Unita Blackwell marker added to Mississippi Freedom Trail

By | Delta Center | No Comments

The Issaquena County town of Mayersville recently honored one of it’s bravest citizens, former mayor Unita Blackwell, with a Mississippi Freedom Trail marker dedicated to her.

The marker was unveiled during a ceremony that attracted a gathering of local residents, as well as regional, statewide, and national leaders at the Mayersville Multi Purpose Building. Blackwell was the first female African-American elected mayor in Mississippi.

In addition to serving as mayor for 27 years, Blackwell was active in the Civil Rights Movement, Head Start and the Democratic Party for nearly five decades. In 1993, she was awarded a Genius Grant as a MacArthur Fellow. Since 1973, she has been a part of 16 diplomatic missions to China.

JoAnne Prichard Morris shares thoughts about Unita Blackwell.

JoAnne Prichard Morris shares thoughts about Unita Blackwell.

“The notion is that somebody from very, very humble beginnings cannot only rise to be the mayor of her community, but to take delegations all over the world as a goodwill ambassador, to work for childcare, work for better education, is a statement that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s where you’re going,” said Congressman Bennie Thompson, U.S. Representative for Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District.

Blackwell was born in Lula, Mississippi in 1933. Her parents Virda Mae and Willie Brown were sharecroppers. She married Jeremiah Blackwell in 1958, and in 1960, they moved into a shotgun house in Mayersville inherited from Jeremiah’s grandmother. It was here that Blackwell became involved in politics, civil rights and a life of building a stronger community for all.

“She just kept on going and learning and experiencing new things,” said JoAnne Prichard Morris, who assisted Blackwell in writing her autobiography “Barefootin’: Life Lessons from the Road to Freedom.” “She was quite simply the most courageous, most creative, most inspiring, smartest, funniest person I’ve ever known.”

The Mississippi Freedom Trail was created in 2011 to commemorate the people and places in the state that played a pivotal role in the American Civil Rights Movement. The first Freedom Trail markers were unveiled in conjunction with the Mississippi Freedom 50th Foundation’s 2011 reunion activities for the 1961 Freedom Riders. The Blackwell marker is the 22nd placed in the state, and was supported in part by partnership development funds from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area in conjunction with support from Visit Mississippi, the Town of Mayersville and Mississippi’s Lower Delta Partnership.

“The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is about telling significant stories here in our region, and the story of Unita Blackwell truly is a significant story,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, Director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, the management entity for the MDNHA. “The fact that the MDNHA could support this marker being installed here for ages to come so that the people of Mayersville – particularly the youth – can learn about her story and her legacy, truly is a great asset to the community and to our region.”

An attendee looks at a brochure illustrating the locations of the thirty-plus Freedom Trail markers.

An attendee looks at a brochure illustrating the locations of more than 30 Freedom Trail markers.

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 and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place On Earth” workshops. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpi to provide Colloquia address

By | Community, President | No Comments

The Delta State University Colloquia Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series kicks off the fall semester featuring United States District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpi.

Gelpi’s speech, titled “Police Reform Though the Eyes of a United States District Judge,” will begin at 6 p.m. on Sept. 20 in the Jobe Auditorium on campus. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Those unable to attend the event can view the live stream speech online through the university’s official LiveStream channel: https://livestream.com/DeltaStateUniversity.

Delta State President William N. LaForge established the colloquia program when taking office in 2013. The platform is an ongoing series of top-flight lectures and addresses featuring prominent speakers. William F. Winter, former Mississippi governor, was honored as the first speaker in 2013.

Gelpi was appointed to the federal court bench in 2006 by former U.S. President George W. Bush, following his unanimous Senate confirmation. He holds life tenure and sits in the District of Puerto Rico.

Currently, he presides over the nation’s largest police department reform case, which was filed by the United States Attorney General in 2012 as a result of systemic police practices violative of civil rights, such as excessive use of force, racial and ethnic profiling, as well as sexual and political discrimination in the hiring and promotion of officers.

During his judicial tenure, Judge Gelpi has presided over hundreds of prosecutions for narcotics, firearms, child exploitation, immigration, white collar, government corruption and other federal crimes. He has also presided over a large number of civil cases in the areas of civil rights, environmental litigation, medical malpractice, bank shareholder class actions, corporate litigation and personal injury.

Gelpi has had an illustrious career spanning 25 years of public service, previously serving on the federal bench as a United States Magistrate Judge, as Solicitor General of Puerto Rico, and as Assistant Federal Public Defender and judicial law clerk.

He is a graduate of Brandeis University and Suffolk University School of Law in Boston, from which he also holds an honorary doctorate.

LaForge and Gelpi have known each other for about 12 years, and they first met when LaForge was serving as president of the national board of the Federal Bar Association. LaForge’s son Clayton also spent two years as a law clerk for Gelpi in Puerto Rico.

“Judge Gelpi is an outstanding jurist who has had an amazing career on the bench,” said LaForge. “He brings an outstanding amount of expertise on the issues related to police reform. We are looking forward to hosting him on campus.”

In addition to his speech, Gelpi will spend time visiting classes and with student organizations at Delta State.

LaForge said the Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series is another commitment to bringing excellence to Delta State.

“The university colloquia program gives our institution a chance to hear from and engage with experts from a wide array of professions and interests,” said LaForge. “It especially allows our students and faculty to rub elbows with professionals and resources we sometimes have the rare opportunity to engage. Great universities have great programs, and this is one.”

U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson will follow Gelpi with the next colloquia address on Nov. 9 for a unique and timely look back at the 2016 national election.

Learn more about the series at www.deltastate.edu/president/colloquia.

Student Alumni Association prepares for academic year

By | Alumni, Students | No Comments

The Delta State University Student Alumni Association is in the process of making plans for the 2016-17 school year.

Officers for this year include:

*Hannah Goudy — president
Southaven, Mississippi

*Brittany Earls — vice president
Cleveland, Mississippi

*Dana Rico — secretary
Batesville, Mississippi
biology — pre-occupational therapy

*Rebecca Hudson — treasurer
Flowood, Mississippi
mathematics education

*Artis Love — historian
Cleveland, Mississippi

*Leah Green — projects chairman
Hernando, Mississippi

The SAA also awards scholarships each year. This year’s recipients are: Goudy, Green, Hudson, Rico and Earls.

The Alumni Association recently awarded Meredith Brown with the H.L. Nowell Student Alumni Association Service Award at the annual Student Hall of Fame Banquet in May 2016. The award is named for Henry Lee “H.L.” Nowell Jr., who worked at Delta State from 19481-987. During his 40-year tenure, Nowell served in numerous capacities including dean of men, dean of students, director of student activities, director of public relations, Delta State’s first director of the Student Union, and he was the first paid alumni secretary. The award is given each year to the Student Alumni Association member that has given tireless effort and generosity throughout the academic school year. Brown recently finished her junior year at Delta State and has been an SAA member since her freshman year.

The SAA is a bridge between the Delta State student body and the Delta State University Alumni Association. Goudy will serve on the National Alumni Association Board of Directors as the SAA representative. The organization helps the Alumni Association with projects such as Pig Pickin’ and Homecoming, and is also very active in community service.

To view SAA photos from 2007 to present, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/dsualumni/albums/72157672291991031.

For more information, contact the Alumni Association at 662-846-4660.  To stay up to date on the Alumni Association’s activities, follow these social media sites: Facebook (Statesmen Graduates), Twitter (@DSU_Alumni), Tumblr (http://www.dsualumni.tumblr.com), LinkedIn (DSU alumni), Instagram (dsualumni) and You Tube (dsualumni1). Save the date for this year’s Pig Pickin’ (Sept. 24) and Homecoming (Oct. 15).

Wiley named Employee of the Month

By | Admissions, Faculty/Staff | No Comments

The Delta State University Staff Council recently honored Bobbi Wiley, Admissions clerk, as the August 2016 Employee of the Month.

Wiley, a Rosedale native, has been working in the Office of Admissions since 2013. She is a 2004 Delta State graduate majoring in management.

“I’m very honored to be selected by my peers as Employee of the Month,” said Wiley. “It was definitely a big surprise.”

Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Jamie, and their two children, Karlie Grace and Parker.

Each Employee of the Month winner receives a plaque, monetary award, 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.

Poverty Simulation workshop open to campus and community

By | Academics, College of Education and Human Sciences, Community, Students | No Comments

This Thursday, the Delta State University Department of Social Work, in partnership with the Department of Social Work at Belhaven College, will offer a Poverty Simulation event at the Jacobs Conference Center from 1-3 p.m.

The free event is geared toward senior social work students and any interested campus and community members. Those interested in participating in the workshop are encouraged to contact Dr. Jana Donahoe, assistant professor of social work, before 5 p.m. Wednesday at 662-846-4795 or jdonahoe@deltastate.edu.

“The purpose of the Poverty Simulation is to use a two-hour controlled, role play, experiential learning environment to give participants a glimpse of what it is like to survive for a month on a very low income by pretending to be poor,” said Donahoe.

Participants will be assigned to a family group and given a family member’s role and identity to play. The family is provided with a scenario involving a crisis, which could plunge them into immediate poverty. The family must figure how to survive under the dire circumstances for one month, which is divided into four 15-minute segments, each representing one week during the simulation.

The crisis forces the family to search for ways to survive poverty by living on a fixed amount of income. Social welfare assistance will be made available using volunteer actors who help the family members at tables representing community resources.

The goal is to improve the participants’ attitudes and empathy toward people living in poverty. Additionally, the project seeks to increase participants’ knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of poverty and the work it takes to achieve self-sufficiency.

“It is a very eye-opening experience for participants who are not familiar with the many stressful struggles for survival that people living in poverty face every day,” added Donahoe.