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Reverend Trollars Moore’s birthday and anniversary parade

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Vicksburg Daily News was invited to join in the celebration for Reverend Trollars Moore’s birthday and anniversary at Jackson Street M.B. Church.

 

Reverend Moore recently turned 30 and is celebrating 5 years as pastor of the historic church.  His congregation has come together to honor him on this special day, which is even more touching as they have been attending services virtually since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Congratulations and Happy Birthday from your friends at Vicksburg Daily News.

People

Facebook key in launching local crafter’s business

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a customizable ornament

one of Steele’s handmade boutique outfits

a Steele Designs creation

 

Eight years ago Nikki Steele was a happy, young working mother married to the love of her life, Mark. She had a six-year-old daughter with another one on the way. Life was happy and comfortable and the family’s future was promising with two incomes…until it suddenly wasn’t. 

Steele arrived at work one morning and learned that she no longer had a job. No warning. No explanations. No severance package. 

“I was angry and very hurt at first. I was pregnant and we relied on both incomes,” Steele said. “My husband is so positive and kept reminding me of  the benefits of being unemployed. He wanted me to stay home with the girls and kept reassuring me that he could support us just fine, but I wanted more than ‘just fine’ for them.”

Steele laughed and explained, “It really is silly and trivial, but I just loved dressing my girls up in big bows and boutique outfits. Those things can be expensive! So I got busy figuring out how to make things myself.”

Steele said she began with hair bows for her girls and posted a few pictures to her Facebook. Suddenly she had strangers contacting her about purchasing them for their own children. 

And just like that, Steele Designs was born. 

“The bows were a hit and I realized I really enjoyed the work. So I started teaching myself how to make the cute boutique outfits that were so popular in the expensive children’s stores. Every time I took my girls out people commented about how cute they looked,” Steele said. 

She soon began selling those as well. 

As her girls grew and no longer wanted the boutique clothes as much, Steele began making other products. She has taught herself how to make t-shirts, blankets, mugs, cups, keychains, and car decals among many other items. 

She credits her husband for allowing her to pursue crafting.  “Mark has always been my number one supporter. He just goes along with all of my ideas and happily does anything I need him to. Even when my crafting supplies took over every room in our house, he never complained.” 

The Steeles have recently purchased a larger home to accommodate Nikki’s growing business with Mark turning a large room into Steele Designs’ headquarters. 

Steele took a break from many of her products when the Coronavirus hit. “I focused on just making masks for a few months in the beginning of the pandemic. I probably made over 2,000 masks.” 

She donated most of those. 

“A profit margin is not even a concern when something like Covid-19 happens. Those are the times that the most important thing is neighbors taking care of neighbors.”

That kind of thinking is a large part of the reason Steele Designs is thriving in a time when many small, locally owned businesses are in trouble. 

As a member of the PTO, Brandi Boyd was tasked with choosing and ordering the yearly school spirit t-shirts for the faculty, staff, and students of Agape Montessori Christian Academy. 

“I’d already been admiring these cute, colorful  t-shirts I was seeing everyone on Facebook wearing and we (members of the PTO) knew we wanted to buy locally if we could. I asked around and was put in touch with Nikki Steele. She met with us, helped us put our motto into a cute design, and then shocked us all with an incredible price. She even donated cute, matching  face masks for all of our faculty and staff.”

As far as employees go, Steele Designs may soon have its first new hire.  Steele’s younger daughter, Hannah Claire, has begun taking an interest in mom’s business. 

“She loves helping me and, of course, I love spending that quality time with her. She’s even been coming up with her own ideas for products. She was on Pinterest or YouTube and saw someone making these hollow, edible balls that people were using to make hot chocolate. She keeps me hopping coming up with different ideas for flavors. We’ve pretty much perfected them now, so I’m going to let her begin selling those.”

Steele’s next goal is completing a website to showcase all of her products. “The problem is I’m always coming up with new ideas and I get sidetracked working to perfect my techniques. I call it ‘crafter’s brain’. It never stops.”

For now, Steele’s products and designs can be seen and ordered via her Facebook pages, Nikki Steele and Steele Designs. 

 

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People

Eric Lawson: Change agent at River City Early College

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Eric Lawson (photo by Kelda Bailess)

If you ask students at River City Early College what Eric Lawson teaches, you’re not likely to hear about specific subjects. What you will hear is, “Mr. Lawson doesn’t do average.”

If you ask faculty and staff members what Eric Lawson teaches, you’ll likely hear “Mr. Lawson teaches kids that they matter.”

When Lawson himself was asked what he teaches, he said, “I teach Leadership. I teach students to apply life habits through the Leader In Me program.”

The Leader in Me initiative is a product of Franklin Covey Education and is centered around ingraining eight specific life habits in students to ensure each person’s future success. All students in the Vicksburg Warren School District are educated in the habits by a certified leadership instructor. The pinnacle of the program’s success for schools is being named a Lighthouse School. In March of this year, with Lawson at the helm of the program, River City Early College was the first high school in the world to earn that distinction.

For those reasons and more, Eric Lawson was chosen as RCEC’s Teacher of the Year for 2020-2021.

“Mr. Lawson was a natural choice for this honor,” said Kelda Bailess, lead teacher at RCEC. “He doesn’t just teach. He builds genuine relationships with our students. His lessons go beyond the walls of a classroom.”

Lawson has also been named one of the top five leadership teachers in the nation.

“The students of RCEC are fortunate to learn from Mr. Lawson’s modeling and leadership,” said Lonnie Moore, senior consultant with Franklin Covey Education. “His ‘butterfly effect’ will be felt for generations to come.”

Lawson was not always a teacher, but he has been an instrumental part of countless children’s lives. He owned Planet 4 Kidz, a local business aimed at caring for children in a safe, entertaining setting, from 2003 to 2016. In 2018, he returned to college and earned a master’s degree in teaching from Alcorn State University. He has been at RCEC since 2017.

Lawson said his favorite part of teaching is seeing his students conquer public and private victories as they mature as leaders.

“I love letting my students share their individual stories and learn about the uniqueness of their peers,” he said. “They need to be encouraged to see people as people. Everyone matters. Acceptance and kindness go a very long way.”

Lawson also teaches his students the importance of setting goals and working until they’re met. “I don’t believe in settling for average, and I don’t expect my students to, either,” he said.

“My ultimate goal is to be an agent of change in the lives of this generation,” he added.

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History

Long live the King and Queen of the Roma

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Graves of the Roma royal family in Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian. (photo courtesy Gordon Cotton)

“I’m going to wait here in the car. The Gypsy graves are at the top of the hill, on the left,” Mrs. Elsie McWilliams told me in Meridian many years ago. I had gone to Meridian to interview her as she had written many of the hits recorded by her brother-in-law, Jimmy Rogers.

There were some Roma (once called Gypsy) graves in Meridian, and I wanted to see them. Miss Elsie rode with me to the cemetery. Weeds and undergrowth covered the hill, and a badly rutted gravel drive led between two brick pillars up the shaded drive.

Two stones, each topped with marble crosses, marked the graves. On each was carved a crown. “King of the Gypsies” is engraved on one stone and of the other is “Queen of the Gypsies.”

Visitors had been there, and someone had left a cup of tea on the Queen’s grave. It had evaporated, leaving the leaves in the cup, probably so whoever left the cup could come back and read the tea leaves.

I was going to photograph the graves, and the cup covered part of the epitaph. I moved the cup and jokingly said, “I hope you don’t mind, your Majesty.”

That’s when I just about jumped out of my skin. Miss Elsie had changed her mind, had walked up the hill (I had not noticed) and was standing right behind me when she said something.

The Queen, Kelly Mitchell, was buried there in 1915 after her death in nearby Coatopa, Alabama. She was 47 and, despite her age, was said to have died in childbirth. A local doctor was promised $10,000 if he could save her life, but he couldn’t.

Queen Kelly’s funeral was probably one of the most lavish events in Mississippi history. Her body lay in state at a Meridian funeral home where candelabras at the head and the foot of her silver­ trimmed metal casket burned day and night. A Meridian newspaper reported that she was beautiful with high cheekbones and a swarthy complexion. Her head was covered with silk, pinned at the back with solid gold pins. Into her braided black hair were woven Russian, French and Portuguese coins dating from 1750 to 1820.

The newspaper article said she was “robed in death with all the barbaric splendor of a medieval queen.” She was dressed in a bright red robe trimmed in yellow. Gold coins, sewed with gold thread, laced the gown and “sacred linen,” which was used only at death, draped the lower part of her body.

Two necklaces, one of gold coins and the other of shells, both tribal heirlooms, were around her neck. Each of the Queen’s children (there were 15) came to the casket and placed a piece of jewelry by their mother’s body. The youngest child tenderly put golden earrings on the Queen’s ears.

As there was no Orthodox congregation in Meridian, funeral services were held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Following the Christian ceremony, all the rites of the Brazilian Indians, from whom was Queen was descended, were performed.

Two black horses pulling a black hearse carried the body to Rose Hill Cemetery behind which was a Roma band, followed on foot by the King and the immediate family. The women and children rode in carriages. At the proper time the band switched from playing mournful dirges to spirited Roma music. It was estimated that 20,000 Roma came from all over the United States.

Twenty-seven years 1ater King Emil, 85, died at Sand Mountain, Alabama. Born in a tent in Rio de Janeiro, he had come to New Orleans with his· roaming parents when he was 5. He left the world the way he entered it — in a tent.

His funeral was not so lavish as the country was at war. He was buried in a gold casket, and before his body was lowered into the grave, he was very generously sprinkled with wine “so the King will have something to drink on the way to the other side.”

Approximately $900,000 worth of jewelry and gold is supposed to be buried with the Queen, and her grave and the King’s, which are side by side, were sealed with many layers of steel-reinforced concrete. Vandals have attempted to break through to the graves, but none have succeeded.

Other members of the Royal Family have also been buried there, but not in such lavish style. Most of the tribe are said to live in Missouri and Oklahoma.

Perhaps Queen Kelly could have read the tea leaves in life, but in death she hasn’t told her secrets. Like her jewels, they remain buried with her.


Gordon Cotton is the curator emeritus of the Old Court House Museum. He is the author of several books and is a renowned historian.

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