Black business owners of Mississippi’s capital are protesting the water crisis


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Jackson, Miss Prosperity.

Sitting on the patio of Johnny T’s Bistro and Blues this week, he lamented all the business lost when contaminated water poured through the taps – just like the other Black City’s 150,000 users who were lucky. Enough to have no pressure. The revival he and others envisioned seems highly dubious.

“The numbers are pretty low for lunch,” Thier told The Associated Press. “Maybe they are moving their business to an area where there is no water problem.He said.

Heavy rains and Pearl River flooding in late August exacerbated problems at two of Jackson’s treatment plants, reducing pressure in the city.

Officials said Saturday that service has been restored to most customers. But the water crisis has exacerbated the financial crisis caused by ongoing labor shortages. and high inflation. And the flow of consumer dollars from Jackson and its crumbling infrastructure to the suburbs will hurt black-owned businesses, the owners say.

Another black entrepreneur is Bobbie Fairley, 59, who has lived in Jackson her entire life and owns Magic Hands Hair Design on the city’s South Side.

She canceled five appointments on Wednesday because she needed high water pressure to wash her clients’ hair with medical chemicals. She should buy water with shampoo hair to make it fit and on any appointment she can. She is losing money when customers are not coming in.

“It’s a big burden,” she said. “I can’t afford this. I can’t afford this at all.

Jackson can’t afford to fix its water problems. White flight to the suburbs, which began a decade after public schools were integrated in 1970, has seen the tax base shrink over the past few decades. Today, the city is more than 80% black and 25% poor.

Few say the uncertainty facing black businesses is comparable to the types of problems that stem from both natural disasters and policy decisions.

“It’s a punishment for Jackson because he was open to the idea that people should be in public schools and that people should have access to public spaces without permission,” said Mattie John Prim, owner of Marshall’s Music and Bookstore. T. “Because of this, we have people who have fled to the suburbs.”

Prim thinks of Jackson’s long-term water problem – According to a 2018 Congressional Budget Office report, federal water utility spending peaked in the 1970s, followed by few. – Made worse by lack of action from Mississippi’s mostly white, conservative-dominated legislature.

“For decades, this has been a dangerous attack, not a kind one. And it was purposeful,” Prem said.

Political leaders were not always on the same page. Jackson’s Democratic mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, blamed the water problems on decades of delayed maintenance, while Republican Gov. Tat Reeves blamed mismanagement at the city level.

Last Monday, the governor held a news conference about the crisis, and the mayor was not invited. Another was held later in the week where both appeared, but Primm said it was clear that the two were not in concert.

“The lack of cooperation speaks to the continued punishment Jackson will have to face,” she said.

Under normal circumstances, Labor Day weekend is a busy time at Johnny Tees. The college football season brings in devoted Jackson State fans watching away games on bistro TVs or arriving from the stadium after home games. But this weekend, many regulars were busy stocking up on bottled water for drinking or tap water for cooking.

As revenues declined, tier costs rose. He’s been spending $300 to $500 a day on ice and bottled water, not including bottled soft drinks, tonic water and other items typically served from soda guns. It brings workers in a few hours earlier than usual to get a head start on boiling water to wash dishes and stack extra soda cans.

In total, Tierre estimates, he’s setting aside more than $3,500 a week. Customers pay the price.

“You have to pass some of that on to the consumer,” says Thier. “Now your Coke is $3, and there are no refills.”

At the South Jackson water station this week, local resident Lisa Jones brought in empty paint buckets for her family to flush. In a city with crumbling infrastructure, Jones said she felt trapped.

“Now not everyone can move. “Everybody can’t go to Madison, Flood, Canton and all those places,” she said, naming three more affluent suburbs. “If we could, believe me, it would be a dark sight: houses would be boarded up in every street, every neighborhood.”


Michael Goldberg is a reporter for the Associated Press/State House News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues. Follow him on Twitter


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