Category

Delta Center

Delta Center begins “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop

By | Delta Center | No Comments

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning’s “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop kicked off its seventh year with an opening reception at the Martin and Sue King Railroad Museum in downtown Cleveland on Sunday.

The workshop is a week-long educational and cultural immersion experience for 36 participants from over 20 states. The workshop is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Joshuah Totten-Greenwood teaches high school history in New Hampshire. He was particularly drawn to the workshop because of the hands-on learning environment it provides.

“I like to learn by doing. I needed to see the actual places — talk about them with the people that are from here,” said Totten-Greenwood. “Otherwise forget it. It’s just not the same learning from books as it is actually being there.”

For the next five days, participants will travel around the Delta interacting directly with historically and culturally significant people and places in the region.

“I’ve always loved jazz and the blues. I’m classically trained, but I’ve never really been in the South before. I’ve always just listened to the music,” said Melody Nishinaga, a New York elementary school music teacher. “I’m really excited to be able to explore the history and the culture this week.”

The NEH 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, nationally and globally.

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 MDNHA and is the home of the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop and the International Delta Blues Project.

Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area promotes region’s cultural heritage

By | Delta Center | No Comments

The Board of Directors for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area recently held its May meeting at Delta Council headquarters in Stoneville, Mississippi. The board, chaired by Dr. Myrtis Tabb, welcomed new board members and discussed various partnership opportunities that will continue to promote the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural heritage.

“I am pleased to work with the Board of Directors of MDNHA,” said Dr. Tabb. “We are excited to welcome our new members and continue moving into the implementation phase of a comprehensive management plan developed by a thorough process of meetings with groups and stakeholders throughout the region. Our goal is to empower as many voices as possible so that the story of the Delta is told by a chorus, rather than a few.”

The 15-member board includes representatives from Mississippi Valley State, Alcorn State and Delta State University, as well as the Delta Foundation, Smith Robertson Museum, Delta Council, Mississippi Arts Commission, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and Mississippi Humanities Council. In addition, the governor and counties falling within five Delta districts appoint representatives to the board.

“Our board and our staff continue to work together, building the Mississippi Delta’s capacity to fulfill the MDNHA’s management plan through diverse partnerships,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which serves as the management entity for the MDNHA. “Regional initiatives like the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership, the Passport to Your National Parks Program, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi’s ‘Top 40 Places to Visit in the Mississippi Delta’ website, and the MDNHA Grants Program represent creative and inclusive ways that we are fulfilling the plan.”

In November 2015, Herts was invited to represent the MDNHA and The Delta Center in a panel discussion at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2015 PastForward Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference launched a year-long celebration of the National Historic Preservation Act’s 50th anniversary, attracting hundreds of historic preservation scholars, policymakers, experts and activists from around the nation. The panel discussion was part of the preservationVOICES Learning Lab presentation track organized by the National Trust in partnership with the National Park Service and the Kellogg Foundation. The session, “Recognizing Our Shared History,” focused on how the National Park Service works to tell inclusive stories of all Americans.

In keeping with the PastForward Conference presentation, the MDNHA manages the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership. The partnership has engaged over 800 Mississippi Delta residents and visitors through programs that raise awareness about the educational and cultural value of capturing community stories. The programs are offered to Mississippi organizations and communities in collaboration with Alysia Burton Steele, University of Mississippi journalism professor and author of “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom.” Oral history presentations about the book have been held in several MDNHA communities including Clarksdale, Charleston, Indianola, Yazoo City, Ruleville, Mound Bayou, Cleveland, Vicksburg and Itta Bena. Programs also have been held outside the MDNHA at Jackson State University, Alcorn State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

In March 2016, to commemorate Women’s History Month and the National Park Service Centennial, the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership presented at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C. The program featured 92-year-old Annyce Campbell of Mound Bayou, who graces the cover of “Delta Jewels,” and Reena Evers, daughter of civil rights icons Medgar Evers and Myrlie Evers-Williams. Campbell also visited the White House.

The MDNHA manages the Passport to Your National Parks program which features passport stations in each of the region’s 18 counties. The Delta Center serves as the program headquarters, welcoming passport collectors traveling the region and directing them to passport locations throughout the MDNHA, including the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Sunflower County, tourism visitor centers in Coahoma, Tunica, Yazoo and Warren counties, and courthouses in Carroll, Holmes, Quitman, Sharkey, Tallahatchie and Tate counties.

Members of the National Park Travelers Club have toured the MDNHA collecting National Park Service passport stamps as a way to celebrate the 2016 National Park Service Centennial.

“We would not have known about all of the interesting places to visit in the Delta had it not been for this program,” said Leland Warzala, a club member from Illinois. “We knew that we had to visit all of the counties here, because we wanted to get all of the stamps. We had no idea that there are so many great things to see and do along the way, like the Crossroads sign [in Clarksdale], Dockery Farms and all of the Blues Trail markers.”

GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi opened its doors to the region, the nation, and the world this year. As part of the grand opening celebration, the museum partnered with the MDNHA to launch the “Top 40 Places to Visit in the Mississippi Delta” website.

The website features cultural heritage attractions throughout the Mississippi Delta that tell the region’s diverse stories. The site 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 the museum. “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.”

In April 2016, The Delta Center hosted a group of Swedish music tourists. In addition to experiencing the GRAMMY Museum, the group visited several attractions included on the Top 40 list including Dockery Farms and Mississippi Blues Trail markers throughout the MDNHA. The group also experienced an African American church service in Clarksdale, a tribute to the MDNHA’s cultural heritage theme celebrating the region as a “Wellspring of Creativity.”

For these and various other programmatic successes, The Delta Center was presented the 2016 Georgene Clark Diversity Champion Award at Delta State University’s Winning the Race Conference.

“Through the Heritage Area partnership, the Mississippi Delta region can come together to take pride in our diverse culture and history,” said Herts. “Our stories surrounding issues of race, social injustice, civil rights, identity and expressions of faith have shaped and reflect the American experience.”

At the May meeting, the MDNHA selected inaugural recipients of the organization’s grant program. Grant programs are created and managed by many National Heritage Areas across the U.S. to support local organizations’ cultural heritage education, interpretation, and promotion efforts.

“We have recently completed the first round of a formal grants program,” explained Tabb. “The management plan calls for us to create a program to fund seed projects that meet the heritage area’s goals. Many worthwhile proposals were submitted for this round from agencies and organizations throughout the Delta. Even though we were unable to fund them all, we were excited to see the work already taking place in the region. We look forward to continuing the grants program and partnering with others celebrating our diverse Delta heritage.”

The next deadline for grant proposals is July 5. Those awarded grants will be notified at the end of August. To find out more about the grants, or the MDNHA, visit www.msdeltaheritage.com.

Delta Center hosts Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Services at Delta State

By | Delta Center | No Comments

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning recently hosted the Board of Commissioners of Volunteer Mississippi, also known as the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Services. Volunteer Mississippi’s mission is to engage and support Mississippians of all ages and backgrounds in service to their communities.

According to David Mallery, executive director of Volunteer Mississippi, this is the first time in his eight-year tenure that the Board of Commissioners has met in a Mississippi Delta community.

“We are very impressed with the facilities at Delta State and the professionalism and hospitality that we have experienced here on campus and in the Cleveland community,” said Mallery. “We look forward to more opportunities to connect the Board of Commissioners and Volunteer Mississippi with organizations in the Delta. We appreciate The Delta Center for welcoming us to the region.”

Volunteer Mississippi commissioners and staff members from around the state traveled to Cleveland for the two-day meeting experience. The group’s various points of origin included municipalities as far east as Columbus and as far south as Gulfport and Bay St. Louis.

The meeting took place at Delta State’s Alumni House. Dr. Rolando Herts provided an overview of The Delta Center’s signature partnership programs including the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop, the International Delta Blues Project, and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. Linda Stringfellow also was invited to present on the Mississippi Delta Service Corps, an Americorps VISTA program based at Delta State’s Center for Community and Economic Development.

“Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, is quoted as saying, ‘Service is the rent we pay for living,’” said Herts. “Life for so many Delta residents is economically and socially challenged. Many of these challenges are tied to the Delta’s culture and history. The Delta Center’s programming offers ways for residents and visitors not only to understand our culture and history better, but also to discover ways to become engaged in creating change for the better. We look forward to exploring such opportunities with Volunteer Mississippi.”

Dr. Richard Conville, board chair of the commission, echoed Herts’ comments about how understanding local culture enhances community service.

“Volunteer Mississippi has a strong presence in Delta communities through the Mississippi National Service Network, which includes Americorps, Senior Corps and VISTA,” said Conville. “It makes sense for our Board of Commissioners to have more regular meetings in the Delta so that we can learn more firsthand about the culture of the communities that we are serving. The Delta Center has helped us to begin this process.”

During their stay, the group also toured GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, learning about the museum’s community volunteer docent program. Afterwards, they dined on authentic Delta barbecue and catfish at Airport Grocery and stayed overnight at a local hotel.

“Everyone here has been so welcoming,” said commissioner Janis Lane from Byram. “I will definitely encourage my family and friends to visit the Delta.”

“Dr. Herts told us about the GRAMMY’s Top 40 Places to Visit in the Delta website,” said commissioner Roktabija Abdul-Azeez from Jackson. “Now that I know about it, I will be using it to plan my next trip to the Delta.”

Established in 1994 as the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service, Volunteer Mississippi has worked to encourage a culture of citizenship, service and responsibility to America. In partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Mississippi Department of Education, Mississippi Center for Nonprofits, and faith-based and community organizations statewide, Volunteer Mississippi fosters community engagement and building volunteer capacity throughout the state.

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.

DCCL immerses Swedish tour group in Mississippi Delta’s culture

By | Delta Center | No Comments

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.

Delta Center presented 2016 Georgene Clark Diversity Champion Award

By | Delta Center, Diversity Committee, Faculty/Staff | No Comments

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.