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2022 Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Grants Leadership Academy awardees announced

MDNHA awardees and staff at the inaugural Grants Leadership Academy.

CLEVELAND, Miss.—The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA), housed at the Delta Center at Delta State University, has awarded almost $300,000 to thirteen projects dedicated to cultural heritage development in the Mississippi Delta. This is the seventh year of the MDNHA grants program, but the first year under the newly revamped Grants Leadership Academy format.From educational opportunities for children and oral history projects, to expanded museum offerings and celebrations of the Mississippi Delta’s musical traditions—this year’s projects will perpetuate and celebrate the unique and nationally significant cultural heritage of the Mississippi Delta.New this year, the Grants Leadership Academy format required that all awardee organizations attend an intensive 3-day training in federal grants management and compliance at Delta State.

“The training grantees received will not only help them in administering our grants, but also teach them how to apply for and administer other federal grants.” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and executive director of the MDNHA. “We are building capacity in the region, not only through the awarding of federal grant funds, but also through the infusion of knowledge.” Don Allan Mitchell, associate professor of English at Delta State, is the project manager for The Eastside Project, one of this year’s awardees.

“The grants management training was very helpful,” said Mitchell. “After 24 hours of training over the course of 3 days, I think we all have a much better understanding of the complex world of federal grants.”Misty Clark, education coordinator at the B. B. King Museum & Delta Interpretive Center and project manager for the museum’s Art of Living Smart Camp, also appreciated the new format.

“For a first time grant administrator like myself, the grant training was informative and helped to increase my knowledge base,” she said.

This year’s total grant award of $298,425 will be matched by awardees with in-kind or cash match of $322,614 for a total investment of $621,039 in cultural heritage development organizations and projects in the region.The grant recipients and their funded projects this year are as follows:B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, Indianola, Miss.– $28,000 to fund the Art of Living Smart Camp, where students aged 8-17 learn about the importance of the blues in the world’s music, civil rights struggles and the contributions of African Americans to American literature, art and music.Cleveland Development Foundation, Inc., Cleveland, Miss. – $29,500 to develop and install a playground beside the Martin and Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum in downtown Cleveland, expanding the museum’s interpretive offerings in a way that is accessible to children.Cleveland Music Foundation, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, Cleveland, Miss. – $29,497 to fund the Crossroads School of American Music: Delta Sessions Guitar 101, a program that will identify, engage and nurture the next generation of Mississippi Delta musicians through a twelve-week course in guitar playing and songwriting.Coahoma Collective, Clarksdale, Miss. – $29,500 to create “The Freedmen’s Promise,” a StoryWorks led multi-platform oral history, interpretation, and education project that examines the impact of the Reconstruction era Freedmen’s Bureau, the inspired participation of Black voters to elect representative leadership on a local and national level and the brutal repercussions of their success.Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, Miss. – $19,255 to develop virtual educational and interpretive resources, including a feature on Chester Burnett aka “Howlin Wolf,” lesson plans about Robert Johnson, and a “virtual field trip” of the Delta Blues Museum that will bring the museum directly into the classroom.Delta State University, Cleveland, Miss. – $29,500 to expand The Eastside Project. Through oral history interviews and public screenings of the documentary film, “Educational Divide: The Story of Eastside Highschool,” the project will document, preserve and raise awareness of the history of East Side High School, a historically all-Black school in Cleveland that closed in 2017 after a 2016 federal order mandated consolidation of Cleveland School District.Delta State University/WDSW The Trail, Cleveland, Miss. – $19,800 to fund The Sunday Morning Blues Show on WDSW The Trail. The program will feature a rich, comprehensive selection of blues music, including interviews from current blues artists, historical interviews and live in-studio performances by Delta blues performers.Mississippi Heritage Trust, Jackson, Miss. – $7,500 to fund the Mississippi Delta Civil rights Fellowship Program Feasibility Study, a project that will explore options and partnerships to create a fellowship program focused on issues relating to civil rights and social justice, through the sustainable use of historic structures linked to the civil rights movement as lodging for fellows.Mississippi Heritage Trust, Jackson, Miss. – $10,000 to fund the Hawkins v. Town of Shaw Oral History Project, which will document the history of the aforementioned groundbreaking civil rights legal case through oral histories of people involved in the lawsuit. The long-term goal is to create a documentary film about the history of the case and its national impact.Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, Miss. – $18,923.00 to fund MVSU’s 9th B.B. King Day Symposium in September 2023. The central topic will be “The Blues and Civil Rights: How the Movement Influenced the Music.”Mt. Zion Memorial Fund for Blues, Music and Justice, Greenville, Miss. – $29,500 to fund the historic preservation assessment and National Historic Register nomination of the Alonzo Chatman juke joint and the production of a short promotional film around the juke joint’s history.Shape Up Mississippi, Vicksburg, Miss. – $17,950 to repair and protect the interior of the historic Christian and Brough Building. Repairs will focus on safeguarding an existing mural, protection of artifacts via the instillation of UV window protection and the repair of roof leaks.We2gether Creating Change, Drew, Miss. – $29,500 to fund the Emmett Till Academy, a weekly program that teaches students about the civil rights movement and racial justice today in the Mississippi Delta and the nation.