All are welcome here.
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 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.
“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