By Lola Norris
History reminds us to remember and to celebrate what has come before. And that is just what Ellie Forsyth emphasized as she stood next to her award-winning exhibit from the 2017 National History Day competition. "I love history," she said, and that was the basis for the extraordinary seminar she recently presented at OLLI.
A tenth-grader at Sacred Heart High School, and the youngest ever presenter at OLLI, Ellie represented the state of Mississippi in the National History Day competition in College Park, Maryland, last summer. Earlier in the year she placed first in Senior Exhibits in the Mississippi History Day competition with her project, "Betty Ford: Taking a Stand for Others." This is her second year to win first place in the state competition. As part of the national recognition, her exhibit board, including a portrait of Betty Ford that she painted, and her process paper were on display at the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington, D.C.
National History Day was founded in 1974. Students choose to participate independently as the competition is not school related. Ellie explained that students select their own topic that conforms to a theme set by the organization, research the topic, then prepare a project that can be submitted among five categories: (1) history paper plus bibliography, (2) documentary, (3) interactive website, (4) performance, (5) exhibit board with process paper. Ellie chose the last.
"It is an experience like no other," Ellie said. "It takes you beyond what is learned in the classroom and teaches you how to do research, analyze material and think on your own.
For her first winning entry, Ellie focused on women of the 1920s under the overall theme of "Encounter, Exchange, Explore." During and after World War I women were by necessity called to fill roles that once were held only by men. Old ideas were exchanged for new ones.
With First Lady Betty Ford, the subject of her recent project, Ellie said she wanted to call attention to someone who affected real change in the lives of others. "When you look at first ladies through history," she said, "most are celebrated as partners for their husbands, but few are remembered for a defining project or program." Betty Ford was someone who stepped out and took a stand on behalf of women and women's issues at a time when women rarely were seen beyond their traditional roles. She was visible and vocal in her advocacy for research on breast cancer, equal opportunities for women in the workplace and equal pay for their work, and for those afflicted by alcoholism and drug addiction. These, said Ellie, are but three of the many efforts on behalf of women that Mrs. Ford promoted during and after her years as First Lady of the United States.
At College Park, Ellie was among the best and brightest from around the world. Each year nearly 3,000 students, grades 6-12, along with their families and teachers gather at the University of Maryland for the week-long National History Day event. These groups come from all fifty states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and international schools in China, Korea, and South Asia.
The secret is out—Hattiesburg is rich in both history and entertainment, and a trip led by Visit Hattiesburg's Kristen Brock made believers of Gulf Park and Hattiesburg OLLI members.
Tours of Oddfellows Gallery and Open Studio on Front Street highlighted both the thriving downtown arts community and the beauty and character preserved in the historic buildings. Painting pottery at Main Street Books was fun and provided a souvenir of the day.
A stop by Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the site where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke just two weeks before his death, served as an introduction to the 1964 Freedom Summer Trail. The audio driving tour chronicles the important role Hattiesburg played in the civil rights era.
Super busy Katie Dixon served the OLLI group healthy and flavorful tomato soup and strawberry spinach salad at her Birdhouse Cafe. The former MasterChef contestant had just returned from judging the World Food Championships and is slated to appear on Food Network Star premiering June 10.
It became quickly apparent that one day isn't enough for exploring Hattiesburg. Visitburg.org makes planning future trips easy with "Craft Your Own Hattiesburg Adventure," found by clicking on the Things to Do tab.
By Robin Clark
Global Response to Human Trafficking was the subject of an informative and troubling seminar presented at OLLI by Dora Harbin and Haile Ponewski.
Human trafficking is the modern equivalent of slavery and the second largest and fastest growing crime in the world today only behind drugs. It is estimated that there are over 20 million victims globally. Human trafficking is for two main purposes, sex and labor. Victims are sometime taken forcibly but many are young and are tricked into running away from home by promises of employment, love, romance, documents to enter western countries or a better life. The age of the victims can vary widely but the preferred or target age is 12 to 14 years.
Once the victims are taken from their families or support group, they are isolated and forced into working low paying manual labor jobs and surrendering their earnings to their captors. Or they may be forced into illegal activities such as drug dealing or prostitution. About 25% of girls and 17% of boys are sexually abused. Though millions of people are involved in global human trafficking, only one to two thousand are prosecuted annually.
Human trafficking is a worldwide problem and, like drugs, it is fueled by supply and demand. It is not limited to third world countries. It is a problem in the United States and right here in Mississippi.
Dora Harbin is a member of Advocates for Freedom (AFF), a nonprofit organization trying to combat human trafficking. Since being chartered in Mississippi in 2011, the AFF has worked to raise public awareness and train first responders, social workers, school administrators, medical professionals and others on signs of psychological and physical abuse which could indicate a person is a victim of human trafficking. They have also established a "Hot Line" where anyone can report suspected trafficking. To aid easy recall, the number is shown as 888-3737-888.
Global human trafficking is a huge legal and moral issue for all of us. If you would like to learn more, please contact Advocates for Freedom at www.advocatesforfreedom.org.
By Bonnie Moore
Jerry Shepherd is a book lover who hunts for collectible and rare books.
He began the Treasure Hunting for Old Books seminar by showing his own signed first edition of John Grisham's A Time to Kill, which sold in 1989 for $18.95. On the first printing of 5,000 books, Grisham bought 2,000 copies and sold them from his car. He would make introductions in person, then sign his book "to my new friend." Shepherd proudly showed his favorite book, The Descendant, by Ellen Glasgow. Like so many authors who couldn't get published, when she did it was stipulated that her name not be printed as the author because she was "unknown." Eventually she won a Pulitzer Prize.
Raised in Laurel, Shepherd discussed some of his early outings to the Lauren Rogers Museum library, visits to antebellum houses where books were piled in every room, from inside the kitchen entry throughout the house. On one such outing, he purchased three first edition William Faulkner novels!
With his experience and knowledge, he noted more than once that Hattiesburg and surrounding areas have an abundance of first edition, rare and valuable books—a wealth of books (including children's) and history in front of our noses. For example, Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, a story about four days at Gettysburg and written in Hattiesburg, won a Pulitzer in 1974 and sold for $2,500!
Shepherd told a story about searching for a college annual for an elderly lady who was in a nursing home. He finally located her yearbook and delivered it to her—coincidentally, on her 101st birthday!
An accomplished bibliophile and owner of Main Street Books in downtown Hattiesburg, Shepherd shared his expertise for finding authentic books at estate and yard sales. He uses such criteria as these, among others:
"Condition is everything" to the buyer.
The factor of supply and demand is what makes a book "rare."
An author's signature is relatively easy to forge.
Be aware of why people collect.
The internet affects the consumer collector's ability to locate and get information on any book. There is a vast amount of information and several good websites such as the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE).
Several old books were brought to the seminar. Condition was poor on many, but Shepherd found a few, even though fragile, that were worth more research for historical or rare value.
Shepherd was a great speaker and storyteller and welcomes visitors to his bookstore with their "treasures."