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Delta Center

NEH funds Delta Center’s “Most Southern” workshops for ninth year

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June 2017 NEH “Most Southern Place on Earth” scholars and Delta Center staff members Lee Aylward and Dr. Rolando Herts visit the 1927 Flood Mississippi Blues Trail marker in Scott, Mississippi.

The National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced $39.3 million in grants for 245 humanities projects across the country. Among the projects funded is The Delta Center for Culture and Learning’s “Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, Culture, and History of the Mississippi Delta.” These week-long professional development workshops attract K-12 educators from across the U.S. to Delta State University and the broader region.

NEH will award nearly $190,000 to Delta State to support the summer 2018 “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. Since 2009, NEH has awarded approximately $1.5 million to Delta State to fund the workshops.

“NEH grants ensure that Americans around the country have the opportunity to engage with our shared cultural heritage,” said Jon Parrish Peede, NEH acting chairman. “From traveling exhibitions and teacher workshops to efforts to preserve local history, these projects demonstrate the power of the humanities to build connections, stimulate discovery and contribute to vibrant communities.”

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center, said he was thrilled to receive additional NEH support.

“We are honored and grateful to receive funding from NEH for our ‘Most Southern’ workshops,” said Herts. “The workshops have developed national ambassadors for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, which The Delta Center manages. Our workshop participants take what they learn about the Delta’s culture and history back to their school communities. Many of them return to the Delta as educational and cultural heritage tourists, bringing family members, friends, students and colleagues with them.”

The summer of 2018 will be the ninth year that the workshops have been offered to K-12 educators, and Herts said they are in high demand among K-12 educators nationally. The workshops have produced an active alumni network boasting over 500 members.

“Our workshops yield hundreds of applications annually for just 72 slots,” said Lee Aylward, workshop co-director. “We are so very pleased that NEH continues to support these workshops. Once again, we can provide a unique professional development opportunity for master teachers who will educate students all over the country using Mississippi Delta music, culture and history. Through these workshops, we all are making a difference in the lives of these teachers and their students.”

Herts said this was an especially competitive funding year for the workshops. The NEH suspended the Landmarks of American History funding category for the summer of 2018, and all existing Landmarks workshops, if they chose to do so, had to apply under NEH’s Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers funding category. This meant more programs across the country were competing for the same grant funds.

This round of funding, NEH’s third and last for fiscal year 2017, will support vital research, education and public programs in the humanities. These peer-reviewed grants were awarded in addition to $46.1 million in annual operating support provided to the national network of state and local humanities councils during fiscal year 2017, including the Mississippi Humanities Council.

“The Mississippi Humanities Council congratulates The Delta Center and Delta State University on this achievement,” said executive director Stuart Rockoff. “The ‘Most Southern Place on Earth’ workshops help to raise the national profile not only of the Delta region but of the entire state of Mississippi.”

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 and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

Mississippi Delta National Heritage area grants announced

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For the second year, the MDNHA has awarded over $155,000 in grants to regional organizations. Projects range from arts and culture education to information signage and historic preservation.

 

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is pleased to announce over $155,000 in grants for nine projects focused on cultural and heritage development in the Mississippi Delta.

The funded work celebrates the diversity of the Delta’s rich cultural heritage including restoration of historical sites such as the Dockery Farms cotton gin, the establishment of a museum featuring the legacy of Dr. L.C. Dorsey at the Delta Health Center, and the influence of the Delta’s Chinese culture in Delta cuisine.

“We are pleased to support a broad range of work from communities and organizations dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of the Delta,” said Dr. Myrtis Tabb, chair of the MDNHA board of directors. “We are encouraged by the number and scope of applicants in our second year of the Small Grants Program, and hope others will be motivated to participate in future rounds of funding.”

“We do our best to fund work in all parts of the Delta, and in a variety of areas of interest that complement MDNHA’s mission,” said Meg Cooper, chair of the MDNHA grants committee. “We have now approved a total of over $300,000 in projects in our two years of grant making.”

“The MDNHA is designed to engage and empower organizations and individuals to promote the cultural heritage of the Mississippi Delta,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, which serves as the management entity for the MDNHA. “This partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service is crucial to the preservation, perpetuation and celebration of the Delta’s heritage that is at the core of our mission.”

Grant recipients and their funded projects include:

-Delta Health Center, Inc. – establish the Dr. L. C. Dorsey Community Health Center Museum in Mound Bayou
-Dockery Farms Foundation – restore and preserve the historic Dockery Farms cotton gin, and develop historical exhibits within the gin building
-Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State University – development of a new track of classes for its CORE Arts Camp that showcases tales of origination in song and story
-Mississippi Valley State University – design and present symposium lectures, panel discussions, musical performances and other work in support of the B.B. King Day symposium
-Mississippi State University – generate knowledge about and provide estimates of the economic value of preserving sites of cultural significance in the Delta
-Greenville Arts Council – provide artist residencies to teachers and students that preserve the rich artistic traditions of the Mississippi Delta
-Mississippi Heritage Trust – conduct four Historic Preservation Toolkit workshops that teach local towns and organizations how to leverage funding to preserve historic places
-Delta State University, Department of Archives and History – preserving the historic Mississippi Delta Chinese foodways culture through stories of family, place and cuisine
-Cleveland/Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce – restoration of the façade and interior of the Cleveland Depot building

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 www.msdeltaheritage.com.

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 and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

Delta Center begins eighth year of “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops

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The Delta Center’s “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop began its eighth year this week with an opening reception at the Martin and Sue King Railroad Museum in downtown Cleveland on Sunday evening.

The workshop, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, attracts 36 K-12 educators from across the country. Participants will spend a week in the Delta immersed in the history and culture of the region, interacting directly with its people and places.

Brooke Willis, a high school teacher from Greensboro, North Carolina, said she looks forward to combining her interest in the blues with her passion for history and civil rights.

“I’m excited about looking at history and being in it versus the idea of learning about it through books and movies,” she said. “Actually being in the space, I’m really about getting in touch with the energy.”

Katherine Hackney of Marietta, Georgia said she is excited for the hands-on learning.

“I’ve been teaching a civil rights unit for 12 years, and I’m finally visiting the places I’ve been teaching about,” said Hackney. “I felt like [the Delta] is a place where I could grow.”

This workshop has created a national network of over 500 educational and cultural ambassadors for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. Participants take what they have learned from the workshop back to their schools and communities, sharing stories and lessons from the Delta with students, colleagues, family and friends, both nationally and globally.

Learn more about the Delta Center at http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

Call for papers: International Conference on the Blues

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Delta State University is now accepting proposals for papers, presentations, lecture-performances, workshops, panels and clinics for the 4th annual International Conference on the Blues, to be held Oct. 1-3, 2017.

To celebrate the centennial of John Lee Hooker’s birth, the conference committee is soliciting manuscripts and presentations on Hooker’s music, life and influence. In addition, the conference is seeking presentations and papers on the legacy of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, and especially his fieldwork in Mississippi.

Topics of general interest to scholars and enthusiasts are also welcome, such as the African American musical tradition and its influence on world music; call and response as metaphor; black music and the American Civil Rights Movement; African American history in the Delta; African American folk life; and the genres of blues, jazz, gospel and soul music.

Topics of an interdisciplinary nature are also encouraged. Papers are invited from ethnomusicologists, musicologists, scholars, authors, performers, blues enthusiasts and independent researchers.

Additionally, to support young and emerging scholars (graduate students, recent masters, doctoral graduates and junior faculty), the Luther Brown Prize is awarded to the outstanding young scholar paper.

All presentations will be a maximum of 20 minutes in length, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion, and should address a general audience.

Proposals must be submitted online via www.deltastate.edu/blues. Applicants are ask to include a description of the presentation, audio/visual equipment needs and biographical information for all presenters. Please note that not all A/V requests will be granted. Presenters agree to appear at the conference at their own expense, which will include registration fees.

For more information, contact Shelley Collins and Don Allan Mitchell at blues@deltastate.edu or visit www.deltastate.edu/blues.

National Heritage Areas of Mississippi host Collaboration Clinic

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Collaboration Clinic participants from Mississippi and across the country engage in a team visioning exercise at the Biloxi Visitors Center.

 

Three National Heritage Areas – Mississippi Delta, Mississippi Hills and Mississippi Gulf Coast – held a Collaboration Clinic recently at the Biloxi Visitors Center. The workshop was facilitated by the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.

“Collaboration Clinics are a proposed model for helping NPS staff, stakeholders and partners develop more effective skills for collaboration,” said Elizabeth Smith-Incer, Mississippi Field Office director for the Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program. “Planners, superintendents and other decision makers need this kind of training to engage communities as we make decisions about the resources we preserve and protect.”

This is the first Collaboration Clinic held in the Southeast region and the first hosted by a group of National Heritage Areas. Since 2014, the clinics have been offered over a dozen times in parks and sites across the country, including New York City, Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada, New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park in Massachusetts and Zion National Park in Utah.

“We were honored to host this first clinic,” said Rhonda Price, executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast NHA. “I think collaboration and partnerships are keys to a successful NHA. We are excited to start working together on joint projects like the NPS/NHA passport program.”

Staff and board members from the three NHAs attended along with representatives from Visit Mississippi and the Department of Archives & History in Jackson. Out-of-state attendees included representatives from the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the NPS Office of Partnerships & Philanthropic Stewardship based in Washington, D.C.

“In order for National Heritage Areas to thrive, collaboration is vital,” said Mary Cates Williams, executive director of Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area. “I was very thankful to the National park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program for facilitating this workshop and allowing Mississippi’s three NHAs to discuss ways to expand and grow our programs. I can speak for all of us when I say that we are grateful to have the support of not only the National Park Service but our Mississippi congressional delegation as well.”

Collaboration Clinic participants learn about bird tourism at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.

Collaboration Clinic participants learn about bird tourism at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.

The workshop included discussions and exercises on a range of topics, including achieving results through collaboration, improving communication and managing conflict.

The group also heard presentations from Dr. Rolando Herts and Lee Aylward of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, which serves as the management entity for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. The presentations were about the passport program and the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership.

“We discussed developing a statewide Passport to Your National Parks map and other cooperative marketing strategies to promote tourism to our areas,” said Herts. “We also learned about bird tourism partnership opportunities at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point. This was a very productive workshop that will help all of us work together to better serve Delta, Hills and Gulf Coast residents and visitors.”

Learn more about the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning.