I grew up on a farm in rural Amite County, Mississippi, on the outskirts of Gloster. In 1956, my mother sent me off to elementary school to a little red-shingled, two-room schoolhouse next to the church my grandfather built. Our school had no indoor plumbing, no electricity, no cafeteria. We drew drinking water from a well. Our basketball court was outdoors on the hard red clay of our tiny schoolyard. The books we studied were hand-me-downs, the discards from the white schools in Amite County.
Like all public schools during this time, our school was segregated. My Uncle Troy was principal at this tiny school where he taught us the basics: reading, writing, arithmetic, and spelling at which I excelled. By the time I entered seventh grade in 1960, the county had built Amite County Training School (ACTS), a brand new brick school (still segregated) in the town of Gloster. All the children in the rural Gloster, Coles, and Crosby were bussed to attend school with the black children living inside the town’s city limits.
At ACTS I studied history, geography, algebra, geometry, chemistry, biology, typing, English, and French. At ACTS I was exposed to music and the arts. I joined the band when I was in eighth grade, playing the E-flat horn in the marching band and the French horn in concert band. I was in the school play as a high school senior. Without really knowing it, I had developed an affinity for the arts. Little did I know this affinity for the arts would turn into a lifelong career and mission.
I’ve enjoyed careers in acting, in advertising, as a published writer. I’ve started several businesses including Porter Troupe Gallery, a contemporary art gallery; VeVe: Visual Environments for Visual Education, an award-winning nonprofit arts education organization providing after-school arts programs for children in San Diego, and Margaret Porter Troupe Arts Projects which administers the Harlem Arts Salon and The Gloster Project.
Along with my husband, Quincy Troupe, the arts have taken me around the world. I’ve rubbed shoulders with distinguished actors, artists, musicians, poets, and writers: Nobel Laureates Toni Morrison and Derek Walcott, poet laureates Maya Angelou, Natasha Trethewey, novelist, Terry McMillan, jazz greats Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Ron Carter, visuals artists James Washington, Jr. (a Gloster native), Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, actors Danny Glover, just to list a few.
The artists I’ve met, the places I’ve traveled, the things I’ve seen, the experiences I’ve had have all contributed to the rich and rewarding life I’ve enjoyed after leaving Gloster, all made possible because of my association with artistic and creative people. Now I want to bring some of that exposure back to the place that nurtured me and share my access to creative professionals with kids and their families in Gloster.
Through The Gloster Project, I plan to bring the arts to town and make it possible for Gloster youth to have access to similar life-changing encounters through music, writing, and other arts and crafts workshops. It is my way of making a contribution.