NMHS Unlimited Film Productions Helps Prepare Mississippi Student for Professional Success in Global Environmental Sciences
Planet Forward, a powerful educational program at George Washington University, is made up of diverse college students from across the United States. It teaches, celebrates, and rewards environmental research and the storytelling component of sharing related successes. The organization, founded in 2009 by Frank Sesno, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, empowers and engages a new generation in this global conversation through education, media, and storytelling events.
Wilma Mosley Clopton, Ph.D., president and CEO of NMHS Unlimited Film Productions in Jackson, Mississippi, was invited to speak at the 2016 and 2017 International Planet Forward Storyfest events, held in Washington, D.C., where she presented each time on using film as a tool to give students a voice. Each year, in her role as professor and mentor, Dr. Clopton brings deserving college students whose educational studies and goals align with those of both the research efforts of Planet Forward and of NMHS Unlimited Film Productions. Last year, Dr. Clopton brought Harrison Watson, a 20-year-old biology major at Jackson State University.
“The opportunity to work with Frank Sesno, former Washington, D.C., CNN bureau chief and founder of Planet Forward, has been quite exciting!” says Dr. Clopton. “Because of his efforts, students like Harrison Watson and people like myself have the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the world’s leading change-makers in environmental science. Through this collaborative, hope continues for a more sustainable world.”
“Planet Forward is an immensely important organization,” says Harrison Watson, “because of the sheer courage that they have to discuss topics of environmentalists, sustainability, and conservation at a time where it is trendy to discuss those matters, but not too trendy to get to the meat of the issues plaguing our environment and those responsible for it.”
As part of its mission, Planet Forward led a student storytelling expedition to the Amazon in Brazil, and Watson, along with a small group of other students, was selected and spent three days immersed in the Amazon, where he studied and experienced the jungle environment. As participants, they were each tasked with using that time to create a story to share with others.
“He met scientists and storytellers, students, and astonishingly accomplished experts,” said Frank Sesno. “Harrison learned and he contributed, and it was an absolute pleasure to have him with us. At dinner one evening, I asked each of the students to talk to the others about the stories they were working on. Harrison spoke about the sounds of the forest – the birds, the insects, the monkeys, the wind – the voices and sounds that make the orchestra of nature. And he spoke about how each of those sounds, rich and diverse in its source, contributes to the whole, and how each reaches our ears in the same way. His message was moving and brought spontaneous applause from the group.”
Understanding the emotional power of storytelling, and seeing the determination and potential in her student, Dr. Clopton and NMHS Unlimited Film Productions helped fund Watson’s trip so that he could gain this once-in-a-lifetime educational experience and leverage it into a platform for his future career goals.
“Dr. Clopton was a professor of mine during my freshmen semesters, and she invited me to work on a project for submission to a contest hosted by Planet Forward,” recalls Watson. “So, had it not been for her, none of this would have been possible. I’m unbelievably grateful for that. She has been a huge advocate of my progress these last couple of years, and I hope that she continues to be there for whatever my next steps may be.”
“It’s a bit difficult for me to say what was the greatest takeaway,” Watson says of his Amazon experience. Though, he leans to the answer of the relationships he was able to form. “There, we got to know one another very well, and I met people who have already opened doors for me.”
Some of those opened doors for Watson include being invited to Yale University for graduate school and connecting with a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been reading his writings and advising on how to refine his writing skills – all of which can be extremely valuable to his future.
Since the Amazon expedition, Watson has been intentional in his educational and experiential endeavors. In fact, he interns with the Peace Corps and is heavily involved in university research programs on campus and internationally as well as with the esteemed NOAA CCME (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems) program. He also serves as a student correspondent with Planet Forward, a valuable role that provides him with exclusive media and storytelling training and additional educational and networking opportunities.
While currently a junior and still determining his exact career path as he finishes his undergraduate education, Watson does know one thing is certain: he will be pursuing a Ph.D. degree in an area of environmental sciences.
“Harrison Watson is a superstar,” adds Sesno. “He is so smart and so thoughtful and so aware of himself and the world around him. He and others like him personify our hopes for the future, the bright young minds that will help us navigate through our human journey.”
In line with the mission of NMHS Unlimited Film Productions, Dr. Clopton continues to seek out ways to further enrich and shape the lives of young men and women in Mississippi. “I remain excited about the opportunities Planet Forward provides for youth and will continue to do everything within my power to see that young Mississippians have an opportunity to participate,” says Dr. Clopton.
Read more about Harrison Watson’s Planet Forward experience in the Amazon, in his own words: https://www.planetforward.org/idea/sounds-of-the-amazon-a-lesson-in-coexistence-0.
Visit www.planetforward.org for more information on Planet Forward.
For more information about NMHS Unlimited Film Productions, please visit www.blackhistoryplus.com and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to stay up to date with all of our activities.
Dr. Wilma Clopton of NMHS Unlimited Film Productions Mentors Students from Across the Country
For years, Dr. Wilma E. Mosley Clopton, president and CEO of NMHS Unlimited Film Productions, has led a tour guide for the national “Race in America: Then and Now” project. In the summer of 2017, for example, she engaged with a group of 11 college and junior college students from Minnesota, Mississippi, and South Dakota. Serving in a mentor role, Dr. Clopton shares her professional expertise within educational filmmaking and how it can truly create a platform for knowledge and change. She also shared inspiring stories of Mississippi’s Civil Rights journey and led the participants on a historical walking tour of Jackson.
“It was my distinct honor and pleasure to share my Jackson with the group,” says Dr. Clopton. “I am always thrilled to see the heightened excitement of those who journey with me on this adventure because I am always learning more things about this place I call home.”
September Marks Two Significant Milestones
September 2017 marks two important and connected anniversaries in Mississippi’s Civil Rights history. First, 70 years ago in Jackson, the Lanier Bus Boycott of 1947 took place and was led by Mr. Elport Chess. Then one year ago, in 2016, the JATRAN public bus transit system building located on Highway 80 in Jackson was renamed “The Elport Chess Building” in honor of the history-altering boycott.
In 1947, Chess returned home to Jackson after being drafted and serving his country in the United States military during World War II. As an African American teen, and WWII veteran who had earned a Purple Heart and Silver Heart for his brave actions in the war, Chess enrolled back in Lanier High School to complete his education. Lanier High School was Mississippi’s first accredited four-year high school for African Americans, and at that time, students either walked to school or rode the #6 Jackson city bus. Although it was designated the “special bus,” on which African American students rode, when necessary it could also segregate African Americans to a specified seating area.
On a September morning in 1947, Chess boarded the bus and sat in an empty seat, even though the seat was not designated for African American use. The #6 bus was crowded with students headed to school. All was going as usual until a white woman boarded the bus and Chess was asked to give up his seat for her. He refused. The bus driver, in response, acted and had Chess physically removed by the police. Chess was beaten and jailed. This act against him spurred a protest by the school’s students and others who boycotted the bus system, which is known today as the Lanier Bus Boycott of 1947.
“WWII veteran Elport Chess chose to take a stand,” said Wilma Mosley Clopton, Ph.D., president and CEO of NMHS Unlimited Film and Productions in Jackson. “He was not aware at the time that his stand would become a pivotal moment in Mississippi’s Civil Rights history.”
For Chess, and other WWII African American veterans returning home, Mississippi was challenging. “In war, they had been introduced to a way of life that included their recognition as men,” said Clopton. “To them, it was incredulous that they should be asked to die in Europe for the rights of the oppressed while upon return being asked to resubmit to oppression in the United States. It was these soldiers’ exposure to real freedom that marked the turning point for Mississippi.”
The Lanier Bus Boycott of 1947 took place eight years before Rosa Parks’ scripted protest in Alabama. “This fact is important,” explained Clopton, “because Mississippi was still knee-deep in the restrictive covenants of Jim Crow laws. Voting rights were just a glimmer on the horizon, and blacks were routinely beaten, tortured and lynched with little provocation. Chess took action clearly in the face of danger.”
Today, 70 years later and thanks to decades of perseverance by Lanier High School’s students from 1947-48, the legacy of Chess continues to be honored through the bus station naming. “The efforts of the staff and students of Lanier High School during a time when Jim Crow, white supremacy and separate and unequal treatment was the law of the land was courageous,” said Elport’s son, Alexander Chess and on behalf of the Chess family.
“If my father was here today, I know he would be proud and appreciative of this great honor that has been awarded him,” added Chess, of the JATRAN facility’s naming. “Our hearts leap for joy, as our eyes are filled with tears, each time we pass the building, and say, ‘This is for you Dad, your efforts were not forgotten, nor were they in vain.’”
An educational documentary, “Elport Chess and the Lanier Bus Boycott of 1947,” has been produced by NMHS Unlimited Film Productions to both honor and preserve the historical value of Chess’ actions and of the supporters. “We are indeed humbled and honored by the enormous effort by Dr. Wilma Clopton and the Lanier High School Class of 1948 for bringing forth in this documentary the activities surrounding the arrest and reaction to the arrest of my Dad, Elport Chess, Sr., in 1947,” said Chess.
The idea for the documentary came about in December of 2009, when Dr. Clopton received a phone call from Mrs. Grace Sweet inviting her to attend the annual Christmas party of the Lanier High School Class of 1948. As part of the conversation, Sweet told the story of Elport Chess and the boycott of 1947 and said, “If you can come, the class would like to share their story with you.”
“It was the efforts of Chess’ classmates that became the impetus for the film, as well as an aggressive lobbying and petition signing campaign to make the Jackson City Council aware of the importance of Elport Chess,” explained Clopton, adding that the idea to start a petition signing campaign was the suggestion of Mrs. Johnetta Jurden, a classmate who was on the bus with Chess that day. Jurden and other members of the Class of 1948 actively lobbied for the naming.
“This petition process was critical because the Jackson City Council was contemplating naming the new JATRAN facility after Rosa Parks,” said Clopton. “Those of us involved in the campaign felt that the logical person for whom the building should be named was Elport Chess, a Mississippian and WWII veteran whose efforts spurred the Jackson city bus boycott years before Rosa Parks’ protest.”
“Many Mississippians are woefully unaware of the rich legacy and contribution made by Mississippi African Americans,” added Clopton. “Even though it was 70 years in the making, this act of acknowledgement and naming of JATRAN’s Elport Chess Building is an achievement to celebrate. The bravery and vision of Chess and many others blazed a trail toward equality for the generations that followed. They are heroes.”
The legacy Chess left behind has endured, changed and created a better Mississippi, and September marks two milestones that have played significant roles in that fact. “We join hands with our extended family of Jacksonians in supporting the month of September in recognizing all milestones attributed to the achievements of the citizens of our great state,” added Chess.
NMHS Unlimited Film Productions is a 501(c)(3) Mississippi-based company specializing in documentaries about Mississippi African Americans and their contributions to the State of Mississippi. Visit www.blackhistoryplus.com or contact Dr. Wilma Mosley Clopton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-259-7598 for more information.
Dr. Wilma E. Mosley Clopton was the March featured speaker at the Clinton Career Women Luncheon. She spoke about the diversity and strength of Mississippi women, and how these women have worked to blur lines while moving forward with a growth and vision for our State. She mentioned several examples of these women, their stories being told in “Mississippi Women: Volume 2,” a book edited by Elizabeth Anne Payne, Martha H. Swain and Marjorie Julian Spruill.
The Clinton Career Women gather once a month at a luncheon for the purposes of networking their businesses.
Here is the speech that Dr. Clopton gave in its entirety:
Celebrating Mississippi Women
March is “Women’s History Month” and there is no better way to celebrate than sharing stories about Mississippi women. Mississippi women are the constant cadence of change. We flow with a surge of strength and courage like the Mississippi River, carving out a space for new lands, new sights, new visions; and, whether we were in the cotton fields or, the big house, it is our strength upon which this State was built.
Mississippi women are as diverse as the flowing beauty of our state itself. We are of African, German, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Biloxi, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Houma, Natchez, Ofo, Quapaw, Tunica, Vietnamese and Korean descent. It is our blending of these cultures which continues to create a space and place called Mississippi.
You can tell the strength of a group by the forces which try to carve it up, divide it, by setting up artificial walls to separate it. Some of these walls have been created by governments, others are self-imposed. You know what they are – Are you a Republican? Are you a Democrat? What ethnicity are you? What school did you attend? Where do you live? Who are your parents? And yet, even when the intent was to divide, clear thinking Mississippi women have always managed to blur the lines. They have bumped and pushed, like the steel Magnolias they were, against the elements of time that would limit our growth and vision for our Mississippi; and now, history is slowly beginning to tell their stories. “Mississippi Women: Volume 2”, a book edited by Elizabeth Anne Payne, Martha H. Swain and Marjorie Julian Spruill, is one such example of this storytelling. Let me share some of these stories with you:
The Mississippi Native American populations which lived in the forests, bottomlands and coastal areas, encountered Europeans in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1798, most of the area that would become the Mississippi Territory was dominated by the Choctaws and Chickasaws. Because of the power and structure of tribal laws, women of these tribes owned the land. Without these women, who first raised maize, corn would not be one of Mississippi’s most important agricultural crops. Women’s property and divorce law in Mississippi is also traceable to a Chickasaw woman named Betsy Love who won a Mississippi supreme court battle which decided that her property, a slave, could not be used to settle her American husband’s debts because she owned property before their marriage.
Prior to the Civil War, Natchez was a bustling town of whites, enslaved blacks and 214 free people of African descent, 59% of whom were women. They worked as seamstresses, washerwomen and cooks. A few of the wealthier free black women were married to prosperous free black men, such as William Johnson, and August Mazique, who owned property and/or businesses. These women continually defied the odds and expectations and prevailed during a time when black was associated with slavery and white with freedom.
Women also played a pivotal role in the development of the church in Mississippi. The Baptist and Methodist churches were the first Protestant churches in Mississippi; established in the 18th and early 19th century. With no physical structures in which to meet, women often open their homes for worship. The first Baptist church in the Mississippi Territory met in the home of Margaret Stampley and the first Methodist conference was held in the home of “Mother White”. In a few cases, women also organized churches.
Even the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi was also facilitated by Mississippi Women. Wednesdays in Mississippi was an activist group during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the 1960s. The film “Wednesdays in Mississippi” attempts to chronicle their story. Northern women of different races and faiths traveled to Mississippi to develop relationships with their southern peers in an effort to create bridges of understanding across regional, racial, and class lines. By opening communications across societal boundaries, Wednesday’s Women sought to end violence and to cushion the transition towards racial integration. Wednesdays in Mississippi became Workshops in Mississippi; an ongoing effort to help black women and families, and poor white women and families, achieve economic self-betterment.
I shared these stories with you because they tell us that as women we have the strength to survive and the tenacity to thrive. We are audacious! We are bodacious! Despite what our government tells us when we apply for contracts and provide information to fill some unfilled mythical quota, know that we are all women, regardless of our ethnicity or origin. Together we continue to shape our Mississippi into a place where all of us can live without fear. We have a legacy to continue. We are the hands that rock the cradles. We are Mississippi.
NMHS Unlimited Film Productions is honored to welcome back Galean Stewart-James as the Master of Ceremonies for the 2018 Filmmaker’s “Mardi Gras” Bash. She is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, and a graduate of Belhaven University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and a Master of Public Administration degree.
Her education paved the way for her successful career in journalism, which began in 2001 at WJTV News in Jackson where she worked as an intern before advancing to an associate producer position. Then in 2004, she was named as a news producer for WLBT News in Jackson.
Today, Galean serves as news director, an esteemed position in which she was promoted to last June, at WDAM News in Moselle, Mississippi. At WDAM, she has had the opportunity to hone her expertise by having worked as a line producer, field producer, segment producer, special projects producer, and in 2014 progressed to executive producer, before landing in her current role.
Her educational background and professional experience also prepared Galean to serve as an adjunct professor, currently at Jackson State University in the School of Journalism and Media Studies and previously at Belhaven University for three years.
Outside of the job arena, Galean is an active member of the Beta Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Women’s Fund of Mississippi; National Association of Black Journalists; Emmy Express, Southeast Chapter; Radio Television Digital News Association; and the American Society for Public Administration. She is a 2009 Parent for Public Schools Leadership graduate; 2012 Jackson Division of the FBI Citizens Academy graduate; and, 2012 City of Jackson Citizens Police Academy graduate.
Galean and her husband have four children and five grandchildren.
Meet Ms. Stewart-James at the Filmmaker’s “Mardi Gras” Bash on Saturday, February 24, 2018, at the Mississippi Museum of Art. Purchase your advance tickets: https://blackhistoryplus.com/filmmakers-bash-2018/
Annual favorite Melvin “HouseCat” Hendrex returns to the Bash, but this time, he goes zydeco as musical director for the band Pocket. Other band members include:
• Timothy Allen, guitar
• Ben Sterling, bass
• Adib Sabir (Paul Owens), vocals and percussions
Looking forward to this musical treat!
Don’t miss this performance at the Filmmaker’s “Mardi Gras” Bash on Saturday, February 24, 2018, at the Mississippi Museum of Art. Purchase your advance tickets: https://blackhistoryplus.com/filmmakers-bash-2018/
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Welcome Sous Chef Malcolm Evans, sous chef at the King Edward Grille in Jackson. We cannot wait to see what he cooks up at the 2018 Bash.
Try Sous Chef Malcolm’s delicious dish during the Top Sous Chef Competition at the Filmmaker’s “Mardi Gras” Bash on Saturday, February 24, 2018, at the Mississippi Museum of Art. Purchase your advance tickets: https://blackhistoryplus.com/filmmakers-bash-2018/
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Welcome Sous Chef Phillip Brown, sous chef at Sodexo/Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company in Jackson. We cannot wait to see what he cooks up at the 2018 Bash.
Sous Chef Phillip Brown discovered a love for food at an early age, which was inspired by his father who was well known for his cooking. From that point, Phillip was determined to become a chef one day.
As a teen, he worked in the fast food industry, where he learned basic kitchen skills and also the meaning of hard work. Then later, his career took him to the hotel industry, where he developed his professional skills under culinary chefs.
In 2014, his dream of becoming a chef started to become a reality when he began working at Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company’s Sodexo facility. Under the direction the company’s Executive Chef Wyatt Williams, he is absorbing 20-plus years of experience and making it his own. While he continues to refine his craft, flexing his creativity in both catering and fruit carving, his passion for cooking drives him to put his all into his creations, resulting in smiles and satisfaction from his clientele.
Try Sous Chef Phillip’s delicious dish during the Top Sous Chef Competition at the Filmmaker’s “Mardi Gras” Bash on Saturday, February 24, 2018, at the Mississippi Museum of Art. Purchase your advance tickets: https://blackhistoryplus.com/filmmakers-bash-2018/
[button link=”https://blackhistoryplus.com/filmmakers-bash-2018/” type=”big” color=”orange”] BUY TICKETS[/button]