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Delta Center

National Park Travelers Club members visit The Delta Center

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Members of the National Park Travelers Club visited The Delta Center for Culture and Learning on the campus of Delta State this week. The group is touring the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area collecting National Park Service passport stamps as a way to celebrate the 2016 National Park Service Centennial.

Leland Warzala (Springfield, Illinois), Deborah Archer (Norfolk, Viginia) and David Kroese (Loves Park, Illinois), visited the center to collect their MDNHA passport stamp, which is part of the NPS’ Passport to Your National Parks program. The three NPS passport enthusiasts have been traveling the MDNHA this month collecting stamps in each Delta county. Their Delta traveling adventure has yielded a series of interesting discoveries and pleasant surprises.

The travelers visited cultural heritage attractions throughout the region where passport stations are located, including the Gateway to the Blues Museum and Visitor Center in Tunica and Tallahatchie County Courthouse where the Emmett Till trial took place in 1955.

“Last night, each of us stayed in separate hotels in Clarksdale, just to get a sense of the different hotel options there,” said Archer. “We have been eating at different restaurants, too. Delta food is so delicious. We are working our way to Yazoo City next where we will stay tonight.”

While visiting The Delta Center, they learned about the internationally renowned rural juke joint Po’ Monkey’s Lounge in Merigold, an easy stop on the way to Rosedale, where the Bolivar County passport stamp is available in the Chancery Clerk’s office at the county courthouse.

They also learned about the MDNHA’s NPS centennial passport t-shirt. This collector’s item is awarded to travelers who gather all passport stamps in the MDNHA. Currently, there are 22 passport stamps across the region. This number is expected to grow as the MDNHA passport program continues to gain momentum.

Warzala gave kudos to the MDNHA and The Delta Center for managing a well organized and geographically diverse passport program.

“We would not have known about all of the interesting places to visit in the Delta had it not been for this program,” said Warzala. “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.”

The MDNHA launched its participation in the Passport to Your National Parks program in November 2014 with the goal of making passport stations available in each of the MDNHA’s 18 counties. By the spring of 2015, this goal was accomplished. Since then, additional regional partners in Washington and Coahoma counties have signed on to host passport stations, including the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, and the Jim Henson Museum of the Frog and the Highway 61 Blues Museum, both in Leland. The full list of MDNHA passport locations is available at http://www.msdeltaheritage.com/.

Lee Aylward (left) of The Delta Center speaks with National Park Travelers Club visitors about Mississippi Delta attractions.

Lee Aylward (left) of The Delta Center speaks with National Park Travelers Club visitors about Mississippi Delta attractions.

Kroese praised the state of Mississippi for supporting National Heritage Areas.

“There is no other state where you will find three distinct National Heritage Areas that offer such rich cultural heritage resources,” he said. “As a passport collector, I have traveled to national parks all over the country. What you have here in Mississippi with the Delta, Hills and Gulf Coast heritage areas is a real treasure. They are connected and tell great stories about music, food, literature and people.”

The travel companions plan to encourage other National Park Travelers Club members to visit the Mississippi Delta, as well as the Mississippi Hills and Gulf Coast National Heritage Areas. They also look forward to returning to Cleveland and Delta State after GRAMMY Museum Mississippi opens.

Warzala said, “The Beatles is the first exhibit that will be shown at the GRAMMY Museum? I am definitely coming back.”

Mississippi Delta-based municipalities, businesses, cultural attractions, heritage sites or other organizations that are interested in participating in the Passport Program should contact The Delta Center regarding the application process. For more information, call 662-846-4311 or email Heather Miller at hmiller@deltastate.edu.

To learn more about the National Park Travelers Club, visit http://www.parkstamps.org. To learn more about the NPS Centennial, visit www.nps.gov/2016.

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 National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop and the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the NPS. 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 http://www.msdeltaheritage.com.

MDNHA to provide grant workshops

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The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is a cultural heritage partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. The program is led by Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.

This year, in fulfillment of its management plan, the MDNHA is launching a new grants program. A series of regional workshops will be held to educate and inform the people of the Mississippi Delta on how to apply for these grants.

The dates, times and locations for the workshops are:

(all workshops are scheduled to take place from 1:30-4 p.m.)

*Jan. 14, 2016
Clarksdale/Coahoma County Tourism
326 Blues Alley, Clarksdale, MS

*Jan. 19, 2016
Mississippi Valley State University
Auditorium 103, first floor of William Sutton Administration Building
14000 HWY 82 W, Itta Bena, MS

*Jan. 26, 2016
Sharkey-Issaquena County Library
116 East China Street, Rolling Fork, MS

*Jan. 28, 2016
The Capps Center, Room 101
920 US-82, Indianola, MS

For more information, contact The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at 662-846-4311, or email hmiller@deltastate.edu.

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. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

Delta Center presents at national conference for social studies educators

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The staff of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State recently presented at the National Association of Social Studies Teachers’ annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The presentation, “Transforming Classrooms Through Experiences in the Mississippi Delta,” highlighted The Delta Center’s National Endowment for the Humanities workshop “The Most Southern Place on Earth, the Music, Culture and History of the Mississippi Delta.”

The conference was attended by social studies teachers from across the country. The presentation was organized and planned by two former “Most Southern” workshop participants Heidi Imhof and Kelly Scallion, both high school history teachers from Fairbanks, Alaska. The duo participated in the 2010 workshop.

“We wanted this presentation to serve as a way to repay The Delta Center for all that was shared with us and to document how that information continues to be shared with our students and communities all across the United States,” said Imhof.

“We cannot begin to tell you how much the Delta means to us,” added Scallion. “This was the least we could do to show our appreciation for opening a new chapter in each of our lives.”

Imhof and Scallion served as moderators for the presentation. In addition to an overview of the workshop provided by TDC staff, the presentation featured 10 additional former workshop participants from Buffalo, New York, Phoenix, Arizona, Columbus, Ohio, Tennessee, as well as two Mississippi teachers from Jackson and Columbus. These presenters discussed Delta cultural heritage educational topics used in their classrooms, including Emmett Till, Freedom Summer and blues music.

Presentation attendees were treated to Delta Blues music selections, as well as tastes of hot tamales and koolickles, which are celebrated Delta food delicacies. The moderators also gave special thanks to members of TDC staff who facilitated the 2010 workshop, including Dr. Luther Brown, Dr. Henry Outlaw, Lee Aylward and Heather Miller.

TDC is preparing to host its seventh year of the workshop in the summer of 2016. Applications are currently being accepted for the 2016 workshop. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/mostsouthern/.

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 http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

MDNHA, Delta Center highlighted at National Trust conference

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Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, was recently invited to represent both organizations 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 session 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 NPS works to tell inclusive stories of all Americans, reflecting national values of social and environmental justice.

Over 150 conference guests attended the session. Among those in attendance were Martha Raymond and Heather Scotten, NPS colleagues from the National Heritage Areas Program office in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Rolando Herts. Photo by David Keith.

Dr. Rolando Herts. Photo by David Keith.

“How meaningful to have the National Heritage Areas program represented by Dr. Herts in this national forum, telling the story of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and the important work of The Delta Center and partners,” said Raymond.

“Through their educational programs and partnerships, National Heritage Areas play a critical role in racial healing and in the social and environmental justice movement, which is precisely why heritage area leaders like Dr. Herts were invited to the preservationVOICES track,” said Scotten. “Dr. Herts is a wonderful ambassador for the National Heritage Areas program. The work of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and The Delta Center is creating opportunities for greater dialog about the history of the Delta, as well as past and current Delta residents.”

Herts’s presentation, “Telling the Delta’s Story: Recognizing Our Shared History Through Partnerships,” discussed the MDNHA’s and The Delta Center’s collaborative work with Delta State’s Winning the Race conference and the International Conference on the Blues, as well as Mississippi Valley State University’s BB King Day and the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership Program.

“Participating in this Learning Lab was both informative and inspiring,” said Herts. “The National Park Service is doing important work in communities across the country to give voice to diverse cultural heritage perspectives. The panel session illuminated this work with tangible examples that conference attendees seemed to find very useful.”

Other panelists included NPS representatives Dr. Elaine Jackson-Retondo, National Historic Landmarks program manager; Nigel Fields, acting deputy associate director for Interpretation, Education and Volunteers; and Carol Shively, coordinator for the Civil War to Civil Rights Commemoration. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Luis Hoyos, professor of architecture at Cal Poly Pomona.

“Recognizing Our Shared History” panelists were led by moderator Dr. Luis Hoyos. Photo by David Keith.

“Recognizing Our Shared History” panelists were led by moderator Dr. Luis Hoyos. Photo by David Keith.

The National Heritage Areas Program team also displayed MDNHA informational materials and Mississippi tourism brochures at the NPS Find Your Park booth.

To learn more about the 2015 PastForward conference, visit http://pastforwardconference.org/.

Herts selected for Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy

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The Delta Regional Authority recently announced 52 community leaders for an intensive year-long leadership training program across the Delta region known as the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy. Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, will participate as a fellow in the program’s 11th year.

Herts will join other DLI fellows from each of the eight Delta region states. Participants are nominated by their respective governors to participate in the year-long leadership training program.

“Our communities and region need strong local leadership to continue to grow and thrive. This is why DRA has made investing in our leaders a priority,” said Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the DRA. “I’m very proud of this class and what they have already accomplished in their own communities. DLI will only further prepare them to continue to lead.”

Over the course of the Executive Academy year, Herts will attend six sessions across the Delta region and in Washington, D.C. to engage in advocacy training, case study discussion, and on-the-ground field studies of priority issue areas for the region, including Workforce Training and Education, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Public Health, Transportation and Basic Public Infrastructure.

“I believe that it is my life purpose to continue to help improve quality of life in the Delta region through education and community and economic partnership development,” said Herts. “Becoming part of the Delta Leadership Institute will equip me with social and intellectual capital resources to serve our region more effectively and with greater impact.”

Since 2005, the DLI has worked to improve the decisions made by community leaders across the Delta by broadening their understanding of regional issues, building a corps of alumni that have a regional and national perspective, developing a toolkit of resources for addressing issues facing their local communities, and providing the training and professional development needed to extend the pipeline of skilled local leadership within Delta communities.

The newest DLI class is holding orientation this week and its first session of the academy in Memphis, Tenn.

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives through strategic investments in economic development in 252 counties and parishes across eight states. Through the Rural Communities Advancement Program, the DRA has provided leadership development to more than 400 community leaders over 10 years and strengthened regional collaboration with its Delta Leadership Institute.

The DRA partners with Arkansas State University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe for programming and organizational support of the institute. Learn more about the Delta Leadership Institute at dra.gov/leadership.

“The Delta region has been with me throughout my personal and professional life,” added Herts. “I am passionate about improving quality of life here through cultural heritage education, tourism and partnership development. I believe that the academy will empower me and others to accomplish this more effectively through collaboration.”

Learn more about The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at http://deltacenterforcultureandlearning.com.