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Delta Delegation honors B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center

The official 2023 Mississippi Delta Blues Festival Brazil banner featuring BB King Museum displayed at Festa da Uva fairgrounds, Caxias do Sul.

CLEVELAND, Miss. — The Delta Delegation to Brazil recently traveled to Caxias do Sul, Brazil to promote Mississippi Delta cultural heritage at the 14th annual Mississippi Delta Blues Festival (MDBF) Brazil, dubbed the B.B. King Museum Edition.

“Through our relationships with the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival Brazil, we have really encouraged a place-based exploration of Blues culture that centers our artists and communities,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center and executive director of the MS Delta National Heritage Area. “Last year with the Clarksdale edition and this year with the B.B. King Museum Edition, we have seen real international engagement with the Mississippi Delta’s Blues traditions and the people and organizations that are carrying those traditions into the future.”

Festival goers visit the Fighting Okra/MS Delta tent at Mississippi Delta Blues Festival Brazil.

The B.B. King Museum Edition featured performances from music scholar and B.B. King Museum board member Alphonso Sanders accompanied by the B.B. King Museum Legacy Band. Claudette King, musician and youngest daughter of the late B.B. King also performed several sets at the festival. Hosted at Caxias do Sul’s Parque da Festa da Uva, stages and musical spaces were named to honor the legacy of King and the cultural heritage of Indianola, where the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center is housed. In addition to the B.B. King Stage, there was also a Club Ebony Stage, Lucille’s House, and the Indianola Mississippi Seeds Stage.

“We are honored that Mississippi Delta Blues Festival Brazil decided to honor the B.B. King Museum this year,” said Malika Polk-Lee, executive director of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. “A major part of B.B. King’s legacy is national and international ambassadorship on behalf of his home state of Mississippi. Our involvement with the Delta Delegation to Brazil has provided opportunities to continue this legacy.”

“We had the idea to approach the topic of B.B. King’s history through our partnership with Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi,” said Toyo Bagoso, founder and lead organizer of Mississippi Delta Blues Festival Brazil. “They were the ones that opened doors for us to the B.B. King Museum and by that connection, we were authorized to dive deep on the life of the blues legend. For those who never heard much about blues, the first person they think of is B.B. King.”

The Delta Delegation operated out of the Fighting Okra/Mississippi Delta tent positioned in a high traffic location next to the B.B. King Museum main stage. Festival attendees were able to engage with the delegation, receive promotional materials, and learn more about the Mississippi Delta’s cultural heritage.

The delegation also facilitated a screening of the documentary I Want to Be at the Meeting: Sacred and Secular in the Mississippi Delta on the campus of the University of Caxias do Sul and a virtual Q&A session with documentary producers and Delta State professors Don Allan Mitchell and Ted Fisher. The documentary features the Coahoma Community College Choir’s performance at Delta State’s 2021 International Conference on the Blues.

Delta Center and MS Delta National Heritage Area team members give Visit Mississippi swag bags to University of Caxias do Sul music faculty and students.

“We have been cultivating this relationship with the University of Caxias do Sul (UCS) since 2019,” said Michelle Johansen, Assistant Coordinator of International Student Services at Delta State. “Cultural exchanges between students and faculty at Delta State and UCS offer exciting opportunities at both universities.”

On the last night of the festival, founder and lead organizer Toyo Bagoso announced that the 2024 Mississippi Delta Blues Festival would be called the “Cleveland, Mississippi Edition.”

In the local Caxias do Sul newspaper Pioneiro, Brazilian journalist Andrei Andrade wrote that “the 15th edition in Caxias do Sul will be held on November 21-23, 2024, and its theme will be the city of Cleveland, Mississippi, where Delta State University, partner of the latest editions of the festival, is based. Cleveland is also home to the Grammy Museum Mississippi, dedicated to local artists who have won music’s biggest award, and the Dockery Plantation, a rural property that is considered the birthplace of the blues as we know it.” Andrade previously visited the Mississippi Delta as a guest of the Delta Delegation in September 2022.

UCS is among the largest universities in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, with an enrollment of more than 20,000 students. Founded in 1967, it is also the oldest university in the region. MDBF is considered to be the largest and longest-running blues festival in South America.

Brazil is the 9th leading country worldwide in sending students to the U.S., according to the 2023 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released by the Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Brazil saw a 7.6 % increase in the number of students they sent to the United States since the last academic year. Brazil is number one in sending exchange students to the United States among South American countries.

Brazil also continues to be considered an emerging tourism market by Travel South USA, the official regional destination marketing organization of the Southern US. Travel South USA connects Southern destinations with tour operators and journalists from around the world who influence more visitor spending in the South. Mississippi is a member of Travel South USA.

Delta Delegation to Brazil was established in 2019 by the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area in collaboration with Mississippi Delta regional education and cultural heritage stakeholders Delta State University International Education, B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, and Visit Clarksdale. That year, the Delegation established partnerships with UCS and the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival Brazil to develop education and cultural exchange opportunities between the universities and the regions they serve.