Visit Jackson Salutes Industry Standouts During NTTW
From the back of the house to the front, Jackson’s hospitality industry would be nothing without the people behind it. During National Travel & Tourism Week, Visit Jackson salutes five tourism employees, our partners who do the real work to help showcase and grow the City With Soul.
Savannah Willis, International Museum of Muslim Cultures
When Savannah Willis wanted to make a career change, she looked to her faith family to guide her. Literally.
“Sister Okolo Rashid (Executive Director of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures – IMMC) promised me training and community connections,” Willis said of her move in July 2019 to become co-manager of the museum’s “Muslims With Christians and Jews” exhibition and a docent for the museum.
Working at the IMMC has brought Willis a closer look at how enslaved Muslims who came to Mississippi also brought their adhan, the Muslim call for prayer, to our modern musical landscape.
“If you hear the adhan,” she said, “you hear the sounds of gospel music and the blues.”
For Willis, the IMMC solidifies her identity in her religion and her identity as a Mississippian. Islamic stories, she said, are not just stories; they represent our collective experience as people.
Willis is also involved with local non-profits The People’s Advocacy and Working Together Jackson. She said the IMMC is an excellent catalyst for this work.
Dr. Robert Luckett, Jr., Margaret Walker Center, JSU
Director of the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center and an associate professor at Jackson State University, Dr. Robert Luckett is a Jackson-area native who grew up learning the values of social justice and inclusion.
After earning his undergraduate degree at Yale and his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, Luckett returned to Mississippi and is beginning his thirteenth year at JSU.
Luckett, a father of three, seeks to keep the work of writer Margaret Walker alive and pass on his knowledge and values to his students, the community and his own family.
“Being a civil rights historian in Mississippi is a remarkable opportunity to study a living history,” he said. “I am particularly lucky that I can immerse my children in that history and give them a chance to know real heroes who risked their lives to make this a better place. Those are the kinds of role models I want my children looking up to and being able to say, ‘Hey, I knew Joan Trumpauer.’”
Jane Jones, More Than a Tourist
“I hate ‘travel agent’ because it’s an old term. I prefer ‘travel counselor,'” said Jane Halbert Jones, owner and operator of More Than a Tourist, LLC, in an interview in 2017.
You could call her Jackson’s resident tour guide, the only person or organization offering guided walking tours of the city and curated foodie and experiential tours here.
Born and raised in Mississippi, Jones has always had a love for travel and other cultures, “almost completing” a graduate program in Paris.
“I was back in Mississippi, working a desk job, but I wasn’t happy, so I came up with the idea to take groups of people over to Paris. In that office, I came up with the name. I thought to myself, ‘I want people to feel comfortable when they travel… I want them to be more than a tourist!”
During COVID-19, when in-person touring was not an option, Jones still made travel fun, showcasing the city through various “Did You Know” video sessions on Instagram stories, opening a window to anyone to experience Jackson.
Corey Wright, Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
A graduate of St. Joseph Catholic High School in Madison, Jackson native Corey Wright was headed to Louisiana State University to play basketball, but decided to stay closer to home to take care of his mother.
Not long after, he started a job at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, where he quickly became a Conservation Educator and Naturalist.
“I get to educate, and I love what I do,” he said in a previous interview. “Not too many people can say that they have a job that they love to do,” Wright said. “Seeing (kids’) faces when you show them a creature that they’ve never seen before is the best part of (the job).
During COVID-19, Wright didn’t miss a beat. He hosted a weekly web show on Facebook to showcase the animals he cares for every day at the museum.
Mimi Grigsby, Sal & Mookie’s
Anyone who spent much time at Broad Street Baking Company and Cafe over the last several years recognizes Mimi Grigsby.
The Minneapolis native with a warm voice and kind spirit drew patrons in, patrons who hoped she would be at the register when they ordered a meal.
“My customers give me so much,” she said in 2018. “The highest point of my day is when the (Banner Hall) lobby is full of people, and I’m trying to run that line. People worry about being a pain. Listen — when you spend your money on your meal, it should be what you want, and you should never have to apologize for it.”
Customer service is Grigsby’s forte, and serving has always come naturally for her, even at home. At family gatherings, she is always the family member helping others fill their plate, getting out the to-go boxes and cleaning.
“I really thrive off of people. It’s so easy to be nice to someone. What is hard about that?”
Grigsby is now a Service Manager at Broad Street’s sister restaurant, Sal & Mookie’s, at The District at Eastover.
With reporting from Find It In Fondren.