Hard work in Biloxi paid off, for city and volunteers

Kevin Clark

I returned back from the Spring Break trip to Biloxi, Miss. a changed man. Through the trip’s ups and downs and a 23-hour bus ride – I found the man in the mirror. I could go into the details of what happened on the trip, but I’ll save that for another day. The most intimate moments came on the last night of the experience.

It was a talent show hosted by Justin “Bob” Peeples, that brought together all of the participants of the Biloxi trip. The competition was stiff with groups doing acts from plays, reworking a Queen classic into a memorable song and, as a whole, coming together for the sake of greater good. Now, it wouldn’t be right of me to say that the trip was all Brady Bunch-esque, because it certainly wasn’t. But for one night, under a mass of stars, with the smell of crawfish and hamburgers swirling in the air – we had finally got the point.

The final performance of the night was by a team called the Black Squirrels. The group did an original piece commemorating the victims of Hurricane Katrina. While humming the beginning of Shai’s “If I Ever Fall in Love,” various members of the crew became the voices for the stories not heard by mainstream media. Blacks, whites, Palestinians, Egyptians and Japanese were represented by our own Kent State students. The Black Squirrels were not able to finish their performance on the first go-around. After being declared the winner of the talent show, the crowd wanted an encore.

Collectively, the group expressed its sadness for lost possessions and, as the “hurricane” washed over them, the message was clear – surviving is strength. Testimonial after testimonial, the students of Kent State became the voices for the voiceless. From Mississippi to Alabama to New Orleans, their stories were clearly heard on that starry night. Amidst rubble and ruin, the residents of Biloxi are still standing strong, regardless of their status.

Throughout the course of our stay, we saw a lot of the places that were hit the hardest. One of the most interesting comments came from the Rev. Haynes at the Main Street Baptist Church in East Biloxi. He commented on the destruction still left eight months after Katrina’s wrath. He finalized his statement with a glaring realization by saying that what we were seeing is much better than what it was.

That night, being under the stars taught me that through all of life’s trials and tribulations, strength is the ability to surpass adversity. This is an attribute that many of the residents of Biloxi, and all the other places that were hit by this natural disaster, possess. This was an experience that has changed my life, as I believe it has for everyone who was in attendance. It was truly a memory that’ll last a lifetime in my mind and heart.

Interested? Want to know more? Want to see a crawfish wink at you? Go to http://realrecognizereal.wordpress.com for more.

Kevin L. Clark is a sophomore journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].