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MDNHA hosts Strategic Planning Retreat and “Voices from the Sit-In” Community Dinner

MS Delta NHA Board of Directors and Staff at their first strategic planning retreat in Cleveland, Miss.

CLEVELAND, Miss.—The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) recently hosted its first-ever strategic planning retreat at the Lyric Hotel in Cleveland, Miss.

The MDNHA is housed at The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University. The retreat was facilitated by Amy Stork from Solid Ground Consulting in Oregon with support from the National Park Foundation’s Strategic Growth Initiative.

Professor Georgene Clark speaks to community dinner attendees.

The MDNHA Board of Directors discussed the Heritage Area’s strategic direction and laid the groundwork for continued cultural heritage development in the Mississippi Delta.

“Through our partnership with Amy and the National Park Foundation, we received a plethora of thoughtful input from regional and national stakeholders that will yield a high-quality strategic plan for our future work,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, executive director of the MDNHA.

“The MDNHA is at a great place to make some strategic decisions about where to focus its energy for the most positive impact on Delta communities,” said Stork. “I’ve personally found working with the MDNHA to be very inspiring—including getting to spend time with the dedicated board and staff, and attending the ‘Voices from the Sit-In’ event that showcased one example of the profound stories the NHA is preserving.”

As part of the retreat, the MDNHA Board of Directors and community members gathered at the Delta Arts Alliance for a dinner to honor Delta State University alumni who participated in the 1969 sit-in at the institution, as well as the project team that conducted the oral history interviews that ultimately led to the creation of the “Voices from the Sit-In” documentary.

Pictured, from left, are Delta State 1969 sit in participants Professor Georgene Clark, Reena Evers-Everette, Pamela Junior and Dr. Rolando Herts.

“‘Voices from the Sit-In’ exemplifies the power of local stories,” said Dr. Stuart Rockoff, chair of the MDNHA Board of Directors and executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council.

“It’s a privilege to lift up the experiences of those who fought for a better Mississippi Delta. The strategic planning retreat was an opportunity to ask how we can continue to support projects like this one.”

A group discussion about the film was facilitated by special guests Pamela Junior, director of Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, Miss., and Reena Evers-Everette, daughter of Civil Rights icons Medgar Evers and Myrlie Evers-Williams.

 “The stories of the 52 courageous Delta State participants deserve to be told, heard, honored, and preserved for generations,” said Professor Emerita of English Georgene Clark.

In 2009, Clark took the lead in organizing the groundbreaking commemoration program “Catalysts for Change: Understanding Diversity at Delta State” during the 40th anniversary of the Delta State sit-in. She is among the first Black full-time, tenure-track faculty members who were hired at Delta State in the 1970s.

MDNHA proudly supported “Voices from the Sit-In” with a 2019 grant. The documentary has been shown at numerous film festivals, resulting in two “Best Short Documentary” awards. Most recently, “Voices from the Sit-In” aired on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, which is yet another testament to the documentary’s high quality, as well as to the broader cultural heritage significance of this pivotal event in history.

The mission of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning 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 K-12 educators.

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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