Sundance Institute returns with Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue

By | Bologna Performing Arts Center, College of Arts and Sciences, Community, General, Students | No Comments

Click HERE to expand the festival schedule.

Delta State University will present “Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue,” a partnership between Sundance Institute and four U.S. federal cultural agencies. The event will feature free screenings of eight films with moderated discussions, panels and artist roundtables. The program comes to the state through the Mississippi Film Office and Crossroads Film Society. Following stops in the Magnolia State, the program extends to other states and international locations.

Screenings on campus will start Feb. 20 with the film “The Rocket,” which will be presented in Holcombe-Norwood Room 151 at 6:30 p.m.

For a full schedule of events, visit, or for more information, contact Michelle Johansen at

On Feb. 23-24, filmmakers Marta Cunningham (“Valentine Road”) and Nisha Pahuja (“The World before Her”) will be in attendance for Q and A sessions. On Feb. 23 at 1 p.m., “Valentine Road” will be showing in the Bologna Performing Arts Recital Hall, followed at 4 p.m. by “The World Before Her.” The following day at 10 a.m., “The World Before Her” will be played again.

“I was compelled to make ‘Valentine Road’ and use this film as an educational tool for schools to start dialogue around compassion,” said Cunningham. “Through Film Forward, I am excited to meet audiences in Mississippi to talk about the themes, challenges and issues that unite us all.”

Common themes explored in the films include communities in conflict, overcoming adversity and the transformative power of art. In each location, Film Forward seeks audiences that have limited access to independent film. In Mississippi, the program will explore the regional tradition of storytelling, blues music, literature and filmmaking, and delve into the topic of tolerance.

Also on Feb. 24 at 12:30 p.m., a panel discussion will be held on “The Power of Storytelling,” looking at how stories are used, from music to film, to expose issues and themes to a greater community. Panelists will include Cunningham, Pahuja, Alison Fast and Chandler Griffin from Barefoot Workshops, associate producer Thabi Moyo and Chasidy Buckley, a Delta State graduate and one of the subjects of “Prom Night in Mississippi.” Each will speak about his or her experiences and motivations.

Film Forward uses the power of cinema to promote broader cultural understanding, inspire curiosity and enhance awareness of shared stories and values across generations, religion, ethnicity and borders.

“The films in the Film Forward series are stories that absolutely had to be told — not that needed or wanted to be told, but that someone had to tell,” said Ward Emling, director of the Mississippi Film Office. “We all have stories — this series teaches us about passion and about vision, about acting on a belief and about the power of film.

“All of these films come from a very driving place and will have impact. Each of these films has the power to change us as a people and in our singular lives.”

A screening of “Dancing in Jaffa” is also scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on March 6 at the Delta Arts Alliance in downtown Cleveland.

Thacker Mountain Radio show returns to DMI

By | Delta Music Institute, General | No Comments

Thacker Mountain Radio, the award-winning literary and music radio broadcast originating out of Oxford, Miss., will return for the sixth Delta Edition on March 1 at 3 p.m. in DMI Studio A of the Whitfield Building on the campus of Delta State University.

The show marks the annual DMI anniversary and spring fundraising event with the purpose of raising scholarship funds for music industry studies students in the DMI program. Funds from this event are earmarked for the Duff Dorrough Scholarship Fund, in memory of longtime Thacker Mountain bandleader and Delta music legend, Duff Dorrough of Ruleville. In addition, a portion of this year’s funds will be used to continue recovery efforts from major flood damage to the Whitfield Building and DMI equipment that occurred over the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday.

This year’s featured author is Charlaine Harris, a New York Times bestselling author who has been writing for 30 years. She was born and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area, and though her early works consisted largely of poems about ghosts and teenage angst, she began writing plays when she attended Rhodes College in Memphis. She switched to novels a few years later, and after releasing the dark Shakespeare mysteries, Harris created “The Sookie Stackhouse” urban fantasy series. The first book in the series, “Dead Until Dark,” won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Mystery in 2001. Sookie Stackhouse has proven to be so popular that Alan Ball, creator of the HBO television series “Six Feet Under,” produced the HBO series based on the books. He wrote and directed the pilot episode for the series “True Blood,” which premiered in September of 2008 and successfully continues in its seventh season.

Featured musical guest for this year’s Delta Edition will be McComb native Dan Tyler. From his first recording session at the famed Malaco Studios in Jackson, throughout his years in McComb and later, at Ole Miss, he developed as a masterful songwriter. He moved to Nashville where success came quickly with a No. 2 hit by Eddie Rabbitt called “Hearts on Fire,” and a major hit, “Bobbie Sue,” by the Oak Ridge Boys, while he was still practicing law. He left the law profession to establish Intuit Music Group, a music publishing company that is still active today. His co-write with Kix Brooks, “Modern Day Romance,” was a No. 1 hit for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and he has written numerous other hits for LeAnn Rimes, Kenny Rogers, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and SKO. Tyler has also published a novel, “Music City Confidential,” an insider’s fictional take on the colorful country music industry.

Merigold’s favorite son, Fish Michie, will be performing with the Thacker Mountain house band, the Yalobushwhackers, and DMI’s own classic rock band, DeltaRoX, will add a couple of numbers to the show, which is hosted by Jim Dees. There is no charge to attend the show, but contributions to the scholarship fund are encouraged.

The Delta Music Institute is an independent center of study under the College of Arts and Sciences of Delta State University. The focus of the DMI music industry studies program is to provide students with a broad and thorough education in the technological, creative, and business areas of the music and entertainment industry.

To learn more, visit

Three Mississippi fiction authors to visit campus and community

By | General, Graduate and Continuing Studies, Students | No Comments

The Delta State University Graduate and Continuing Studies Department is hosting a lecture series with three Mississippi authors who highlight the South and Mississippi Delta in their writing. Dean James, Charlaine Harris and Carolyn Haines have all found literary success with their mystery and horror tales.

The trio will be on campus Feb. 28 and provide lectures to students at 9 and 10 a.m. in Jobe Hall. From 1-2:30 p.m., they will participate in a panel discussion with three local scholars — Dorothy Shawhan, Susan Allen Ford and Karen Bell.

Later that afternoon, a book signing and reception will be held at the Delta Arts Alliance in downtown Cleveland from 3-5 p.m. In addition, students, faculty and staff will be able to donate blood at the “True Blood” Drive at the H.L. Nowell Union from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The following day, March 1, Harris will be the guest reader at 3 p.m. on the Thacker Mountain Radio Show at the Delta Music Institute.

The lecture and panel discussion will focus on the use of place in the writers’ fiction, the importance of contemporary fiction as a literary genre, and the joys and challenges of creative writing. These events will explore genre fiction such as mystery, supernatural and horror as intellectual inquiry and as an increasingly valued form of the literary humanities.

Beverly Moon, Delta State University Dean of Graduate and Continuing Studies, said she is thrilled to host these established authors.

“We will have lots of fun with the various events — the student sessions, panel discussions, the readings, reception, book signing, and of course, the “True Blood” Drive,” said Moon.

Harris, a New York Times bestselling author who has been writing for 30 years, was born and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area. She is known for writing mystery and fantasy novels, with her most popular series being “The Sookie Stackhouse Series.” The urban fantasy series is about a telepathic waitress named Sookie who works in a bar in the fictional northern Louisiana town of Bon Temps.

The first book in the series, “Dead Until Dark,” won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Mystery in 2001. Each book follows Sookie through her adventures involving vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures. The series, which now numbers 11 titles, has been released worldwide.

Sookie Stackhouse has proven to be so popular that Alan Ball, creator of the HBO television series “Six Feet Under,” produced the HBO series based on the books. He wrote and directed the pilot episode for the series “True Blood,” which premiered in September of 2008 and successfully continues in its seventh season.

Professionally, Harris is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the American Crime Writers League, Sisters in Crime and the International Crime Writers Association. She is a past member of the boards of Sisters in Crime and MWA. She is also a member of Science Fiction Writers of America, Horror Writers Association and Romance Writers of America.

Haines, born in Lucedale, Miss., is a prolific mystery author and former journalist specializing in mysteries set in the Mississippi Delta. Her current mysteries, the “Sarah Booth Delaney Mississippi Delta Series,” is set in the fictional town of Zinnia. The series has won numerous awards, including Best Amateur Sleuth. Her work, “Hallowed Bones,” the fifth in the series, was named in the top five mysteries of 2004 by Library Journal.

Haines teaches graduate and undergraduate fiction writing classes at the University of South Alabama, where she is an assistant professor and fiction coordinator. She was the recipient of the 2010 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year, and in 2009 she received the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence.

James is the author of over 20 books, both mystery fiction and non-fiction. He is a seventh generation Mississippian having grown up in Grenada County. He is a proud double alumnus of Delta State ’80 and ’81. He also holds a Ph.D. in history from Rice University.

James has published articles on library science, the history of science and medicine and mystery fiction. His first book, which he co-wrote with fellow librarian Jean Swanson, was “By a Woman’s Hand.” In all, he has co-authored or co-edited six works of mystery reference and one short story anthology.

He has won the Agatha and Macavity Awards for his non-fiction and has twice been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical work. Formerly the general manager of Murder by the Book in Houston, he is currently a librarian in the Texas Medical Center. Writing as Miranda James, he is the New York Times bestselling author of the “Cat in the Stacks” mysteries, as well as mysteries under his own name and the pseudonyms Jimmie Ruth Evans and Honor Hartman.

In James’s series “The Cat in The Stacks,” the main character is a southern gentleman by the name of Charlie Harris. Charlie is a librarian in the town of Athena, based loosely on Oxford, Miss. In an interview with Deborah Crombie, he said of the fictional town of Athena, “I’ve tried to imbue it with the kind of feeling that I remember from my youth in Mississippi, a small — but not too small — town where longtime residents know one another, where there’s a strong sense of community and a sense of history.”

The upcoming author events in Cleveland are free and open to the public and are supported in part by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council. For more information, contact the Department of Continuing Education at 662-846-4833.


Civil Rights exhibit comes to archives

By | Archives and Museum, General | No Comments

Delta State University Archives & Museum will be hosting “The Freedom Rides: Journey for Change” traveling exhibit from Feb. 25 through Apr. 14. The display will be held in the main gallery of the Charles W. Capps, Jr. Archives and Museum Building.

According to University Archivist Emily Jones, “The Freedom Rides: Journey for Change” sheds light on one of the most prominent events in Civil Rights history. It embraces the struggles many individuals endured to create a society of equality. The exhibit includes images of the bombing of a Greyhound bus outside of Anniston, Ala., the journey from Montgomery to Jackson, Freedom Riders at the Greyhound bus station in Jackson, Miss., Freedom Riders at the Jackson airport, mug shots, and Freedom Riders going to trial in Jackson.

Many of the images were taken from the original film footage in the WLBT News Film Collection. A DVD of the original footage is included in the exhibit.

The display is part of the Mississippi Department of Archives & History traveling exhibits program. This program includes individuals of different cultural backgrounds journeying through the Deep South attempting to change practices that were legalized by the United States judicial system.

“I am also thrilled to be working with the university’s diversity committee in promoting its upcoming conference,” said Jones. “As with every exhibit we host, I hope that this provides an opportunity for reflection and thought on the impact of the Civil Rights movement in our community.”

“The Freedom Rides: Journey for Change” was sponsored by the following organizations: the MS Department of Archives & History, the Foundation of MS History, MS Humanities Council, MS Historical Records Advisory Board and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

The museum and exhibit are open to faculty, staff, students, researchers and the general public. For more information, visit


Dynamic math and science program hosted on campus

By | Academics, General | No Comments

Delta State will host Tech Savvy, a conference sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), for young girls on March 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tech Savvy is a national pilot program designed for girls to experience firsthand how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields can lead to exciting careers.

The workshop is geared toward girls in grades six to nine. A $5 fee includes breakfast, lunch and t-shirt for participants. Special sessions for parents and family will also be held for college and career path guidance. Girls and parents can register online or find printer-friendly registration forms at The deadline for registration is Feb. 13.

The Mississippi Tech Savvy conference is one of 10 pilot programs nationwide. The pilot program, which furthers AAUW’s commitment to widening the pipeline for women in STEM, is funded in part by grants from the Praxair Foundation.

President of the Cleveland Branch of AAUW Dr. Glendscene Williams is coordinating the conference.

“First Lady Michelle Obama said we need all hands on deck to remove the hurdles for women and girls if we want to be more innovative and educated than the rest of the world, so Delta State University is putting all boots on the ground and bringing Tech Savvy to the Mississippi Delta. The question of where are the girls will no longer be,” said Williams.

The structure and activities of Tech Savvy support and further the goals and best practices described in AAUW’s highly acclaimed and influential research report “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.”

“Tech Savvy is a crucial program to prepare and empower the next generation of girls to enter into these fields and increase our nation’s science and technology talent pool,” said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE. “Women benefit from highly stable, well-paying jobs, while the STEM industry gains diverse perspectives. It’s win-win for the American economy.”

To find out more information, register for the event or donate to the conference, please visit or call 662-846-4233.