for Black people to celebrate, it’s for everybody to celebrate.”

Alpha Psi Omega Hosts New Theatrical Events / Gracie Lee

         Alpha Psi Omega, Mississippi College’s national theatre honor society, hosted a dramatic competition titled “Build a Play” on Feb. 11-12 . Students built teams consisting of a writer, director, and actors to produce a 15-minute play overnight. They met in Aven Hall Friday night to register and receive themes and props. Each team could choose their members or be assigned into groups. After their initial rendezvous, writers went home to compose a 15-minute production. Teams met the following day to rehearse and performed in the Jean Pittman Williams Recital Hall Saturday evening at 5:00 p.m. Dr. Phyllis Seawright, sponsor of APO and communications professor, judged.  

“It is unique because it’s the first event APO has hosted that needs involvement from the rest of the MC community. We’ve had events that are open to all, but this is the first that relies on interest from other populations on campus,” Beth Owen, president of the organization, said. “The first time doing anything is a little scary though. I believe that this is a great event, and an opportunity for students to have a lot of fun, so I’m hopeful.”

The club offers a chance for new members to be inducted in the fall and spring semesters. Induction is not determined by classification or major, but some credits in theatre productions and classes are required to qualify. Being a member of APO is not required for participation in dramatic productions. Other officers of the academic year 2021-2022 include Vice Presidents/Stage Managers Kat Goss and Takaye Farmer.

Goss looked forward to hosting the performance. “We are working to provide a creative outlet to the artists, writers, and actors across campus in the middle of all of the crazy schedules and busy lives,” she said. “The ability to come together to make art and entertainment is precious.” 

First place won a small trophy and bragging rights for the rest of the semester. The individual teams chose their own themes. One team, including freshmen Emma Ellard and Carson Jones and sophomore Camden Clem, based their plot on a murder mystery parody. “It was unexpectedly enjoyable,” Kathryn Elliot, a sophomore and audience member, said. “ It was much more well-rehearsed than I thought it would be.”

Goss, who has participated in and volunteered at the Vicksburg Theatre Guild in the last several years, is always eager to create theatre-related opportunities for students on campus. “I love the chance for a community that has a love of theatre in common, especially because we all come from different places in our theatre experience,” she said. “Some people have mostly done straight plays, and love Shakespeare and the classics. Others love musical theatre and all the modern world applications that are represented,” Goss said. “I want others to see it as a place to be exposed to new ideas and art forms.”

Farmer agreed. “My favorite thing about theatre is seeing actors completely transform into the characters they are performing. APO is like a family to me. Each of our members, and sponsor, are caring, loving and genuine.”

If dramatically inclined students missed this opportunity, Alpha Psi Omega has many others lined up for the remainder of the semester. Those without a date on Valentine’s Day could socialize at a musical screening in the East/West Lobby. The club is also hosting a bake sale on March 7-10 to help raise funds for more activities and events. They will conclude the semester on a strong note with “Quarrels on the Quad” on April 11. Goss, who is trained in stage combat, will share some tricks of the trade with interested students.