Born in the Jackson-area town of Flowood and raised in Grenada, the Mississippi native voiced his dissent in an open letter to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, State Senator Lydia Chassaniol, and Representative Becky Currie. Chassaniol, who serves as Senate Tourism Chairwoman, authored the bill, which would grant the Mississippi Development Authority jurisdiction over the state’s creative economy – threatening creative grants funding – and has received a great deal of criticism from lawmakers, members of the arts community and citizens alike.
“With all due respect to you and your expertise, there are those of us who understand that the environment necessary for Mississippi to continue to build its unparalleled artistic legacy is disappearing,” Worsham writes. “The Mississippi Development Authority may help sell tourism, but it does not create artists. The Mississippi Arts Commission does.”
Worsham references iconic Mississippi artists and public figures like William Faulkner, Oprah Winfrey and Tupelo-born Elvis Presley in his letter. “Pilgrims from across the globe visit Tupelo because they heard ‘Love Me Tender,’ and it moved their spirit in a way that you never could and never will,” Worsham asserts.
“Your actions threaten the very heart of what makes Mississippi loved and respected around the globe,” he continues. “Such actions will not go unchallenged.”
Bryant, in office since 2012, was a campaign surrogate for President Trump and was a topic of discussion when Trump was appointing cabinet positions. In April 2016, he signed HB-1523, a controversial bill that received national attention and allows government officials and private businesses to deny services to same-sex couples on religious grounds.
Chassaniol has ties to the far-right activist group the Council of Conservative Citizens (classified by Southern Poverty Law Center as a white supremacist organization) having served as a speaker at the organization’s national convention in the past. Chassaniol has held her seat in the 14th district of the Mississippi Senate since 2007.
Currie took office in Mississippi’s 81st district in 2007. She voted in favor of HB-1523 and has been a vocal supporter of both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. In December, she tweeted that the investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia were “revengeful and sad.”
In addition to posting his open letter, Worsham recently shared two new songs from his forthcoming album Beginning of Things, “Cut Your Groove” and “Old Time’s Sake.” Listen to both below.
Prior to releasing the tracks, Worsham treated fans to three additional songs, “Southern by the Grace of God,” “Call You Up” and the title song. Beginning of Things is out April 21st.