Winning the Race returns to campus March 26-27

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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, “Intersectionalities 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.

Conference organizers are also proud to welcome civil rights activist David “Dave” Dennis. A participant in the first Freedom Bus ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi in 1961 and 1964’s Freedom Summer, Dennis served as co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations in Mississippi. Raised in Louisiana by sharecropper grandparents, Dennis worked closely with Bob Moses and Medgar Evers in Mississippi in the 1960s.

While conducting voter registration workshops throughout the South, a bout with bronchitis prevented Dennis from riding in the car with the three civil rights workers he was training — James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman — the night they were killed by Ku Klux Klan members on a back road in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Dennis would go on to speak at Chaney’s funeral. He currently serves on the advisory board for the Andrew Goodman Foundation, whose vision is that “young people will become active, engaged citizens who ensure a peaceful, just and sustainable future.”

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

MDNHA offers $200,000 in grant money

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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

Legendary tour manager Paul Abraham scheduled for DMI All Access

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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

LaForge appoints Fosheim to Cleveland Music Foundation

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Community, Faculty/Staff, GRAMMY, President | No Comments

Dr. Karen Fosheim, chair of Delta State University’s Department of Music, was recently appointed to the board of directors for the Cleveland Music Foundation.

The CMF, a non-profit organization developed in 2011, owns and operates GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi housed on Delta State’s campus.

Fosheim will serve on the board in an ex officio role.

“I am honored and delighted to be appointed to the Cleveland Music Foundation board,” said Fosheim. “The Cleveland Music Foundation and the DSU Department of Music share a similar mission and vision, and I look forward to being a part of the discussion as we work to enhance the educational and cultural opportunities for the people of the Delta — and to create a positive face of Mississippi for the world at large.”

Delta State University President William N. LaForge, who also serves on the board in an ex officio role, said he was thrilled to appoint Fosheim to the position.

“I’m very pleased that Dr. Fosheim has agreed to serve as one of my ex officio appointees to the Cleveland Music Foundation Board of Directors,” said LaForge. “She is an ideal representative of the university from her position of chair of our outstanding music department. I know she will bring great expertise and perspectives to board deliberations.”

LaForge will continue to serve in the other university ex officio slot on the board. Additionally, Tricia Walker, director of Delta State’s Delta Music Institute, rounds out Delta State’s representation on the board as a full voting member.

Emily Havens, executive director of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, said she’s looking forward to having Fosheim on board.

“We are excited that President LaForge has selected Dr. Karen Fosheim as the university’s appointee to serve as an ex officio member to the Cleveland Music Foundation,” said Havens. “I look forward to working with Karen and expanding and strengthening the educational opportunities with DSU.”

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LaForge volunteers for afternoon at St. Gabriel Mercy Center

By | Community, President, volunteering | No Comments

Delta State University President William N. LaForge recently put on his volunteer cap to assist efforts at the St. Gabriel Mercy Center in Mound Bayou.

LaForge visited St. Gabriel’s to help move boxes of clothing and books, along with other tasks, during his afternoon of volunteerism.

The center is a faith-based, non-profit organization dedicated to working with organizations, programs and schools in the community, with a focus of equipping and developing self-supporting, productive and successful individuals for the world.

Delta State has partnered with St. Gabriel on a number of volunteer campaigns through the years.

“It was a pleasure to spend some volunteer time with the good folks at St. Gabriel Mercy Center,” said LaForge “They do an incredible amount of good for the people of Mound Bayou and the surrounding community. I encourage others to volunteer their time, talents and treasure as well.”

Sister Monica Mary DeQuardo, executive director at St. Gabriel, was thrilled to have the president lend a helping hand.

“Accolades to President William LaForge for his generosity and support in volunteering his services and for his financial assistance to St. Gabriel Mercy Center,” said DeQuardo. “President LaForge believes in, is present to, and acts on his values, his responsibility, and what is important to the civic communities of Bolivar County, and to Delta State University, his primary focus — along with his family. Thank you, President LaForge.”

Learn more about St. Gabriel’s ongoing humanitarian efforts at