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 State prepares for 7th TFA Institute

By | Teach for America | No Comments

Delta State is making preparations for TFA’s 7th institute that will be housed on campus. Approximately 350 corp members and staff are set to arrive June 12 to begin the 2016 Teach For America Delta Institute.

“We are excited to welcome Teach For America back to our campus again this summer,” said Leigh Emerson, assistant director of Communications and Marketing at Delta State. “A few of the TFA operation directors have been here before, so they have knowledge of how everything works. I am very grateful that the Delta State team has been here since 2010 when TFA first came to campus. They know what needs to be done, and they do a great job of working with their TFA leaders.”

This year’s corp members will come from Appalachia, Arkansas, Louisiana Delta, Mississippi, South Carolina and South Louisiana.

“We hope the Cleveland community will welcome them back to the Mississippi Delta,” added Emerson.

Teach For America is the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates of all academic majors and career interests who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and become leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity. These corps members work in school districts challenged by poverty, geography or other issues. Their training to teach begins at summer institutes and Delta State is one of the 10 institutes across the nation.

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.

Joel named Employee of the Month

By | Faculty/Staff | No Comments

The Delta State University Staff Council recently honored Elizabeth Joel, coordinator of Continuing Education, as the April 2016 Employee of the Month.

Joel, a native of Doddsville, has been a staff member at Delta State for nearly six years.

I am honored to receive Employee of the Month from my peers at Delta State,” said Joel. “I could not accomplish what I do without the support of the other staff members in Graduate and Continuing Studies, and those across campus who I work with on a daily basis.”

She is a 2005 Delta State graduate with a degree in fashion merchandising.

Joel currently resides in Cleveland with her husband, Jeff Joel, and their two children, Justin (12) and Anna James (3).    

Each Employee of the Month 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 winners, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/about-dsu/administration/staff-council/staff-council-employee-of-the-month/employee-of-the-month-archives/

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.

Alumni and Foundation Announces Delta State University Giving Days

By | Foundation | No Comments


alumni giving days3

The Delta State University Alumni and Foundation Office has implemented a new philanthropy initiative, Delta State Giving Days, to encourage alumni and friends to donate to the Annual Fund and help reach the goal of $500,000. The objective of Giving Days is to raise by June 30th the remaining $75,000 towards the $500,000 goal and to increase overall donor participation.

“As a public university, Delta State relies heavily on financial support from individuals, businesses, and foundations,” said Missy Pearce, Director of the Annual Fund. “Gifts to the Annual Fund are used primarily for awarding scholarships, faculty and staff development, marketing the university, and a multitude of other projects necessary for enhancing the University. This year the Annual Fund funded new initiatives in the areas of Admissions and Student Success Center to help with recruitment and retention of students.”

Giving Days will begin May 23 and end June 30, which gives alumni and friends 39 days to make a gift. That’s an average of $1,923 per day needed to reach the goal. No gift is too small; previous donations range in size from $2 to $23,000. All are encouraged to give, even current students. Jessica Foster, of Clarksdale began donating to the Annual Fund when she was a sophomore at Delta State. Foster graduated in December, but she still continues to support the Annual Fund.

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Jessica Foster

“Delta State has been nothing less than the perfect home-away-from-home for me,” said Foster. “The Annual Fund allows the university to improve in multiple areas. I want to help Delta State become the best university it can be because it has helped me become the best person I could be.”

In addition to reaching the $500,000 goal Giving Days offers an opportunity to achieve a goal of 100% participation among business, families, and university campus offices. Leading the way is the Delta State Alumni-Foundation Office staff who has achieved the 100% goal.

“We are proud to claim that 100% of employees of the Alumni and Foundation Office are donors to the Annual Fund,” said Keith Fulcher, Executive Director of Alumni-Foundation. “The office has also achieved the goal of 100% of all Alumni employees being dues paying members of the National Alumni Association, and we are now working towards the goal of 100% of employees having a Delta State logo car tag. All three sources of revenue support the University.”

The Alumni and Foundation Office staff invites and challenges others to join them in reaching the 100% mark in the areas of making a gift to the Annual Fund and being a dues paying member of the National Alumni Association.

Over 600 Alumni and friends have already made a gift to the Annual Fund. The names of Annual Fund donors can be found at www.deltastategiving.org/unrestrictedannualgiving/givingclubs. Your gift will help us reach our numeric goal of 700 donors to the Annual Fund as well as the monetary goal.

The process of making a gift is very simple and can be made online at www.deltastategiving.org, or checks can be mailed to DSU Foundation, Box 3141, Cleveland, MS 38733. Gifts of stock and other appreciated assets are acceptable alternatives to making cash gifts.

Please consider using the Twitter hashtag #DSUGivingDays to encourage others to join you in making a gift. Tell us why you give by sharing your story on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.