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Diversity Committee

Winning the Race returns to campus March 26-27

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Delta State University’s award-winning race relations conference Winning the Race returns to campus for a fifth year on March 26-27.

This year’s conference theme, “Intersectionalities in Action: The Quest for Equity, Access, and Justice,” is presented in partnership and with support from Casey Family Programs and the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Conference topics will highlight the various ways in which race and race relations intersect areas of our daily lives — from politics, economics, health and housing, to education, entertainment, art and science.

The inaugural program, spearheaded by Delta State President William N. LaForge in 2014, was designed as an innovative, academic conference with a focus on engaging, promoting and rekindling conversations in hopes that Delta-area communities can move toward greater equity, forward thinking and reduced racial tensions.

In recognition of this work, the university received the 2014 Civil Rights and Social Justice Award accepted by LaForge at the fourth National Civil Rights Conference in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

“I am looking forward to Delta State’s fifth annual Winning the Race conference with great anticipation,” said LaForge. “This year’s program will center on the themes of equity, access and justice — key ingredients of the notions of fairness and opportunity that should be equally available to all in our society. Discussions about the intersection of these issues will hopefully lead to ideas and actions that will help improve race relations and understanding across the board in the Delta.”

The 2018 schedule will continue the critical dialogue about current issues related to education, social justice and community healing, while highlighting opportunities for sustained community action, awareness and mobility.

“In planning this year’s conference activities, planning committee members have worked hard to focus on creating opportunities for attendees to better understand how race intersects and impacts various areas of our collective and individual lives,” said Dr. Temika Simmons, conference co-chair and director of Delta State’s new Local Government Leadership Institute. “Conversations about race are not reserved for people of color only. They are conversations that we must all become comfortable with in order to dismantle the attitudes, systems and inequities that marginalize groups, inoculate stereotypes, separate communities and breed hate.”

Simmons said the conversations and points of actions scheduled for presentation at this year’s conference are as relevant now as they have always been.

“We challenge the entire Delta State campus and Mississippi community to join us again in March as we continue this work to improve our campus, the Delta community, and the state of Mississippi,” she added. “With help from the Mississippi Humanities Council, we will again host a high school leadership forum with a unique message and activities for area high school students. In addition, we will provide opportunities for professional development credits for teaching and counseling professionals in our efforts to continue to push the conference initiative beyond dialogue to tangible action and outcomes.”

Dr. Chuck Westmoreland, conference co-chair and associate professor of history, is looking forward to another conference of meaningful discussions.

“By fostering dialogue on race relations and providing a platform to discuss solutions to the challenges we face, Winning the Race performs a valuable service not only to the Delta State campus and the broader Mississippi Delta, but to our state and beyond,” said Westmoreland. “Sessions will feature distinguished activists and scholars who will explore the myriad of ways race intersects with other identities such as gender, class, region, nationality and sexuality.”

“Above all, we want conference attendees to know that they have a vital role to play in the many pressing issues and conversations of our time,” added Westmoreland. “Each year, I am most excited to take part in and observe the Q&A following each session and the overall interactions between conference attendees. These moments are where we take the ideas explored in the various sessions and apply them in our ongoing work to build more equitable and inclusive communities.”

A highlight speaker for the 2018 conference is Kevin Powell, a political activist, poet, writer and entrepreneur. Powell, one of the most acclaimed political, cultural, literary and hip-hop voices in America today, is a native of Jersey City, New Jersey.

Raised by a single mother in extreme poverty, he managed to study at Rutgers University thanks to New Jersey’s Educational Opportunity Fund. Powell has gone on to author 12 books, including his newest title, “The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood.”

His writings have also appeared in CNN.com, Esquire, Ebony, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, ESPN.com and Vibe Magazine, where he worked for many years as a senior writer, interviewing diverse public figures such as Tupac Shakur and General Colin Powell.

Powell has lectured extensively, both domestically and abroad, on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with notable and well-regarded national appearances, including on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Later this year, he will publish a biography of Shakur, the late rapper and controversial American icon.

Conference organizers are also proud to welcome civil rights activist David “Dave” Dennis. A participant in the first Freedom Bus ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi in 1961 and 1964’s Freedom Summer, Dennis served as co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations in Mississippi. Raised in Louisiana by sharecropper grandparents, Dennis worked closely with Bob Moses and Medgar Evers in Mississippi in the 1960s.

While conducting voter registration workshops throughout the South, a bout with bronchitis prevented Dennis from riding in the car with the three civil rights workers he was training — James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman — the night they were killed by Ku Klux Klan members on a back road in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Dennis would go on to speak at Chaney’s funeral. He currently serves on the advisory board for the Andrew Goodman Foundation, whose vision is that “young people will become active, engaged citizens who ensure a peaceful, just and sustainable future.”

Also speaking is novelist Nick White, a native Mississippian, Delta State alumnus, and author of the novel “How to Survive a Summer.” White is an assistant professor of English at Ohio State University’s MFA program in creative writing. His short stories, poems and essays have appeared in a variety of places, including The Kenyon Review, Guernica, The Hopkins Review, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. His short story collection, “Sweet & Low,” will be published later this year.

In addition to stellar speakers, leaders from around the state and nation will facilitate breakout sessions covering intersections across various topics related to social justice, civil rights and law, economic opportunities, education and community, and culture and community.

Additional activities include a poster competition for college students, a special presentation by Memphis hip-hop artist Marco Pave, and artistic and academic presentations by campus faculty, staff, students and members of the community.

The university will kick off this year’s conference with an open house and press conference on March 25 from 2-6 p.m. at the Amzie Moore House Museum and Interpretive Center located at 614 S. Chrisman Ave. in Cleveland, where local civil rights leaders and veterans will be recognized and honored.

Conference activities will begin on campus at 8 a.m. on March 26 in the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State. Conference updates, registration and additional information are available at http://www.deltastate.edu/winning-the-race/.

“We are especially thankful for the generous support of Casey Family Programs and the Mississippi Humanities Council,” said Westmoreland. “Their kind contributions enable us to make this conference a forum where many voices are heard and all are welcome.”

Registration for the event opens Feb. 1 at http://www.deltastate.edu/winning-the-race.

For questions, or more information, contact Simmons at tsimmons@deltastate.edu.

“Harriet Tubman: The Chosen One” coming to Jobe

By | Academics, Diversity Committee | No Comments

Delta State University welcomes Gwendolyn Briley-Strand for her performance of “Harriet Tubman: The Chosen One” on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in Jobe Auditorium.

Briley-Strand has been touring this performance since 1993.

The show takes its audience on one of the many journeys Tubman took on the Underground Railroad. It celebrates the life of this great American who made her way to freedom, and then risked her freedom to free others. 

The performance includes singing of spirituals and the use of the secret language used on the dangerous path to freedom.

Briley-Strand has been a performer for more than 30 years. She has entertained audiences on stage, radio, television and in movie theaters. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA, & Actor’s Equity Association, and she has performed extensively in television and movies. Her commercial voiceovers can be heard on network and cable stations.

Additionally, she has filmed public service announcements for substance and child abuse.

Briley-Strand is also the founder and CEO of See the Fruits, Inc., a company that uses the arts to teach valuable lessons in history.

The performance is sponsored by the DSU Diversity Committee and is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Arlene Sanders at 662-846-4095 or asanders@deltastate.edu.

I.D.E.A. lunches open to campus

By | Academics, Diversity Committee, Faculty/Staff, QEP, Students | No Comments

Sponsored by Delta State’s Quality Enhancement Plan and the Diversity Committee, two I.D.E.A. lunches will be open to students, faculty and staff this month.

I.D.E.A., which stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Advocacy, aims to improve cultural competency on campus through communication, collaboration and engagement.

The sessions are designed to engage students in rational and critical discussions in regards to the impact of labels on individuals and groups in society,” said Dr. George Beals, assistant professor of counselor education and member of the Diversity Committee.

The free lunches, open to the first 40 registrants, will take place on the second floor of the Student Union.

Lunch schedule:
– Sept. 19 from 12-1 p.m. – “What’s in a Label?”
– Sept. 20 from 12:15-1:15 p.m. – “What’s in a Label?”

To register for a lunch session, complete the form at https://deltastateqep.wufoo.com/forms/z1bmidsg0jzw82o.

For more information, call 662-846-4170, or contact Johansen at mjohansen@deltastate.edu or Wendolyn Stevens at wstevens@deltastate.edu.

Learn more about the QEP at http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/institutional-research-and-planning/sacs-2014-reaffirmation/quality-enhancement-plan-2014/. Learn more about the DSU Diversity Committee at http://www.deltastate.edu/about-dsu/administration/diversity-committee/.

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.

Core Ensemble to celebrate Harlem Renaissance

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Delta State University and the DSU Diversity Committee will host the Core Ensemble for the Chamber Music Theatre performance, “Of Ebony Embers: Vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance.” The event, free and open to the public, takes place Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. in Jobe Auditorium.

Chamber Music Theatre is a unique performance format featuring a marriage of theatrical narrative set to chamber music performance. The format was created by Core Ensemble.

Since 1993, the Core Ensemble has toured nationally to every region of the United States and internationally to England, Russia, the Ukraine, Australia and the British Virgin Islands. The ensemble was the recipient of the 2000 Eugene McDermott Award for Excellence in the Arts awarded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has received support from the state of Florida Department of Cultural Affairs, New England Foundation for the Arts, Palm Beach County Cultural Council, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the Virgil Thomson Foundation.

During the performance, Dracyn Blount portrays multiple characters while interacting with the onstage musical trio of cello, piano and percussion.

Celebrating the music and poetry of the Harlem Renaissance era in New York City, the work examines the lives of three outstanding but very different African American poets — Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Claude McKay — as seen through the eyes of the great painter and muralist Aaron Douglas.

The script was written and directed by Akin Babatunde.

The Core Ensemble performs music by African American composers ranging from jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus, to concert music composers Jeffrey Mumford and George Walker.

 For more information, contact Arlene Sanders at 662-846-4095 or asanders@deltastate.edu.