“Do not assassinate my character”: Student in controversial Meek Facebook post speaks

Published 10:30 am Saturday, September 22, 2018

Ki’yona Crawford was getting ready to pose for a photo celebrating a night out on the Square last Saturday.

However, she was completely unaware of an anonymous photographer lurking across the street, whose photos would put Crawford and her friend Mahogany Jordan, both students at the University of Mississippi, at the center of controversy, courtesy of journalism donor Ed Meek.

The Facebook post, which apparently came as a reaction to a series of filmed fistfights last weekend, attracted nearly 1,500 comments and more than 850 shares in six hours before Meek deleted it and posted an apology. He then deleted the apology and posted a new one, but changed his privacy settings so only friends could see it.

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When she saw the post Wednesday afternoon, Crawford said she felt a range of emotions: confusion, anger, unease.

“As I read the post, I tried to grasp how the only two photos he had taken and chosen of us illustrate the message he conveyed pertaining to the incidents that happened this past weekend in Oxford,” Crawford said. “Was he trying insinuate that we were hookers from our attire and that we were apart of the problem as to the enrollment rate dropping by 3 percent and the possibility of the property values decreasing? His demoralized perception of us as black women baffled me.”

UM senior administration and Meek School of Journalism and New Media faculty were quick to denounce Meek’s actions as “highly offensive” and embarrassing, as journalism Dean Will Norton, Jr. said in a video statement released by the department.

More important than the effect of Meek’s actions on the University, Crawford said, is the way in which the post illustrates centuries of hyper-sexualization of women – especially women of color – calling it “unnatural and outdated.”

“We, as women, have the right to explore our sexuality. Do not try to assassinate my character based off the length of my dress or the height of my heel,” Crawford said. “I should not have to feel confined as to how I want to appear. I condemn these hyper-sexual stereotypes of women. Women of color can’t live their lives without being policed and targeted by men and each other.”

Many members of the LOU community have rallied in support of Crawford and Jordan. In an open letter, UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter stated that the University itself had reached out to the women and offered support. In the letter, Vitter said he was outraged that photos of Crawford and Jordan were used by Meek to illustrate his point.

It’s a sentiment Crawford, a biology major, said she appreciates, along with the outpouring of support from social media, her peers and those who attended a listening session hosted by the University Thursday night.

“I can carry on about my qualities as person and my most desirable traits, but to be brief, to know myself as an individual is to love me,” Crawford said. “I’m grateful of all the support of those who looked past and knew we were not what Mr. Meek tried to portray us to be.”

As far as what she has to say to Meek about involving her in the controversy, Crawford was tight-lipped.

“I don’t think there is much that I’ll ever have to say to Ed Meek,” she said.