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Delta Center

MDNHA hosts grantee orientation

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The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area recently hosted an orientation for administrators of over 20 projects that have received funding through the MDNHA’s grant program. The organization has funded more than $300,000 over the last two years to projects throughout the Delta.

“I want to thank the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area as well as the National Park Service for this grant,” said Leslie Miller, a volunteer with the Rolling Fork Visitors Center and Museum. “Without the support of these organizations, we’d have never figured out how to tell the story of our community. Now, we have such a wonderful space that helps educate visitors and locals about the history and importance of our area.”

The funded work celebrates the diversity of the Delta’s rich cultural heritage, including restoration of historical sites such as the St. Francis Xavier Convent in Vicksburg, establishment of a museum featuring the legacy of Dr. L. C. Dorsey at the Delta Health Center in the historic black town of Mound Bayou, examination of Delta Chinese culture’s influence on Delta cuisine, and celebration of the “Chitlin’ Circuit Years” during B.B. King Day at Mississippi Valley State University.

“Each of these agencies is to be commended for the great work they are doing,” said Dr. Myrtis Tabb, chair of the MDNHA board of directors. “It is always inspiring to see what happens when communities are active in solving the needs of their friends and neighbors. The MDNHA is proud to play a part in empowering these amazing visions that will improve each of the areas in which they are implemented.”

“It was an amazing day meeting all of the people responsible for the important work being done throughout the Delta,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which serves as the managing entity for MDNHA. “This meeting truly demonstrated that we are building a collaborative regional network through the grant program. We are excited to be a part of empowering projects that will have a tremendous impact of the citizens of the region, and we look forward to building many more partnerships in the years to come.”

Grant recipients and funded projects include:

-ArtPlace Mississippi – Delta Wild: Connecting people to the Mississippi Delta’s natural habitat and resources
-Bologna Performing Arts Center, Delta State University – Public performance of “Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till”; development of a new track of classes for its CORE Arts Camp that showcases tales of origination in song and story
-Cleveland/Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce – Cleveland Chamber/Tourism office relocation and signage plan; restoration of the façade and interior of the Cleveland Depot building
-Cleveland Music Foundation – Exploring a Culture of Creativity: engaging students in telling local stories through music at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
-Delta Blues Museum – Boogie Children, Celebrating John Lee Hooker website and educational programs honoring Hooker’s 100th birthday
-Delta Hands for Hope – Photography and oral history program for high school students
-Delta Health Center, Inc. – Establish the Dr. L. C. Dorsey Community Health Center Museum in Mound Bayou
-Delta State University Archives & Museum – Amzie Moore House Museum and Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum docent program; preserving the historic Mississippi Delta Chinese foodways – culture through stories of family, place and cuisine
-DeSoto Foundation – First Contact Historical Trail: Native Americans’ first encounter with Europeans in the Mississippi Delta
-Dockery Farms Foundation – Restore and preserve the historic Dockery Farms cotton gin and develop historical exhibits within the gin building
-Greenville Arts Council – Provide artist residencies to teachers and students that preserve the rich artistic traditions of the Mississippi Delta
-Lower Mississippi River Foundation – Between the Levees: telling the story of the Mississippi River batture
-Mississippi Heritage Trust – Conduct four historic preservation toolkit workshops that teach local towns and organizations how to leverage funding to preserve historic places
-Mississippi State University – Generate knowledge about and provide estimates of the economic value of preserving sites of cultural significance in the Delta
-Mississippi State University Extension Service – Warren County – The Heritage Garden – Know your Roots demonstration garden at Vicksburg National Military Park
-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
-Museum of the Mississippi Delta – Greenwood Leflore and the Choctaw Indians museum exhibit and research monograph
-Rolling Fork Visitors Center and Museum – Multimedia interpretive display expansion and exhibit preservation
-Rosedale Freedom Project – Unsung Voices of Bolivar County: civil rights stories past and present collected by high school students
-Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation – 1868 St. Francis Xavier convent restoration

Representatives from various grantee organizations reported on the positive impacts that the MDNHA grants have had on their projects.

“Because of this grant we’ve been able to share both the Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum and the Amzie Moore House Museum with so many more people than we would have been able to without it,” said Emily Jones, director of Delta State University Archives and Museums. “It’s been very rewarding to recognize that African Americans and Chinese are in the Delta, of the Delta, and represent a piece of our history.”

In DeSoto County, the grant was used to help with the First Contact Trail, an educational initiative designed to give better understanding to Hernando DeSoto’s crossing of the Mississippi River.

“We worked with the Native American community as well as local officials to develop this trail,” said Susan Fernandez, a representative assisting with the project. “This wasn’t just about Hernando DeSoto. This project also was about the people who lived here before DeSoto. We wanted to be sure to tell all sides of the story.”

The Rosedale Freedom Project used the grant to implement story telling projects based on oral histories from the area.

“One of the things our students decided they wanted to do was a podcast to tell the story of education history in their community,” said Jeremiah Smith, director of the RFP. “The students went out and collected oral histories that connected the past of school segregation to present conditions. They realized that history isn’t just something that happened in the past. It has given them a greater sense of why things are the way they are today, which can help them find creative solutions for a better tomorrow.”

Learn more about the MDNHA at http://www.msdeltaheritage.com and The Delta Center at http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

Fourth blues conference to feature Aaron Neville

By | Community, Delta Center, Faculty/Staff, International Delta Blues Project, President, Students | No Comments

The fourth annual International Conference on the Blues at Delta State University is shaping up to be the best yet. This year’s lineup features GRAMMY winner Aaron Neville and has a two-part theme: Mississippi Delta native John Lee Hooker’s centennial birthday celebration in conjunction with GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and an exploration of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax’s collection of Mississippi Delta blues and gospel recordings.

The conference is scheduled for Oct. 1-3.

The unique symposium brings together blues scholars, historians and fans from all over the United States in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a place known as the epicenter of blues music and history.

To register for the conference, visit https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07ee79rfch3347d1e5&oseq=&c=&ch=. CEU credit is available for educators.

Among the highlights for this year’s schedule are:

  • an opening reception and tour of the John Lee Hooker exhibit at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
  • a keynote breakfast featuring Alan Lomax scholar, Dr. John Szwed of Columbia University, New York City
  • a free, open-to-the-public John Lee Hooker tribute concert at Bolivar County Courthouse in downtown Cleveland featuring a trio of the next generation of great bluesmen, Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram
  • an open mic “Blues in the Round” event at Mississippi Grounds coffee shop in downtown Cleveland
  • a lunch conversation with Aaron Neville
  • a blues-related film festival in the Sanders Theater at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
  • a presentation by renowned blues photographer Dick Waterman
  • free admission to GRAMMY Museum Mississippi with paid conference registration
  • a closing concert performance by Aaron Neville at Delta State’s Bologna Performing Arts Center with tickets ranging from $25-$50 and a special 10 percent discount for conference registrants

“As the academic center of the Delta blues, Delta State is proud to host and sponsor this year’s blockbuster blues conference,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “With all the superb programming that is scheduled, this conference will not disappoint and is one not to be missed.”

In addition, the conference will announce a project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts that will bring Alan Lomax’s collection of Mississippi recordings back home to the region in partnership with the Association for Cultural Equity at Hunter College.

As part of celebrating this exciting new partnership, the conference will feature keynote speaker Dr. John Szwed. Szwed won the 2006 GRAMMY Award for Best Album Notes for “Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings,” a box set based on Lomax’s interviews with jazz great Jelly Roll Morton. Szwed is considered a leading authority on Lomax’s life and work. He is the John M. Musser Professor Emeritus of anthropology, African American studies and film studies at Yale University and an adjunct senior research scholar in the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, where he previously served as the center’s director and professor of music and jazz studies.

“We are honored to have Dr. Szwed and representatives from the Association for Culture Equity join us this year to announce our Lomax Mississippi Collection partnership,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center. “We look forward to making early recordings of Delta-based blues and gospel singers available to their families and the communities that they called home.”

GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will be the site for much of the conference, including a specially curated exhibit on John Lee Hooker.

“When the initial conversation began for our museum to be the site of this year’s conference we were thrilled,” said Emily Havens, executive director of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. “Our goal has always been to help give a better understanding of Mississippi’s role in music, and it makes complete sense for us to work with this conference to expand that mission.”

The conference is part of the International Delta Blues Project, which is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and is based at The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State. The conference is being managed by a team of campus and community collaborators including The Delta Center; the Delta Music Institute; the Department of Music; the Division of Languages & Literature; the Office of Institutional Grants; Cleveland Tourism; Visit Mississippi; the City of Cleveland; and Bolivar County.

Over 30 papers will be presented during conference sessions.

“I always marvel at the variety of scholars that our conference attracts,” said Dr. Shelley Collins, a professor in the Department of Music and conference co-chair. “With the conference focusing on both John Lee Hooker and Alan Lomax, we’re thrilled to have received a record number of paper submissions this year.”

Numerous opportunities to enjoy live music will also be available at this year’s conference. Monday night will feature a free concert in downtown Cleveland by Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram. On Tuesday, Aaron Neville will be interviewed during a lunch conversation, and later that evening, he will perform at the Bologna Performing Arts Center. Conference registrants are eligible to receive a 10 percent discount on ticket prices for this special closing concert.

“Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram playing John Lee Hooker songs and their solo and original sides is such a great tribute to both the past and future of the blues,” said Don Allan Mitchell, conference co-chair. “Their average age is 23, and their superb advocacy for blues, as especially relevant to modern African American culture, will especially resonate with our diverse audiences. And Aaron Neville — the man is a music legend and his experience, knowledge and talent will be such a great addition. With a record number of paper and presentation submissions for this year’s conference, and a first-rate lineup of both artists and scholars, there is nowhere to go but up.”

Follow all conference updates at http://www.internationaldeltabluesproject.com/conference.

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/.