November Newsletter 2022

Chris Jones, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, challenges Zebras to live “with no regrets”

Pine Bluff Commercial/Suzi Parker

The Pine Bluff High School Zebra football team peppered Demo- cratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones with questions Tues- day. But the questions weren't about politics. Instead, the play- ers asked tough questions about life, goals and their future op- portunities. Jones visited the Zebras during the team's "character curriculum" course, which occurs before weight training and a two-hour tutoring and homework period. Zebras Coach Micheal Williams frequently invites speakers with Pine Bluff roots who have excelled in life to speak to his team. Jones grew up in Pine Bluff

and is a seventh-generation Arkansan. One player asked Jones what he would tell his 16-year-old self when he lived in Pine Bluff. "Live life with no regrets," Jones said. Jones said living life with no regrets doesn't mean go wild and live care- lessly. "Be true to who God has made you," Jones said. "That has helped me make some decisions." One of Jones' major decisions was deciding to run for governor as a Democrat against Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former President Donald Trump's spokesperson, who is heavily favored in the polls. Libertarian Ricky Dale Harring- ton, who also lives in Pine Bluff, is the other candidate. Early voting started Monday, and Nov. 8 is Election Day. Like a Friday night football game, the race is still anyone's game to win. And the fact that Jones is even running is something no one expected from a kid who grew up in Pine Bluff. One player asked about Jones' biggest obstacle. His answer: Belief in himself. "The first part is of me believing in myself," Jones said. "That's an internal struggle. I'm not supposed to be here as a Democratic candidate for governor. but I believed in myself and surrounded myself with people who believed in me." Growing up a poor Black kid in Pine Bluff, he said, he wore his brother's hand-me-downs and remembers shut-off notices. Jones, who played football for Watson Chapel High School, said his roots in Jefferson County set him on the path he now travels. Jones attended Morehouse College in Atlanta on a NASA Scholarship for physics and math. He then studied at Massa- chusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., to become a nuclear engineer. Jones earned a doctorate in urban planning. Like his parents, Jones is also a minister. He told the students that one day they, too, could be like him and do whatever they wanted like becoming movie stars, CEOs and elected officials. The options for them, he said, are limitless. "I'm here because I believe in you," Jones said to the players and coaches. "I don't have to know you to believe in you. You're from the same soil I'm from. I want you to change the world." A player asked Jones, "Have you ever been in serious trouble?" "Serious trouble? Serious how?" Jones asked. "I haven't in part because of the decisions I made. I had folks that told me to go. They knew I didn't need to be in that environment. You know when things are about to go south. If you do the right thing at that decision, you will have a good life." Jones told the students to have faith and to trust even if they can't see what they want right before their eyes. "You won't see it unless you put in the work," Jones said. Jones' visit resonated with the students. "Sometimes I have trouble believing in myself," Devin Johnson, a senior Zebra linebacker, said. "He said that belief is a step you have to get past and you have to stay firm and strong and believe in yourself." Rachon Crutchfield, a senior Zebra defensive tackle, said that knowing that Jones grew up in Pine Bluff on West 17th Avenue was inspiring. "He talked a lot about how you can't let where you are from affect how your life is going to be in the future," Crutchfield said. "He poured a lot of wisdom to us. It's impressive he had all of those degrees." For Williams, having a Pine Bluff native running for statewide office to speak to his team was "historical" and he welcomed any of the other candidates to come visit with his players, too. "This just shows what kind of people Pine Bluff produces," Williams said. "This city has produced some great people. He

played football. He went to MIT. He's running for governor. That's what I want the players to see. That they can be anything and that just because you are from Pine Bluff don't think you can't." The players, who don't have a game this week, didn't want Jones to leave but campaign duties called. Jones said that Pine Bluff was a "school that pro- duces champions." "The Second Commandment says 'Love thy neigh- bor' and I love you," Jones said before snapping a group selfie with the team. "I love you and that's the thing that matters."

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