All Are Welcome!
Expect to see lots of new welcome signs around the Bay-Waveland area in coming weeks. The design is the work of local business owner, designer, and photographer Ann Madden. The message is simple:
All are welcome here.
The poster has been circulating locally as a response to the recent passage of HB 1523, aka “the religious freedom bill,” which has been denounced around the country as sanctioning discrimination.
The signs began appearing around Old Town Bay St. Louis last week. The graphic was also posted on the Old Town Merchants’ page, which has more than 4,000 followers. The message posted with the graphic reads:
Our hearts and businesses are open to all who want to share in our joy and love for life. Come see us, everyone, any time.
A sampling of BSL artists/merchants in support of the new campaign
The message coincides with an official statement issued earlier this week by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau to their tourism industry partners. The advisory suggested fielding public inquiries about the new law directly to “Governor Phil Bryant’s office at 601-359-3150.” The letter also offered a suggested statement for its partners to use for media inquiries:
“The Mississippi Gulf Coast boasts a diverse culture, and Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast respects the diversity of its staff, visitors and residents within the region. Our doors and shores are always open to everyone.”
In a Friday, April 8 interview with the Cleaver, Old Town Merchants Association president Janice Guido spoke of Bay St. Louis’s tradition of welcoming diversity. She listed several historic examples: Bay St. Louis’s Louis Piernas was Mississippi’s first black postmaster in 1889; BSL’s integrated town cemetery, Cedar Rest, dates back to the 1820s; and the majority white town had a popular African-American police chief in the 1960s.
“In contemporary times, the coast and Bay St. Louis has welcomed those who have come from across the U.S. because of work at Keesler, Stennis Space Center and the casinos. Our large artist population also adds to an atmosphere of creativity and tolerance on the coast.”
“All of this provides the rich gumbo of coastal diversity, which the OTMA group reflects.”
The Old Town Merchants group is printing posters of the welcome signs and distributing them for free to members. Designer Ann Madden, owner of Smith & Lens Gallery and a coast native, is making the design available to anyone who “wants to run with it.”
"The coast is a magical place on a personal level," says Madden. "And that’s all there really is in Bay St. Louis. When state legislators encourage divisiveness, that doesn’t play well here. Our city motto is "A Place Apart," but maybe it should be "A Place of Heart."
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
If you're a business person in Bay-Waveland, we'd love to include your photo! Send your picture with the sign to email@example.com
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