Coast Reacts To New York Columnist's Negative Words

The Fannings walked through Biloxi and soaked up both its ambiance and its history.

"It's a beautiful city," Clarence Fanning said.

Fanning and his wife passed majestic oak trees and the tantalizing water that gives Biloxi its flavor. But on their way from the airport, they also passed the confederate battle flag.

"No matter where we go," Sunny Fanning said, "because we're African Americans, there's going to be a certain amount of innuendoes, perceptions that we're going to run into. But we haven't experienced anything new or unique here in Biloxi."

The Fannings said what many people have said -- some form of racism exists just about anywhere you go. Despite that, a New York Newsday columnist named Jimmy Breslin ripped Mississippi, because in his mind, people here still believe the Civil War never ended. As you might imagine, many South Mississippians took offense to Breslin saying Mississippi had no right to build the new U.S.S. New York, or to use any steel from the World Trade Center during its construction.

At the Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art, the column felt like a knife being stabbed in the back of artists who give South Mississippi its rich cultural diversity. Margie Gowdy is the museum's director. She said the art on display at the museum is from artists of all races.

According to Gowdy, "These are wonderfully enmeshed stories that represent this gulf coast and the state."

In 2005, the stories will echo through these moss draped trees. The live oaks will shade George Ohr pottery, African American art, and the last home of a man born into slavery. Gowdy doesn't think negative words in a New York newspaper will cloud her museum's future.

"We just want to tell the honest stories of history and of art. We're proud of that," she said.