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Delta Center

After learning about the new blues studies program at Delta State, a group of Swedish music enthusiasts gathered at the Cast of Blues exhibit at The Delta Center for Culture and Learning.

DCCL immerses Swedish tour group in Mississippi Delta’s culture

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The Delta Center for Culture and Learning’s experiential learning component continues to introduce diverse groups of visitors to the vibrant cultural heritage of the 18-county Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

Recently, The Delta Center hosted a Swedish tour group visiting the Mississippi Delta during Juke Joint Festival. This is the third year the center has hosted this international group of traveling music enthusiasts.

Organized and led by Anders Roddar and Klaus Engstrom, the group came to the Mississippi Delta to be immersed in the “Birthplace of the Blues.” During this particular visit, the group also learned about and experienced more of the Delta region’s various cultural heritage assets, including African American worship practices, civil rights landmarks and soul food.

“We try to vary our trips each year. This year’s trip is called ‘Rock Your Blues’ and we started in Woodstock, New York before making our way down here,” said Engstrom. “We have been in Clarksdale several times before, but this is our first time here for the Juke Joint festival.”

“The culture here in the Delta is so rich and so real. We love the music, the food, the places, and most of all, the people,” said Roddar. “This time, we wanted to do something that we had not done before, so I said let’s see if we can go to an African American church service. We are so happy that The Delta Center did this for us. The church was so welcoming and the members there embraced us. It felt like coming home.”

During the week, the group visited the “Cast of Blues” exhibit at The Delta Center, Dockery Farms, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and Po Monkey’s Lounge, the world famous rural juke joint in Merigold. They crossed the Emmett Till Memorial Highway to gather at Robert Johnson’s gravesite at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Greenwood. The group dined on fried catfish and BBQ at The Senator’s Place and Airport Grocery in Cleveland. And they attended worship service at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksdale.

Attending a worship service at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksdale.

Attending a worship service at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksdale.

For many on the trip, this was their first visit to Mississippi. Peggy Sempler-Boccalini now makes her home in the south of France and attends music festivals regularly. For her, Clarksdale’s festival was one of the best she has attended.

“The feeling is all about the festival. I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “I live in France now, and we have a lot of festivals and they’re very nice, but there’s something different here. The communication, the being together. You speak with everyone. You are friends. It’s just a very nice feeling here.”

Several of The Delta Center’s experiential learning sites are included on the Top 40 Places to Visit in the Mississippi Delta website. The website was launched recently by GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in partnership with the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area to promote the entire Mississippi Delta as a cultural heritage tourism destination. To learn more, visit http://msdeltatop40.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 center serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and is the home of the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop and the International Delta Blues Project.

Dr. Rolando Herts receives the Georgene Clark Diversity Champion Award from Arlene Sanders, Diversity Committee chair (center) on behalf of The Delta Center, along with staff members (left to right) Patricia Webster, Heather Miller, Lee Aylward and student employees Lydia Haley and Moira Fair. Student employees not pictured include Stephanie Green and Erica Spiller.

Delta Center presented 2016 Georgene Clark Diversity Champion Award

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The Diversity Committee at Delta State University recently awarded the 2016 Georgene Clark Diversity Champion Award to The Delta Center for Culture and Learning.

The inaugural Diversity Champion Award was presented to Georgene Clark, retired assistant professor of English. The award was presented to Clark at the 2015 Winning the Race conference where it was announced that the award was being named in her honor. The annual conference promotes conversations between and among individuals and communities about race relations, social justice, diversity and inclusion.

This is the second year that the award has been presented, which was was established by Delta State University’s Diversity Committee to recognize individuals and divisions/departments that have made extraordinary efforts to promote diversity awareness at Delta State and in the broader community.

Dr. Temika Simmons and Dr. Garry Jennings, co-chairs for the 2016 Winning the Race conference, both praised The Delta Center for its commitment to diversity awareness.

“The Delta Center has been an active partner with the Winning the Race conference since it began three years ago,” said Simmons, assistant professor of psychology and recipient of the 2016 Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning’s Award for Excellence in Diversity. “The Delta Center’s ongoing support of the conference, among several other projects and initiatives, is noteworthy and deserves the university-wide recognition that this award embodies.”

“The Delta Center’s collaboration is essential to the success of the Winning the Race Conference. It means that the conference has the support of an organization deeply involved with the culture, history and, most importantly, the soul of the Mississippi Delta,” said Jennings, professor of political science and director of the The Madison Center. “In keeping alive the history of this region, the Delta Center connects the past to our efforts in the present, building hope for justice in the future. This is essential for our work on the Winning the Race Conference.”

Arlene Sanders, instructor of political science and chair of the Diversity Committee, presented the award during the closing session of the 2016 Winning the Race conference.

“For several years, The Delta Center has offered programs that highlight the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural diversity,” said Sanders. “They offer National Endowment for the Humanities workshops that attract educators from all over the country to learn about the Delta. They manage the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area that offers programs like the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership about African American church mothers. They direct an international blues project that highlights the global influence of blues music and culture. For these reasons and many more, The Delta Center is most deserving of this award.”

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center, accepted the award on behalf of The Delta Center.

“The Delta Center is honored to receive the Georgene Clark Diversity Champion Award,” said Herts. “For over 15 years, The Delta Center has been promoting appreciation of the Mississippi Delta’s diverse culture and history as part of the American experience. That includes telling inclusive stories involving cultural perspectives regarding race, social injustice, civil rights, regional identity, and even expressions of faith.”

The Delta Center met the following criteria for the award: innovative teaching, educational programming, or activities designed to engender diversity within the classroom and/or curriculum at Delta State; a documented record of committee work, community involvement or outreach to the local community by a campus organization or department or division; and active leadership in promoting cultural diversity at Delta State.

To learn more about The Delta Center, visit http://deltacenterdsu.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 center serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and is the home of the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop and the International Delta Blues Project.

Delta Center staff members Dr. Rolando Herts and Lee Aylward at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi with Ross Barkley of Eley Barkley P.A. Engineering and Architecture (center), Jimmie Tucker of Self and Tucker Architects (far right), and the University of Memphis National Organization of Minority Architects Student Competition Team.

Delta Center organizes museum tours for architecture students

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During the spring 2016 semester, The Delta Center For Culture and Learning has hosted several student groups visiting the region from a variety of higher education institutions, including Mississippi State University, Harvard Law School, Yale University and Emory University.

Most recently, The Delta Center arranged two museum architectural tours for members of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) from the University of Memphis. The students visited GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi on Delta State’s campus and the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola.

The NOMAS design competition team is developing a cultural heritage museum concept for Los Angeles’ historic Crenshaw district. The group of students was sponsored by Jimmie Tucker of Self and Tucker Architects, a Memphis-based firm that has designed the National Civil Rights Museum, STAX Museum and FedExForum.

Ross Barkley discusses Mississippi Delta cultural heritage elements used in designing GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi.

Ross Barkley discusses Mississippi Delta cultural heritage elements used in designing GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi.

“This national student competition is requiring our architecture students to incorporate design elements that reflect local cultural heritage,” said Tucker. “These tours provided insights and a back story that we would never have been aware of just by visiting these museums by ourselves.”

“The Delta Center continues to fulfill its mission by providing place-based learning opportunities for students and visitors from around the state, the nation and the world,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center. “These customized educational experiences about the Mississippi Delta can only happen when groups come to visit us here in the Mississippi Delta.”

Lee Aylward of The Delta Center made arrangements for the students to experience a personalized tour of the GRAMMY Museum with Ross Barkley of Eley Barkley P.A. Engineering and Architecture. Barkley was one of the lead architects for the museum. The Eley Barkley firm is based in Cleveland.

“Mr. Barkley showed us program, concept and schematic design documents,” said Tucker. “These are excellent examples that our students will be able to use to ignite and inform their design process.” 

“Ross Barkley’s expertise in bringing projects like this to completion was invaluable to its final outcome,” added Aylward. “The GRAMMY Museum will stand as a testament to his talent and ability.”

During their visit to the B.B. King Museum, the students toured the existing museum structure and discussed plans for the museum’s expansion with Robert Terrell, director of operations. The expansion includes a memorial courtyard for the late B.B. King, known as the King of the Blues and Mississippi’s Secretary of the State of the Blues.

Robert Terrell talks with NOMAS members about plans for the B.B. King Memorial Courtyard.

Robert Terrell talks with NOMAS members about plans for the B.B. King Memorial Courtyard.

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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 center serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and is the home of the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop and the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit www.deltacenterdsu.com.

MS Delta Top40_01

GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi And Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Launch New Website Featuring Top 40 Mississippi Delta Attractions

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CLEVELAND — To recognize their commitment to promoting educational and cultural quality of life in the Mississippi Delta region, GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) have partnered to develop a new website showcasing the Top 40 places to visit in the Mississippi Delta. Delta residents and visitors can discover 40 of the most celebrated locations in the Mississippi Delta beginning today by visiting GRAMMYMuseumMS.org and clicking on the Explore tab.

The Top 40 features cultural heritage attractions throughout the Mississippi Delta that tell the region’s diverse stories. The website underscores the Museum and MDNHA’s shared interest in promoting the entire 18-county Mississippi Delta region as an educational cultural heritage destination of which its residents should be proud.

“As GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, we explore and celebrate the enduring legacies of all forms of music, and we’re also telling the story of the cradle of America’s music right here in Cleveland, the heart of the Mississippi Delta,” said Emily Havens, Executive Director of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. “Our area’s rich musical legacy is a source of pride for Delta residents. We want to encourage everyone to explore and learn about our entire region, from local school groups to travelers from around the globe.”

The Top 40 features panoramic images of some must-see destinations and attractions throughout the Delta. Among the featured attractions are Tunica River Park, the birthplace of internationally renowned actor James Earl Jones; Baptist Town in Greenwood; Vicksburg National Military Park; Cotesworth Mansion in North Carrollton; St. Paul Church of God in Christ in Lexington; and unique local eateries like Blue Front Café in Bentonia and Farmer’s Grocery in Grace.

“The Top 40 celebrates the Mississippi Delta’s rich, diverse culture,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which is the management entity for the MDNHA. “GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and the Heritage Area both are committed to promoting the entire Delta. Yes, the Delta is the birthplace of the Blues, and music is a big part of our story, but there is so much more to discover and experience here, such as civil rights, culinary, and nature-based heritage sites. The Top 40 website highlights examples of these diverse cultural heritage attractions across the Delta region.”

Top 40 attractions were identified in collaboration with the Mississippi Delta Tourism Association and various county boards of supervisors throughout the region. Each of the 18 Delta counties has two attractions represented on the list. Four of the attractions are region-wide, including Bridging the Blues music heritage festival and the Mississippi Freedom Trail for civil rights heritage.

“We appreciate GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area for coordinating the Top 40 list,” said Webster Franklin, President and CEO of the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau and member of the Mississippi Delta Tourism Association. “This is a great program that will bring positive attention to the entire region.”

There are plans to develop the Top 40 even further during a second phase that would make the website even more interactive and participatory.

About GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
Built and operated by the Cleveland Music Foundation — a non-profit organization developed in 2011 — the 28,000-square-foot GRAMMY Museum Mississippi is housed near the campus of Delta State University, home of the Delta Music Institute’s Entertainment Industry Studies program, which features the most unique audio recording facilities in the South. Similar to its sister Museum — the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE — GRAMMY Museum Mississippi is dedicated to exploring the past, present and future of music, and the cultural context from which it emerges, while casting a focused spotlight on the deep musical roots of Mississippi. The Museum features a dynamic combination of public events, educational programming, engaging multimedia presentations, and interactive permanent and traveling exhibits, including a Mississippi-centric area that introduces visitors to the impact of Mississippi’s songwriters, producers and musicians on the traditional and modern music landscape. For more information about GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, visit www.grammymuseumms.org. For breaking news and exclusive content, follow @GRAMMYMuseumMS on Twitter and Instagram, and like “GRAMMY Museum Mississippi” on Facebook.

About the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and The Delta Center
The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. 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 Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University is the management entity for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. 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. For more information, visit www.deltacenterdsu.com.

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Vickie Jackson
GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
vjackson@grammymuseumms.org

Annyce Campbell of Mound Bayou, whose portrait graces the cover of "Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother's Wisdom," recently enjoyed a visit to the White House.

MDNHA, Delta Jewels partnership visits the White House

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When University of Mississippi journalism professor Alysia Burton Steele embarked on a journey to record oral histories from African American church women in the Mississippi Delta over three years ago, she was not sure exactly where the journey would take her.

It started at as labor of love to reconnect with her recently deceased grandmother, which led to the publishing of her critically acclaimed book “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom.” The book led to an oral history partnership with the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, a partnership that culminated in an opportunity for Annyce Campbell, featured on the book cover, to visit the White House in Washington, D.C.

“When they said they wanted the woman whose portrait graces the book cover to attend the presentation, I knew that we had to get Mrs. Campbell to the White House,” said Steele. “She was so proud when President Obama was elected. So much so that the walls in her home are filled with portraits of the president and first lady.”

The visit occurred March 12 during a trip to the nation’s capital for a presentation at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. The Smithsonian program was held in honor of Women’s History Month and the National Park Service Centennial, which is about reconnecting people with their national parks, especially those from underrepresented communities. The White House is part of President’s Park, a National Park Service site.

Campbell still lives in the Mound Bayou, Mississippi home where she and her husband of 69 years raised their nine children. The election of the first African American President of the United States was something she never imagined would happen in her lifetime. Her goal was to enable her family to have opportunities she never enjoyed. She was thrilled that she and her daughters would get a chance to experience the visit together.

“That moment — visiting the White House with my daughters — was more than my mind could conceive,” said Campbell. “I held my ID in my hand for so long. How many more stops do I get to make? Where do we get to go next? Who do we get to meet? I can’t fully express the joy of that trip. Everyone should have an opportunity like this in their lifetime.”

The trip to the White House was not part of the original itinerary. It wasn’t until Campbell landed in D.C. that the tour was finalized.

Annyce Campbell, seated, poses in the White House with her daughters Alma Campbell and Emily Harris, as well as Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning.

Annyce Campbell, seated, poses in the White House with her daughters Alma Campbell and Emily Harris, as well as Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning.

Mossi Tull, board member for the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, sponsored Campbell’s travel to Washington.

“My grandparents were from Kentwood, Louisiana, and I spent many summers down there,” he said. “Visiting with Mrs. Campbell and her daughters brought back so many wonderful memories for me, and reminded me of the importance of my own family. We laughed. We smiled. We celebrated the fact that we were all together in that moment. It was truly a wonderful afternoon.”

Through the efforts of Maggie Tyler, Southeast Region National Heritage Areas program manager, Campbell was able to participate in the tour with her daughters Emily Harris and Alma Campbell, as well as Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State.

“I was so excited to walk up to the White House gates with them and give Mrs. Campbell her tour ticket and introduce her to the NPS ranger working that day,” said Tyler. “Everyone was so gracious to Mrs. Campbell and her daughters and they were all beaming from ear to ear.  It’s these small moments that make me proud to work for the National Park Service.”

The Delta Center serves as the managing entity of the MDNHA. The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of the Mississippi Delta’s history and culture through education, partnerships, and community engagement. According to Herts, serendipitous moments like this are precisely why their efforts are so important.

“This White House visit is significant on so many levels,” said Herts. “It represents a lifelong dream come true for Mrs. Campbell, her family and her community. It represents the kind of powerful connections that are being made between people and national parks, which is what the National Park Service Centennial is all about. And it represents a story that will be told again and again, which is part of a rich oral history tradition that we are celebrating and honoring with Alysia Burton Steele.”

Steele spent the early years of her career as a photojournalist and editor. She never viewed herself as an oral historian, but through the Delta Jewels project has discovered the craft to be her new passion. Working with the MDNHA and The Delta Center, Steele has been empowered to share the importance of telling stories that have often been left untold and to demonstrate the positive effect conversations can have on communities.

“It’s pretty simple, really, why this important. We’re not going to learn and grow if we don’t talk to each other,” said Steele.