Oxford Pride Spotlights Drag Queens

Featured image courtesy: The Sarah Isom Center

 

By – Daniel Dubuisson

When we think of queens, we are instantly transported to a time of innocence and youth. The times when our parents would sit us down in front of the television, pop in one of the classic Disney princess films, and leave us to sing along with the characters. We think of the heroic men who protected their fair maidens and the women who got the beautiful gowns and fairy protectors.

Films like those raised us to place each gender in a box. One would never dream of stepping out of that box, male or female. It was never conventional to do so.

Until now.

Men around the world are embracing their affinity for glitter, lashes, heels, contouring, drawn-on eyebrows, etc. These men have become queens in their own right…drag queens that is.

In the last decade alone, a shift towards the acceptance of this lifestyle has been smeared all across popular culture.

Whether it be on television like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” or on Broadway with “Kinky Boots,” the popularity surrounding drag culture has experienced a somewhat sudden spike, even in the South.

It was not that long ago that even considering putting on women’s clothing, let alone performing in it, landed you in a first class ticket to ostracization. The men of the region are noticing a change and they are far too excited to embrace it.
“When I was a little baby drag queen, it was bar by bar…now it’s city by city,” Eric White, aka Miss GoDiva Holliday (pronounced “like the chocolate but more gay and with southern sass”), said.

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Eric White performing as Miss GoDiva Holliday at Saturday’s drag show.

“I mean that is a huge deal. We live in world today where men can dress like women for a night…and get paid to do it!”

Countless hours of practice are spent in front of the mirror to get to that level, and sometimes years are needed to perfect the delicate science that is drag. The intention is to ultimately become a drag superstar, but that may take tireless work and hundreds of frequent flyer miles.

That it is why drag queens across the region are rejoicing over the latest event setting up shop in North Mississippi.

The glitz and glam of the drag world is making the street of Oxford its stiletto-stamped runway for the weekend while also serving as a connection for many visiting queens .

 

 

LOU PRIDE

Image courtesy: the Sarah Isom Center

LOU Pride, short for Lafayette, Oxford and University Pride, is the four day festival organized by the Sarah Isom Center, OutOxford and the UM Pride Network to “create inclusive, welcoming spaces for the local and surrounding LGBTQ+ community” according to the Sarah Isom Center’s website featuring the event. Three of the six sponsored events feature drag in some capacity.

Though only in its second year, the entire weekend is expected to draw in a significantly larger attendance than last year.

Perhaps that has something to do with the beaded and “beat” line-up of local and visiting queens.

“We estimated about 1,500 people participated in Pride last year between parade-viewers and party-goers,” Jaime Harker, director of the Sarah Isom Center said.

An impressive number for the inaugural year, no doubt. People from all over the South congregating in one place to watch a parade of queens and then sticking around after to watch them perform is not your typical Saturday in good ol’ Mississippi.

As the show director for Saturday’s drag extravaganza, White says he knows the fact that this is even happening, and in a town with such contested history, is a victory for the entire LGBTQ+ community.

“Things are clearly progressing,” White said. “Some really cool people got together and said, ‘You know what, we can do this here to make this huge event for people who just want to love.’ That’s  started to spill over…so instead of looking at it as being ironic because of the past, you should think of it as being refreshing and the start of something new in Oxford, and in the South.”

Crowds throughout the shows last year threw him for a loop as well. He did not expect the turnout that materialized.

“I mean I knew it was going to be a good show because I created it,” White said, “but the boys and girls were lined up all night out around the corner to get in.”

Having that support is what inspired him to reach out to other up-and-coming local queens and offer them a spot in the 2017 lineup. Two Oxford queens answered the call and are featured in not one, but two of the festival’s drag showcases.

One of those drag darlings is junior art major Spencer Pleasants. You probably recognize him from the numerous Code Pink events he has MCed at Proud Larry’s as Miss Amnesia Devereux alongside his drag sister Jake Stewart aka Miss Beverly Hellz.

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Pleasants performing as Miss Amnesia Devereux during Pride weekend.

“My name is Spencer Pleasants and drag is my life now.”

“Being given this kind of spotlight really cements things for me. I am a drag queen,” Pleasants said.

It is the “sisterhood” White inspired that encouraged this year’s organizers to also cross state lines and reach out to other notable names within the drag community. Thanks to OutOxford Director, Blake Summers, a few special guests have been added to the production.

“I reached out to the queens from Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on a whim,” Summers said. “I asked their management if they’d like to join us in Oxford and they responded so fast…they said yes!”

Pulse experienced a tragedy the night of June 12, 2016 when 49 lives were tragically lost in the nightclub. An active shooter’s attack in the space devoted to the safety of LGTBQ+ people and their friends became the most deadly shooting spree in U.S. history. Since that disastrous night, these queens have traveled to nearly all 50 states to perform and remind folks of the impact that massacre had on the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’ve been to Memphis, Nashville, and even Orlando…before I came back to Tupelo,” White said, “but I have never seen anything like the show these girl put on. It’s just the right balance of serving looks and giving context.”

That is what the entire festival is about, after all: members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies coming to together to show just how far they have come with drag at the forefront.

Literally.

Drag queens will be leading the parade on Friday in a caravan of vintage hotrods donated to the cause by supporters based in Memphis.

“The goal is to promote the new normal,” Pleasants said. “We want to ride past the crowd and have them know the queers and queens are here to stay.”

In fact, Oxford may soon be welcoming an LGTBQ+ friendly bar. White has long considered the placement for “queer watering hole” and with the headway the town is making, he has upped the ante.

“I just recently asked a friend of mine who used to own a bar in Tupelo if he’d consider being business partners…and he seemed very interested,” White said. “You can bet if that became a reality, Miss Godiva will be on that stage every damn night.”

Oxford and the University of Mississippi are making steps towards a more socially moderate climate in the South. With their help, things like LGBTQ+ pride and drag queens are on track to be around for more than just a weekend.

What Works 4/25

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino

I want my money back, Starbucks.

 

This piece is featured on Ole Miss’ section within the Spoon University online site. The writer, Rachel Ishee, went to Starbucks last week to try the highly anticipated Unicorn Frappuccino from global coffee phenomenon, Starbucks. The diction is not that of a typical review but rather of an actual college student who feels like they wasted $5 on a shitty drink. This kind of journalism is refreshing at times but carries the risk of unprofessionalism  in different types of outlets.

  • I clicked on this article because the author forced me to but I will go on the record to say that I was also interested in reading this because coffee interests me. I do not drink it because I avoid caffeine like the plague so I also never order from good ol’ Starbs. The unicorn aspect sparked my interest. too!
  • It is not SEO-friendly however for the simple reason that there are sooooo many articles about this drink. It was all the rage in pop culture last week so it is understandable that this feature would sink into the background.
  • The author used a hard news lead here with her subtitle really adding to the premise for this story.
  • The author’s choice to disregard professional language draws in the target audience for this site: young, college-aged millennials.
  • The fourth paragraph is when things get interesting. The writer hints at her displeasure early on towards the drink but the last sentence really cements her angst.
  • She didn’t truly use sources here as much as just include info she got from casual conversation with Starbucks staff but it is mostly from her own perspective.
  • Ishee used multiple images to show the drink in all of its “glory” but the image that struck me most was the one including a gorgeous model worthy of a contract with Wilhelmina Models holding the beverage *insert wink here*. 17882302_1666951346947199_4804649256835088384_n
  • I think that a great video (perhaps sped up for effect) showing the process of making the drink or even a link to the Starbucks commercial featuring the drink could have further enhanced this story.

Barnard Observatory to be lit up like the stars

(This story has since been published in the Daily Mississippian)
By – Daniel Dubuisson and Rachel Ishee

Barnard Observatory has housed Confederate soldiers, sorority sisters, and even a chancellor. This Friday night, it will host a much different crowd.  

The UM Pride Network will be hosting its third annual formal from 9 p.m. to midnight in the Tupelo Room.

The theme for the free event is “Out of The Closet, Out of This World” and attendees are encouraged to show up in their best intergalactic inspired outfits.

“It’s going to be your favorite astronauts, your favorite aliens, milky-ways, whatever you want to be,” Spencer Pleasants, current president of the UM Pride Network, said. “The sparklier the better. The more silver or metallics the better. Whatever fantasy suits you, do it and come on and party.”

A playlist has been created by the planning committee featuring a sound they describe as “David Bowie meets Lady Gaga meets Star Wars.”

“We’ve been working on a collaborative playlist of out of this world tunes,” Pleasants said. “There’s going to be a brigade of fabulous dancefloor tunes that you can get your space booty down too.”

But dancing is not all that is drawing some people to this formal. Others are simply excited to have a safe space to meet new people. In the past, the formal was targeted towards members of the undergraduate LGBTQ+ organization, but this year organizers are actively promoting the event to a much broader audience.

“I’m just looking forward to going there and relaxing for a night,” sophomore accounting major and ally Skyler Knapp said. “Hopefully some new faces will be there, and… be more active in the community.”

“We need something like this because with the LGBTQ+ community and the environment we live in at Ole Miss… the Greek community is so prevalent,” junior biology major Sam Palmer said.

“It is not known for being particularly accepting of queer people, so i think that having a formal that kind of mirrors the fun things greek people do gives the queer students a chance to kick back and enjoy that experience they wouldn’t be able to have.”

And though similar already exist such as Everybody’s Formal hosted by ASB, Palmer thinks that the Ole Miss community will benefit from something that embraces that embraces this group of people who are normally polarized.

“It is different when you cater something to a specific community,” Palmer said. “People think that ‘this is an event for me’…so maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be queer.”

The formal is not only giving people a place to cut loose in a safe space, but it is also getting them excited up for the upcoming pride weekend.

“Our hope is that this formal gets people in gear as a precursor to L.O.U. Pride coming up the first week on May,” Pleasants said.

“I’m looking forward to just dancing the night away and hopefully dancing the night into the stars.”

Everyone is barking over parking

By – Daniel Dubuisson 

 The Oxford Parking Commission met Friday morning to discuss the upcoming changes arriving soon to The Square.  

Locals and students alike are certainly familiar with the meters added to the square back in 2014. Since their addition, the city has turned a profit sizable enough to entertain ideas for further expansion of the parking commission and its services. 

Although Friday’s meeting lacked the necessary five commissioners to vote on any official business, Oxford’s community is already reacting to one of the major items mentioned in the menace.  

Changes are coming and they are coming soon. 

Free parking on or near the beloved town square is soon to be next to nonexistent. The commission is hearing proposals from several Mississippi contractors Tuesday, April 18th in hopes of beginning the construction of a shiny new parking garage by January 2018. 

The structure will take shape over the preexisting 236 free parking spots directly across from Oxford Floral Company.  

Once under construction, those spaces will disappear in order to make way for a garage similar to the two new structures on the University of Mississippi campus. According to Mike Harris, parking chairman and director of parking and transportation on campus, one of the shortlisted developers for the project is the same Jackson-based company that is responsible for the completion of the garage located in the dormitory parking zone behind Kincannon.

But even with the success of those projects, people still have reservations about this development.

“I just want to know where in the world they want everyone to park next year,” junior biology major Sam Palmer said. “A lot of people try to park in that lot when they go out on weekends.”

He is not the only one with this concern. Oxford High School student Georgia Hogue shares his worry.

“I have park there when I go to work at Holli’s (Sweet Tooth),” Hogue said. “I hope they give me another free option.”

Chairman Kevin Frye, a local attorney, mentioned a few temporary solutions to facilitate that loss of spaces.

“There are over 100 free spots at the Oxford Park Commission’s lot,” Frye said. “People are just going to have to get use to the short walk.”

Several other options are under consideration. Talks of a partnership with the Oxford Church of Christ and leasing out privately owned lots caught the interest of Oxford’s Mayor Pat Patterson.

“Those sound like it’ll work but we gotta get the estimated cost,” Patterson said.

The group’s biggest fear is the impact the loss of free parking will inflict on local businesses. Chairwoman Amanda Hyneman also co-owns the historic J.E. Neilson Co. Department Store but insists the new structure will reap great rewards for stores on the Square.

“We might see a little slip in the beginning especially during football season,” Hyneman said. “But the return we will see will make us forget the losses.”

The new parking garage will house over 1,000 spaces once when completed in January 2018 and be open to all visitors to the Square. No decision on whether or not to charge for entry to structure has been decided but the commission expects the increased parking to boost tourism in Oxford even more than previous years have seen.

What Works 4/18

Late night at one of the busiest Waffle Houses in the country

This week I decided to do my What Works on Rachel A. Ishee’s feature on a local Waffle House for the Gulf Coast’s SunHerald. 

As the headline states, Ishee spent a few hours in one of the busiest Waffle Houses in America. Located in Biloxi, MS directly across from two major casinos, this location sees enough rowdy visitors a night to require nightly security and nearly double the usual staff. Rachel sets the scene from start to finish of a typical weekend shift for the employees.

  • I clicked on this story because my friend Rachel made me and she is forcing me to write this. The title is very original and no other similar stories do not appear in google searches.
  • The author uses a delayed lead to entice the reader to keep scrolling. She used quotes from the staff to set the scene.
  • Rachel used vivid description to appeal to readers.
  • The 7th paragraph shows the tide turning in the restaurant as it gets busier. More and more detail comes into play in this story.
  • The author didn’t uses sources for this feature as much as she just observed the happenings within the establishment.
  • She included an image of the cooking area behind the counter but no other multimedia was used.
  • I think a video of the employees bustling around and maybe a sound bite of the sizzling grill would have added value to this story.

 

 

Ole Miss student journalists: friend or foe?

By – Daniel Dubuisson and Rachel Ishee

 

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media is growing rapidly each year. With that growth comes the increase in student journalists wanting quotes from sources as coveted as the chancellor to the abundance of their fellow university students. Class assignments and published content by students in local news outlets fuel the constant need for interviews both on and off campus.

Although the Student Media Center in Bishop Hall produces near daily content, most of this interest in the Ole Miss and Oxford communities is the result of assignments in journalism courses.

These classes require students to pitch, write, and edit publishable content before a strict deadline, often times day-of stories. As of fall 2015, over 1,300 students are enrolled in the Meek School so that pretty much guarantees that university faculty/staff, local residents, students, as well as public officials are kept busy with interview inquiries.

Oxford Police Department is no stranger to these requests but Megan Prescott, executive assistant to the chief, is always prepared to facilitate questions from the press.

“I’ve had three calls for interviews so far this week,” Prescott said.

She understands students often have rigid deadlines and is willing to work with them as quickly as she can.

“First I’ll ask when is the deadline and backtrack from there,” Prescott said. “News media is how we get information out, so it’s beneficial for all of us to do the interviews.”

Even the mayor’s office feels the heat. Only so much news occurs in a small town like Oxford so questions can often time get repetitive…something Mayor Pat Patterson knows all too well.

“If I’ve given one interview on growth, I’ve given 40,” Patterson said. “But if they have the moxy to come in here, sit down, and ask the questions, we do what we can to accommodate.”

University students can also be inconvenienced by the need for quotes like McKenzie Cavanaugh, a junior exercise science major and group fitness instructor for Ole Miss Campus Recreation. She feels as if student journalism has put a strain on some of her friendships.

“What makes student journalists annoying is that you only hear from your friends when they want to talk to get a quote from you,” Cavanaugh said. “I like student journalists when they talk to me outside the realm of journalism.”

Others understand and appreciate the role student journalists play in the community and don’t mind giving interviews, but they are not always available due to time restraints.

“I may ignore an interview request or two,” former ASB Senator Allen Coon said, “but journalists play a very important role in society at large.”

Although excessive interview requests can become a pester, campus entities such as the University Police Department try their best to make time for interviews with journalism students.

“Almost always we can accommodate the student,” UPD Administrative Coordinator Beth Shoffner said.  “The only problem it causes is an officer may not be available when the student wants to do the interview.”

Through all the fuss, no one understands these inconveniences more than the student journalists themselves.

Senior broadcast journalism major Kyra Henderson understands the importance of completing interviews in a timely manner while also working with everyone’s busy schedules.

“It’s very difficult when it comes to trying to find people to interview because everyone has different schedules,” Henderson said, “and a lot of times you don’t want to take up anyone’s time, but you have to get your story and you have to get credible sources.”

Professors in Farley Hall are aware of these concerns, but feel that they are vital to molding a young journalist’s career just like education majors are required to student teach at some point.

“The foundation of a good journalism program is that it is pre-professional in nature,” Associate Professor and Journalism Department Head Debora Wenger said. “That means they have to do work, as they do in the profession…students have to talk to real people about real issues.”

What Works 4/4

Student gets into Stanford with #BlackLivesMatter x100

 

Analysis:

Ziad Ahmed is a high schooler in New Jersey that used his personal statement in a Stanford application to advocate for a cause. Ahmed wrote #BlackLivesMatter 100 times in the personal statement section to the university that only accepted 1 in 20 undergrad applications last year. But the real shocker is that he actually got it. The acceptance has left some of his twitter followers amused but some believe a real BLM ally would have used the statement to present an actual case in favor of their cause.

 

  • I clicked on this article simply because I dreamed of Stanford my last two years of high school. I was discouraged by their slim acceptance percentage. Also, the BLM movement is something that means a lot to the media right now. Whether it is covered negatively or positively, it is covered almost every single news cycle. The relevance of this story is amazing.
  • It’s not very SEO-friendly because when I searched the key words I got articles about other BLM issues and only a handful of stories about this…but BBC’s story wasn’t even on the first page of results.
  • The writer wrote a narrative lead here to engage the reader and give a background of the situation before delving into the complexity of the story later on in a few short paragraphs.
  • The author uses the hashtag for the BLM movement to really reel in the average millennial reader as well as anyone who has followed the movement from its beginnings.
  •  I think that the story doesn’t necessarily have a nut-graph because it is too short. The first paragraph serves its purpose of encompassing the story and mentioning its different pieces.
  • The featured image really attracts reader to this story because the screenshot of the essay is so important to the actual story. Readers can see the headline and image together and see this is not clickbait.
  • I think an interview or more quotes from Ahmed could be added or even a statement from Stanford itself on the matter to spice up this story.

 

 

 

 

Ole Miss Parking 2017: Are You Ready?

(This story has since been published by the Daily Mississippian)
By – Daniel Dubuisson & Rachel Ishee

Everyone loves to hate parking on the Ole Miss campus. With roughly 14,000 spots but more than 21,000 students and faculty, that leaves 7,000 people who might potentially call the parking department any given day to complain.

In response, Director of Parking and Transportation Mike Harris says the matter can be summed up into three words.

“Enough, cheap, and convenient,” Harris said. “You can pick two but you’ll never get all three…and we have every combination on this campus.”

That’s not to say he doesn’t have a few tricks up his sleeve. In fact, the department has several projects in the works for the 2017-2018 school year starting with the change in cost of each type of permit.

Residential permits will rise to $250, commuter to $200,  and Park-n-Ride to $100. But perhaps the biggest difference is the price of permits for the parking garage attached to the Pavillon.

“We’re going to lower the price of the garage from $550 to $400,” Harris said. “It’s going to be all reserved spaces and the gates are going away.”

That’s a change that students who currently hold permits for the parking garage are thrilled for.

Junior Alexandra Morris says she cannot wait for the transition after experiencing numerous flaws in the garage’s system but admits that she still has her reservations.

“I don’t know how they’re going to enforce that,” Morris said. “The gates are brutal but all they’ll be able to do is give a ticket if someone is in there without a permit and that’s a spot I still can’t park in.”

One thing that isn’t going away is the $5 fee for contesting a ticket.

If you protest any ticket and the citation is waived you have nothing to worry about, but if you appeal a ticket and your request is denied, the $5 fee will still be assessed to your preexisting citation…something that many permit holders find to be unfair.

“I think it is unreasonable for students to pay that fee,” junior Maddy Young said. “One of the main reasons they’re fighting it is because they can’t afford to pay the actual ticket in the first place.”

Regardless of students’ opinions of the fee, Mike Harris says that it is here to stay.

Students and faculty can still look forward to other changes, however, like the development of a carpool system.

“We’re going to have a carpool parking area on campus,” Harris said. “You can come in with two or more people and park in this carpool area.”

It will encourage students to share a ride to campus in order to leave additional spaces open for other students.

This zone will be located just west of the Pavilion in the lower half of the lot currently zoned for faculty and staff only. It will soon be opened to carpoolers with commuter passes and monitored by officers using a camera pointed at the designated lot.  

“If our officers see two people get out of the car, then they’re good…if they see one person get out of that car, it’s not good,” Harris said. “If you have two or more people in that one car, that’s two more spaces open.”

Harris also says the department is eliminating select parallel parking zones on campus by August. The entirety of Rebel Drive entering campus and the east side of Sorority Row are on the chopping block.

“We’ve got to get people off of these streets and get them into lots,” Harris said. “Open these streets up for bike lanes…and for shuttle stops because it’s becoming a more pedestrian campus.”

As for the bus system, several modifications will be completed by the fall semester.

Current university buses will be getting an updated blue exterior alongside several new buses being added to the fleet. Buses are also being equipped with wifi and charging stations.

“We’re trying to get things uniformed…to trademark all of our buses so that they all look the same,” Harris said. “Regardless of the size of the buses, they are all one system.

Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations such as LED signs and automated announcements to alert people of the next stop are being added along with eight new bus stops to make getting from class to class more convenient.

“We’ll have two buses running counterclockwise and two buses running clockwise,” Harris said.  “We have no stop on campus that is more than a four minute walk from a stop.”

The new buses will seat anywhere between 38- 45 passengers and will run everyday solely on campus.

These changes will certainly garner some initial negative critiques from people on campus but Harris feels it is all for the greater good. His goal is to use what is left of the campus’ 640 acres to improve the parking situation.

“All of these things that we’re doing, they all work together for the same reason and that reason is to get the most out of the parking that we have and to try to do it as economically and efficiently as possible.”

What Works 3/28

Summary:
This article details the recent discovery of preserved dinosaur footprints on the coast of  Australia’s James Price Point. A local indigenous tribe, The Goolarabooloo have known of these tracks for generations but only revealed their location when a company wanted to harvest the region’s natural gas supply, thus leading to the eminent destruction of the site. Paleontologists have since surveyed the area and gave it protection from gas drilling or any other type of development. One of the prints is now listed as the largest ever found at 5′ 9″.
Questions:
  • I clicked on this link because I’m a child in nature and still remain fascinated by dinosaurs and their history on earth.
  • It is not very SEO-friendly because is does not even show up when searching for the key words. More prominent news outlets, like the Washington Post where this story is originally from, took precedence.
  • The writer uses a narrative lead to tell a little bit of a background story to the information following it up.
  • The author appeals to a sense of wonder and intrigue to pull you in. She illustrates life in the era of dinosaurs to entice the reader to keep reading.
  • Paragraph 7 is where I see the base of the story being revealed.
  • Sources include a researcher and the tribal leader and their words work together to give the story heart as well as perspective.
  • A brief video at the top of the page pulled in all elements of this story and gave a quick insight into the rest of the piece. For the site, it is a failsafe in case readers do not want to read the entire page.
  • http://launch.newsinc.com/?type=VideoPlayer/Single&widgetId=1&trackingGroup=69016&playlistId=19132&siteSection=denverpost&videoId=32177576
  • I think more imagery could have been used here to really give a scale of the diverse collection of prints located in this region because readers are left to imagine it for themselves although photographs do indeed exist.

Mississippi Heroin Epidemic: Is Oxford Safe?

By – Daniel Dubuisson and Rachel Lambert

Mississippi is infamous for many things. As of 2016, the state is the third most obese state and have the second highest rate of pregnancy among teens. In the coming years, heroin may find its way onto that list.

John Dowdy, the director for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, has said that our state is experiencing an “epidemic related to opioids.”. It has swept the nation, and north Mississippi’s heroin problems are rising at an alarming rate. The MBN has reported an increase in opioid related deaths and heroin is among one of the most common offenders.  

Oxford native Dr. Ann Chancellor Roberson said a lot of medical literature attributes the rise to stricter policies enforced by the Mississippi Prescription Monitoring Program. The program documents what medicines patients have had and how many prescriptions they’ve filled to ensure that the patient’s drug use is not beyond reason. Doctors are also trying to now prescribe medications that are less likely to spark an addiction, and Roberson says this leads people to other drugs such as heroin.

“We’ve seen a little bit of reduction in these pills and everybody is still wanting to get high, so they go to whatever they can find,” Roberson said. “Heroin is cheap and unfortunately easy to find. So we’ve seen an increase in it.”

But the problem is never just that simple. Heroin distributors are now creating newer, more potent versions of the already deadly opioid. According to Roberson, heroin is so dangerous, mostly because it is easily mixed with other drugs like fentanyl and ketamine.

“With a Lortab 5 or 10, you know what you’re getting,” Roberson said. “Heroin isn’t like that. You never know what strength you’re getting and what all is in it. So when you shoot up, you are always risking your life.”

In 2015, Desoto County experienced the most opioid related overdoses in the state, and has been ground zero for many young addicts.

Former heroin addict Sam Rives of Nesbit first used heroin his senior year of high school. Now 22, Rives can attest to the dangers associated with heroin.The first time he used, he said he was misled into thinking he was not taking heroin.

“I was really naive at the time,” Rives said. “By the time I found out it was heroin, it was too late. I loved it so much the first time I tried it, that I did it without thinking about any of the possible consequences.”

Rives abused heroin for nearly four years before he made the near fatal mistake of taking Xanax simultaneously with heroin.

“I didn’t have health problems until I mixed [heroin] with Xanax,” Rives said. “I overdosed and that caused me to go into a comma and need life support, so that was a bummer.”

“It’s definitely a problem in Oxford, and it’s not just with students,” Dr. Roberson said. “There is an adult population that also has issues with heroin addiction.”

While the problem is distressing, the Lafayette County Coroner Rocky Kennedy reported no recent deaths due to heroin. Dr. Roberson called Oxford fortunate in the efficiency of its preventative measures.

“We’ve had a lot off near misses here and students who have died from overdoses elsewhere, but we have a great police department and low crime,” Roberson said. “We also have a hospital close by and excellent first responders. I think the community looks out for one another, and that helps keep people safe.”