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Birney Imes: Market Street stories


Birney Imes



A grandmother''s tea cup 


Frances Hairston''s great grandmother, Anna, moved to Yazoo City from Germany during the Civil War. No doubt it was an inopportune time and certainly it was an unlikely place, but the young girl was intrigued by stories told by visiting relatives who owned a store in the Delta town. Somehow Anna managed to convince her parents the move was a good idea. 


In Yazoo, the young girl married a cotton farmer who had fought for the Confederacy. Together they had seven children, Frances'' grandfather being the oldest. 


"She loved beautiful things," Frances said of her forebear. Over the years, Anna''s family in Germany shipped her mementos from the homeland, including even German money. 


One of those shipments of beautiful things contained tea cups of bone china. The cups are tinted green and are decorated with hand painted bouquets of roses. Miraculously the delicate heirlooms survived the transatlantic journey and the following century and a half. 


Frances, who grew up in Belzoni, came to The W in 1957. There she roomed with Nanette Hairston from Crawford. After college she married Nanette''s brother, Lamar, and the two of them settled and lived their married life in Crawford. 


Lamar died in 2003 and two years later Frances, then in her late 60s, returned to her alma mater to take an art class. 


"I wanted to learn how to draw," she says. As it turned out, drawing was just the beginning; now she''s pursuing a BFA. At The W, she''s fallen under the spell of Alex Stelieos-Wills: "He keeps pushing me," she says, and Shawn Dickey, who teaches photography. 


In a digital photography class, Dickey required his charges to come up with a project with which they would make a book. (Go to for more information on publishing your own photo book.) Frances chose to photograph small tabletop still lifes. Among those pictures is an arrangement of her great grandmother''s tea cups. 


Saturday morning during the Market Street Festival, someone urged me to check out the juried art exhibit at the Rosenzweig. (And you should too.) This is an impressive display of local work. Frances Hairston''s close-up of her great grandmother''s tea cups was my favorite, but there''s plenty to like from Kevin Voller, Cindy Buob, Cynthia Mutch and Katherine Feeney Munson. 




Empowering Ugandan women 


"That''s Phyllis," says Jim Hurley about his wife. "She says we gotta do something; if you''re married to her, you do it." 


Hurley knows a thing or two about what it takes to maintain a successful marriage. He''s a professor of marriage and family therapy at Reform Theological Seminary in Jackson. Phyllis is a retired school administrator. Presently she''s director of children''s ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian, a multiracial church in Jackson. 


On weekends the Hurleys, who have three grown children, take to the road to market handcrafts and shea butter cosmetics supplied to them by Ugandan women. At Saturday''s Market Street Festival, Jim and Phyllis displayed and sold their wares from the parking lot on Catfish Alley. 


And, as unlikely as this may sound, this all came about through eBay. Well, sort of. For a time Pierre Omidyar, founder of the online auction Web site, supported an online humanitarian network, Through that site, like-minded people were able to network, formulate philanthropic projects and apply for matching grants. 


Together with people from Britain, Southeast Asia, Chad and Louisville, Ky., Phyllis organized, raised money and received matching funds from Omidyar to install water treatment systems in Uganda.  


Through the water project, Phyllis came to know a recently widowed Ugandan woman, who lived in an unfinished house, who was being preyed upon by her landlord and was close to being destitute. Through the Internet, Phyllis and the woman, Teopista Akware, have developed a fair trade arrangement by which Akware and a group of Ugandan women in similar circumstances supply the Hurleys with jewelry of beads made from tightly rolled paper.  


The resulting "jewels" are bright, light in weight and can be shaped into almost any form. They can be used to make brightly colored necklaces, purses and earrings. Other products made by the African women included batik prints, shea butter moisturizers scented with essential oils, raffia baskets and bracelets and earrings made from animal tusks. 


The Hurleys deduct their expenses; all of the remainder goes to the African women. Jim Hurley says last year the women received $45,000 to $47,000 from the Hurleys'' efforts.  


"That makes a huge difference," he said. 


For more about the Hurleys'' efforts, see their Web site: 


Strong women provide the common thread for these stories. Thank goodness for strong women and thanks for all mothers, who by necessity are strong women. If you''re lucky enough to have a mother who is still alive, why not take a moment and call her today.  



Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.


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