Regardless of what happens with the national economy, Missouri will always have its people and our culture. But we must first learn to respect the diverse mosaic that constitutes the people. Then we’ll be better able to respect their culture. Once we learn to appreciate our culture, we will then be in a position to value, cultivate and market the process of Missourians, “Making a living at being ourselves.” Much of what many Missourians take for granted, people in other states and even other countries often see as unique, potent and on occasion even exotic.

Cultural tourism, in Missouri, annually generates over 12 billion dollars in expenditures, over a billion dollars in state revenue and creates over 200,000 jobs. Our jazz, barbeque, burritos, blues, bluegrass, gospel, r&b, mariachi, hip-hop, country, folk, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music, the plays, musicals, concerts, steaks, galleries, grits, frijoles, horsemanship, powwows, poetry and more, constitute primary parts of a virtually unlimited living source of excitement, joy, consciousness and beauty. But this homegrown culture largely remains a long untapped living treasure.

Most jobs are created by small businesses. The culturally-rooted small business people and artists throughout the state, the muralists, designers, journalists, activists, story tellers, DJs, promoters, car detailers, brewers, cooks, chefs, bell hops, desk clerks, carpenters, cashiers, and electricians, the theaters, museums, hotels, theme parks, taverns, bars, restaurants, and exhibitions, the athletes, hunters, anglers, actors, writers, singers, dancers, and musicians should be accepted and nurtured as major components of this state’s plans for economic and cultural development.

Their works on display in churches, temples, mosques, nightclubs, at hair and fashion shows, at festivals, on theater stages, and in stadiums across the state, are the very lifeblood of what could be called “Hidden Missouri”. They are part of the authentic Show-Me State, which has proven to be far more self-sustaining, joyful, and marketable than artificial culture. Most people, when given a chance, gladly choose the actual over the facade, the real over the fake. What are skylines without the people? A venue whose soul is under arrest.

We have to overcome the historical amnesia and inferiority complex still plaguing many Missourians. We need to recognize that bright, strong, creative working people built this state and that who we are and what we are is OK! It’s not just a heritage. Culture and cultural tourism are huge latent contemporary investment opportunities. They’re gold deposits of people. Deposits from which we can all gain far greater benefit. We need to proudly accept who we are, love who we are, nurture who we are, and pay ourselves for being ourselves, as we move deeper into the 21st Century, “Mining Cultural Gold!”

Editor’s Note: Lloyd Daniel is a writer, educator and a former member
of the Missouri State Legislature. To read, watch and listen to more of
his work, logon to his website. The address is http://www.lloyddaniel.info

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