by Chris Myers
Like so many Jacksonians, Lori Gregory was pulled here by gravity.
After completing her psychology degree at Delta State University in 2002, Gregory followed her family from their hometown of Greenville to Jackson, where she decided to continue her studies with a degree in social work from Jackson State University. There, one professor in particular sparked her interest in activism.
Dr. Beverly Mitchell taught social policy and with the spring semester coinciding with that year’s legislative session, each student was asked to pick a bill and advocate for it. While most of Gregory’s classmates sought traditional methods of reaching legislators – phone calls, the Capitol halls – Gregory was able to finagle her way into a lobbyist party, typically a pay-to-play setting where an open bar might open minds and opportunities for conversation.
“Those are where ‘the business’ gets done,” she says. “[It’s} where the businessmen meet with the legislators and tell them what they want. That is where the power is. I’ve always been attracted to that power exchange.”
Gregory saw that she could stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and women tasked with governing our state and begin to hold them accountable to their responsibilities. As a citizen, it was her responsibility to do so. Writing would become her weapon of choice.
In the following years, Gregory embraced Jackson and found like-minded friends that were harder to come by in the Delta. At the time, The Planet Weekly was Jackson’s alternative paper. They needed a female voice and found one in her. Gregory’s gift of storytelling pulled readers in just to be punched in the gut by her thorough knowledge of the day’s issues. When the Jackson Free Press came along, Gregory chose the pseudonym Ali Greggs to continue writing about life, relationships and the injustices she saw in the world around her.
Around 2009, something happened that would challenge Gregory’s perspective on everything. She gave birth to a daughter. “When Parks was born, a part of my heart that I didn’t know existed opened up full force,” she says. “When that happens, your writing voice naturally changes.”
Even when she did find time to write, she struggled to find reconciliation between her former voice and this new responsibility.
Then, Proposition 26 (The Personhood Amendment) came along, threatening not only Gregory’s beliefs, but the future rights of her young daughter. With many other Mississippians, she took to the streets and to the keyboard in her first protest. In the end, it paid off.
These days, you can find the Fondrenite standing up and speaking her mind, whether she’s escorting patients to the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, protesting at the Governor’s Mansion or raising hell on Facebook. Over the past year, she has returned to her regular newspaperÂ column, where she’s known for her wit and for her use of personal stories to delve into sensitive, personal and controversial topics.
In the midst of these many activities, she finds time to manage Hope Haven, a home for kids with mental disorders run by Catholic Charities. To put it mildly, Gregory believes in justice and that it’s something that should be fought for every single day. She’s an activist to the core and aims to instill those same values in her seven and a half year old daughter.
“I want to teach her that even though you don’t always get what you want, you do not have to be a victim to the system. You can at least stand up and be heard.”