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Winning the Race returns to campus March 26-27

By | Community, Diversity Committee, President, Winning the Race | No Comments

Delta State University’s award-winning race relations conference Winning the Race returns to campus for a fifth year on March 26-27.

This year’s conference theme, “Intersections in Action: The Quest for Equity, Access, and Justice,” is presented in partnership and with support from Casey Family Programs and the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Conference topics will highlight the various ways in which race and race relations intersect areas of our daily lives — from politics, economics, health and housing, to education, entertainment, art and science.

The inaugural program, spearheaded by Delta State President William N. LaForge in 2014, was designed as an innovative, academic conference with a focus on engaging, promoting and rekindling conversations in hopes that Delta-area communities can move toward greater equity, forward thinking and reduced racial tensions.

In recognition of this work, the university received the 2014 Civil Rights and Social Justice Award accepted by LaForge at the fourth National Civil Rights Conference in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

“I am looking forward to Delta State’s fifth annual Winning the Race conference with great anticipation,” said LaForge. “This year’s program will center on the themes of equity, access and justice — key ingredients of the notions of fairness and opportunity that should be equally available to all in our society. Discussions about the intersection of these issues will hopefully lead to ideas and actions that will help improve race relations and understanding across the board in the Delta.”

The 2018 schedule will continue the critical dialogue about current issues related to education, social justice and community healing, while highlighting opportunities for sustained community action, awareness and mobility.

“In planning this year’s conference activities, planning committee members have worked hard to focus on creating opportunities for attendees to better understand how race intersects and impacts various areas of our collective and individual lives,” said Dr. Temika Simmons, conference co-chair and director of Delta State’s new Local Government Leadership Institute. “Conversations about race are not reserved for people of color only. They are conversations that we must all become comfortable with in order to dismantle the attitudes, systems and inequities that marginalize groups, inoculate stereotypes, separate communities and breed hate.”

Simmons said the conversations and points of actions scheduled for presentation at this year’s conference are as relevant now as they have always been.

“We challenge the entire Delta State campus and Mississippi community to join us again in March as we continue this work to improve our campus, the Delta community, and the state of Mississippi,” she added. “With help from the Mississippi Humanities Council, we will again host a high school leadership forum with a unique message and activities for area high school students. In addition, we will provide opportunities for professional development credits for teaching and counseling professionals in our efforts to continue to push the conference initiative beyond dialogue to tangible action and outcomes.”

Dr. Chuck Westmoreland, conference co-chair and associate professor of history, is looking forward to another conference of meaningful discussions.

“By fostering dialogue on race relations and providing a platform to discuss solutions to the challenges we face, Winning the Race performs a valuable service not only to the Delta State campus and the broader Mississippi Delta, but to our state and beyond,” said Westmoreland. “Sessions will feature distinguished activists and scholars who will explore the myriad of ways race intersects with other identities such as gender, class, region, nationality and sexuality.”

“Above all, we want conference attendees to know that they have a vital role to play in the many pressing issues and conversations of our time,” added Westmoreland. “Each year, I am most excited to take part in and observe the Q&A following each session and the overall interactions between conference attendees. These moments are where we take the ideas explored in the various sessions and apply them in our ongoing work to build more equitable and inclusive communities.”

A highlight speaker for the 2018 conference is Kevin Powell, a political activist, poet, writer and entrepreneur. Powell, one of the most acclaimed political, cultural, literary and hip-hop voices in America today, is a native of Jersey City, New Jersey.

Raised by a single mother in extreme poverty, he managed to study at Rutgers University thanks to New Jersey’s Educational Opportunity Fund. Powell has gone on to author 12 books, including his newest title, “The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood.”

His writings have also appeared in, Esquire, Ebony, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, and Vibe Magazine, where he worked for many years as a senior writer, interviewing diverse public figures such as Tupac Shakur and General Colin Powell.

Powell has lectured extensively, both domestically and abroad, on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with notable and well-regarded national appearances, including on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Later this year, he will publish a biography of Shakur, the late rapper and controversial American icon.

Also speaking is novelist Nick White, a native Mississippian, Delta State alumnus, and author of the novel “How to Survive a Summer.” White is an assistant professor of English at Ohio State University’s MFA program in creative writing. His short stories, poems and essays have appeared in a variety of places, including The Kenyon Review, Guernica, The Hopkins Review, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. His short story collection, “Sweet & Low,” will be published later this year.

In addition to stellar speakers, leaders from around the state and nation will facilitate breakout sessions covering intersections across various topics related to social justice, civil rights and law, economic opportunities, education and community, and culture and community.

Additional activities include a poster competition for college students, a special presentation by Memphis hip-hop artist Marco Pave, and artistic and academic presentations by campus faculty, staff, students and members of the community.

The university will kick off this year’s conference with an open house and press conference on March 25 from 2-6 p.m. at the Amzie Moore House Museum and Interpretive Center located at 614 S. Chrisman Ave. in Cleveland, where local civil rights leaders and veterans will be recognized and honored.

Conference activities will begin on campus at 8 a.m. on March 26 in the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State. Conference updates, registration and additional information are available at

“We are especially thankful for the generous support of Casey Family Programs and the Mississippi Humanities Council,” said Westmoreland. “Their kind contributions enable us to make this conference a forum where many voices are heard and all are welcome.”

Registration for the event opens Feb. 1 at

For questions, or more information, contact Simmons at

Wallace to perform “Martin Luther King Jr. — From the Heart of a King”

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Phil Darius Wallace will perform his one-man play “Martin Luther King Jr. — From the Heart of a King” on the life of the late civil rights leader Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Jobe Hall Auditorium. The show is free and open to the public.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — From The Heart of A King” takes the audience on a journey with Dr. King. Wallace shares moments from King’s life through song, dance, speeches and poetry. The performance helps to convey the power of the spoken word as well as the power of nonviolence to promote positive change.

Wallace is a native of Flint, Michigan. He began his acting career with the Michigan Shakespeare festival as Caliban in “The Tempest.” He has traveled around the country performing as a solo performer as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Langston Hughes. He is currently with the Tennessee Shakespeare Company and the Orpheum Theater in Memphis. His television credits include ABC’s “Nashville.” His film credits include “Nothing But The Truth.” Additionally, Wallace is the voice of the documentary “The Invaders.”

The performance is sponsored by the DSU Diversity Committee. For more information contact Arlene Sanders, chair of the DSU Diversity Committee and instructor of political science at Delta State, at 662-846-4095 or

MDNHA offers $200,000 in grant money

By | Community, Delta Center | No Comments
BB King Day representatives from Mississippi Valley State University with MDNHA board member Meg Cooper (far left) and executive director Dr. Rolando Herts (far right). Mississippi Valley is one of several organizations that received MDNHA grants in 2017.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is making up to $200,000 available for grants in 2018.

MDNHA will hold a series of workshops across the Delta to present information about available grants that support local projects and activities that further MDNHA’s mission of fostering preservation, perpetuation and celebration of the Delta’s heritage through a climate of collaboration and sustainable economic development.

The deadline for applications is March 26. Nonprofits, educational institutions, schools, units of local government and others are eligible for the grants and encouraged to attend one of the three workshops. Grants up to $24,500 are available.

At each workshop, MDNHA will present the guidelines for the program, and review application and reporting requirements. Other resources available to support heritage and cultural programs will also be discussed. Complete program regulations and application forms will be available on MDNHA’s website at

The workshops are scheduled for:

Jan. 30 – 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The Capps Center, Room 101 (Seminar Room)
920 US Highway 82 West, Indianola

Feb. 1 – 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The Haraway Center, Northwest Mississippi Community College
4975 Highway 51 North, Senatobia
(campus map available at

Feb. 8, 2017 – 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation
1302 Adams Street, Vicksburg

The MDNHA is a cultural heritage partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. Led by Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, the MDNHA includes 18 counties that contain land located in the alluvial floodplain of the Mississippi Delta: Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Panola, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, Warren, Washington and Yazoo.

The MDNHA was designated by U.S. Congress in 2009 and is governed by a board of directors representing agencies and organizations defined in the congressional legislation. More information about the MDNHA, including the complete approved management plan, is available at Information about the grants program is also available on the website.

For more information, contact The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at 662-846-4311, or email or

The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MDNHA and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit

Barron to be recognized by South Central Alumni chapter

By | Alumni | No Comments

The Delta State University National Alumni Association will host the annual South Central Mississippi Alumni Chapter Meeting in Brookhaven Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. at Mitchell’s Special Events and Catering.

Registration and a social will begin at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and the program at 6:30 p.m.

The event will feature Delta State University President William N. LaForge. Other special guests will include representatives from the Office of Admissions and Athletics.

Dr. Mark Barron ’04, from Brookhaven, will be recognized as the South Central Mississippi Chapter Alumnus of the Year.

Barron is a board-eligible orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in hip and knee replacements and care for the spine at Kings Daughter Medical Center Sports Medicine Orthopaedic & Spine Clinic. He was born and raised in Laurel and returned to Mississippi to practice after completing his medical training out of state.

Barron enjoys being close to family and living in a place where he can practice both orthopedic surgery and specialty spine care. He became interested in sports and orthopedic medicine after being injured playing high school sports. He received his bachelor’s from Delta State in 2004. Additionally, he was a four- year letterman for the Delta State football team. He returns to campus multiple times each year to cheer on his alma mater and tailgate at Statesmen Park for the annual Pig Pickin’ festivities.

To view photos from the 2017 South Central Chapter meeting, visit

The cost for the meeting is $15 per person. Prospective students are invited to attend as guests of the Alumni Association. To RSVP, call 662-846-4660 or visit

To stay up to date on the Alumni Association’s activities, follow these social media sites: Facebook (Statesmen Graduates), Twitter (@DSU_Alumni), LinkedIn (DSU alumni), Instagram (dsualumni) and You Tube (dsualumni1). Save the date for this year’s Go Green Weekend (April 27-28), Pig Pickin’ (Sept. 21-22) and Homecoming (Nov. 10).

Legendary tour manager Paul Abraham scheduled for DMI All Access

By | Community, Delta Music Institute | No Comments

The Delta Music Institute entertainment industry studies program at Delta State University will host musician and legendary tour manager Paul Abraham Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. in Studio B of the DMI for an interactive discussion and Q&A as part of the DMI All Access series.

DMI All Access is a series of open forums and lectures throughout the academic year featuring industry professionals from various areas of the music business.

Having grown up in the Mississippi Delta, Abraham’s interest in music flourished. He was influenced by a wide range of sounds — from classical to classic rock, from country to bluegrass, from big band to jazz. The first concert he attended was the Beatles, and from that moment on, Abraham knew that he wanted to be involved in live music.

He eventually met Ronnie Van Zant and the Lynyrd Skynyrd band and began to tour with the survivors of the 1977 plane crash. He went on to tour with other artists, including Bad Company, the Marshall Tucker Band, 38 Special, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Paul Rodgers, the Barefoot Servants and Michael Peterson. Additionally, he spent a dozen years, off and on, with Billy Ray Cyrus.

Abraham’s life has been filled with adventures most can only dream about, and his stories of touring with legendary musicians, meeting some of his heroes, and forming friendships with a diverse group of people, is the subject of Abraham’s new book, “The Gospel According To Abraham: From Delta Boy To Tour Manager.”

This DMI All Access event, hosted by Charly Abraham, Paul’s cousin, is open to the public at no charge.

The Delta Music Institute is an independent center of study under the College of Arts and Sciences at Delta State University, offering a bachelor’s in entertainment industry studies. The focus of the DMI is to provide students with a broad and thorough education in the technological, creative and business areas of the music and entertainment industry. For information, contact 662-846-4579 or visit