Just over two weeks ago, Jackson State University celebrated homecoming. Although the traditional JSU homecoming game was cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control, what did happen here on game day was special by many measures. Never have I been prouder of our University than on that Saturday in October.
First, our students stepped up in so many ways; all made the best of an unexpected situation. For example, the football team turned on a dime and volunteered to scrimmage, putting aside the dreams of Senior Day for those players, and the anticipation and delight of having their parents and friends seeing them play at homecoming. Those who had expectations of sharing homecoming game day with their parents and friends put on smiles while going through the stands thanking friends and supporters of the University. These young men demonstrated their respect for the fine tradition of athletic competition of JSU and the SWAC, as well as their love for the values that define JSU. We all saw up close and personal the fine scholar athletes typical of JSU athletics – each special in their collective and individual commitments to represent well and to support our University.
The Sonic Boom of the South, along with the talented Prancing J-Settes and the JSU cheerleaders, extended their normal practices on that Friday night to add to their planned performances for all of our fans. These young men and women practiced well into the evening. This resulted in a fine extended halftime show and game performances that all in attendance enjoyed. These students displayed the JSU homecoming spirit of celebration for all to see – something special.
The student body overall, although understandably disappointed as events unfolded, consciously decided to make the best of the situation. Students came to the concerts and other activities, the campus queen and her court paraded as usual, and all students clung fiercely to their determination to make good and happy memories here at JSU’s homecoming – something special.
The JSU alumni, friends and supporters altered their expectations and carried on celebrating under unprecedented circumstances, displaying their steadfast love of and respect for JSU and her values and traditions – something special.
The JSU leadership team convened of their own accord at 4:30 p.m. on the eve of the expected homecoming game to plan – less than 24 hours before game time – a day worth remembering for all. Every president of every university should have a “dream team” like JSU’s. In roughly three hours, these leaders crafted, secured and committed to making that third Saturday in October at the Mississippi Veteran’s Memorial Stadium as joyous as possible in spite of the situation – something special.
Yet another something really special is that no individual associated with this University in any capacity – be he or she faculty, staff, volunteers or friends – refused any of the last minute assignments and requests; the response was consistently, “What else can I do?” Some showed up at 4:30 a.m. to redesign the configuration of the stadium for the impromptu concert for the fans; others were present from 6 a.m. until long after the festivities ended just to facilitate and insure execution and success; many others changed their plans, put aside their angst and disappointment, and redesigned and encouraged the festive celebration of 136 years of JSU – all and each – really special!
So October 19 wasn’t the day JSU had planned or expected; it was, in my book, one of the most special days in JSU’s history. The late Dr. Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience activities never, to my knowledge, were at the expense of innocent bystanders as was JSU, nor were those of the heroes and sheroes of our state’s and nation’s civil rights movement.
To quote Dr. King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” On October 19, 2013, all Mississippians and friends from across the nation saw the special “stand” that the men and women who are Jackson State University today took for our University in a time of “challenge and controversy”. I think our founders would be proud; I hope all in our state – the Governor, the Legislature, the IHL, the taxpayers who support us, the Jackson mayor and City Council and all Mississippians – are proud of Jackson State University. It’s a special place that on the occasion of adversity, JSU meets that adversity with respect for all, dignity and grace. That response has been and continues to be the JSU way.
May God continue to bless Jackson State University and us all – each and every one.
Carolyn W. Meyers