Delta Center

Dr. Rolando Herts (center) with National Heritage Areas program representatives Heather Scotten (left) and Martha Raymond at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s PastForward Conference in Washington, D.C.

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

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, will take part in the year-long Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.

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

“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

Alysia Burton Steele, center, with Delta Jewels church mothers at a Delta Jewels Community Gathering in Yazoo City. Mississippi Valley State University will host the inaugural Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership program on Oct. 29 as part of the university’s Zelma T. Howard Lecture Series.

MDNHA, Delta Center announce Delta Jewels oral history partnership

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The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area recently forged the “Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership” with Alysia Burton Steele, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism professor at the University of Mississippi. Steele is the author of “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom,” a book of oral histories and portraits of over 50 African American church mothers from the Mississippi Delta, including civil rights icon Myrlie Evers-Williams. The book has received national media coverage, including The New York Times, NBC, National Public Radio, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, Southern Living, Essence and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The partnership will provide opportunities for MDNHA and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University to present oral history programs and workshops with regional, statewide and national organizations. The partnership is designed to make oral history education and awareness accessible to diverse communities, as well as to promote Mississippi Delta culture and history on a broader scale.

Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Miss. will be the first organization to host an oral history program under this new partnership.

“Mississippi Valley State University is honored to host the inaugural program for the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership,” said La Shon Brooks, Chief of Staff at MVSU. “Providing a space where these culturally enriching oral histories will be shared with our students, faculty, staff and community members aligns with the public education mission of our institution.”

MVSU’s oral history program is part of the Zelma T. Howard Lecture Series sponsored by the university’s Department of English. The presentation will take place at the William W. Sutton Administration Building, Auditorium 103, on Oct. 29 at 10 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The MDNHA and The Delta Center partnered with Steele earlier this year to host a series of Delta Jewels community gatherings aimed at promoting cultural heritage and oral history awareness. The events took place in several Delta communities including Clarksdale, Charleston, Indianola, Yazoo City, Ruleville and Mound Bayou. The Mound Bayou gathering was hosted in conjunction with the city’s 128th anniversary celebration in July.

The gatherings attracted over 500 guests from throughout the Mississippi Delta region and the nation. Steele and the Delta Jewels also presented sessions at Delta State University’s Winning the Race conference. Continued demand for these presentations led to the creation of the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership.

“This new partnership will help the MDNHA to fulfill various aspects of its management plan approved by the National Park Service, including oral history education, promoting Delta culture and history, and telling Delta stories,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the MDNHA and The Delta Center. “The partnership also serves as a vehicle for the MDNHA to offer expanded Delta Jewels programming in the Mississippi Delta and beyond.”

“I am excited about this partnership, and I believe we will reach diverse groups of people,” said Steele. “These presentations and the book’s contents transcend race, age, class, gender and geography. I have received messages from readers in Italy, France, New Zealand and Australia. I believe everyone can relate to having a special elder in their lives and I want to inspire people – all people – to record their family history.”

To learn more about hosting a Delta Jewels oral history program or workshop, contact Herts at, or call The Delta Center at 662-846-4311.

The MDNHA is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. The area 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

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

Heather Miller, with the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, was named the September 2015 Employee of the Month.

Miller named Employee of the Month

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The Delta State University Staff Council recently honored Heather Miller as the September 2015 Employee of the Month. Miller works in the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State.

Miller, from Cleveland, Miss., received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Delta State in 2003 and her MBA form Delta State in 2009. 

She has worked in various roles at the DCCL since 2007. She currently works as the program associate for projects.

Miller is married to her husband, Marc, and they have a two-year-old son named Cole.

Employee of the Month distinction is given to a staff member who has provided service at Delta State that is considered over and beyond those duties outlined in his or her job description. Nominations are submitted by colleagues on campus.

Each winner receives a plaque, monetary award, WalMart gift card from the Student Government Association, an engraved insulated coffee mug, a free parking decal courtesy of the Campus Police Department, a box of treats from The Sweetery, a parking spot of their choice, marquee announcement and website recognition.

For an archived list of previous Employee of the Month winners, visit

Delta State’s Staff Council serves as a liaison between the administration and the staff to provide a formal process for staff to discuss issues involving university policies and procedures and to forward ideas, recommendations and opinions to the president.

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Bobby Rush and Super Chikan thrill BPAC crowd

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Rush and Chicken compressed

Blues legends Bobby Rush and James “Super Chikan” Johnson teamed for a free concert at Delta State’s Bologna Performing Arts Center Tuesday night as the closing act of the university’s second annual International Conference on the Blues. The event, “The Storytellers featuring Bobby Rush and Super Chikan: Up Close and Personal,” was a stripped-down concert format that invited the crowd to experience the two renowned blues artists singing and telling stories about their lives, careers, the blues and the Mississippi Delta in distinctly personal ways. Photo by Rory Doyle/Delta State University