The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area recently hosted an orientation for administrators of over 20 projects that have received funding through the MDNHA’s grant program. The organization has funded more than $300,000 over the last two years to projects throughout the Delta.
“I want to thank the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area as well as the National Park Service for this grant,” said Leslie Miller, a volunteer with the Rolling Fork Visitors Center and Museum. “Without the support of these organizations, we’d have never figured out how to tell the story of our community. Now, we have such a wonderful space that helps educate visitors and locals about the history and importance of our area.”
The funded work celebrates the diversity of the Delta’s rich cultural heritage, including restoration of historical sites such as the St. Francis Xavier Convent in Vicksburg, establishment of a museum featuring the legacy of Dr. L. C. Dorsey at the Delta Health Center in the historic black town of Mound Bayou, examination of Delta Chinese culture’s influence on Delta cuisine, and celebration of the “Chitlin’ Circuit Years” during B.B. King Day at Mississippi Valley State University.
“Each of these agencies is to be commended for the great work they are doing,” said Dr. Myrtis Tabb, chair of the MDNHA board of directors. “It is always inspiring to see what happens when communities are active in solving the needs of their friends and neighbors. The MDNHA is proud to play a part in empowering these amazing visions that will improve each of the areas in which they are implemented.”
“It was an amazing day meeting all of the people responsible for the important work being done throughout the Delta,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which serves as the managing entity for MDNHA. “This meeting truly demonstrated that we are building a collaborative regional network through the grant program. We are excited to be a part of empowering projects that will have a tremendous impact of the citizens of the region, and we look forward to building many more partnerships in the years to come.”
Grant recipients and funded projects include:
-ArtPlace Mississippi – Delta Wild: Connecting people to the Mississippi Delta’s natural habitat and resources
-Bologna Performing Arts Center, Delta State University – Public performance of “Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till”; development of a new track of classes for its CORE Arts Camp that showcases tales of origination in song and story
-Cleveland/Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce – Cleveland Chamber/Tourism office relocation and signage plan; restoration of the façade and interior of the Cleveland Depot building
-Cleveland Music Foundation – Exploring a Culture of Creativity: engaging students in telling local stories through music at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
-Delta Blues Museum – Boogie Children, Celebrating John Lee Hooker website and educational programs honoring Hooker’s 100th birthday
-Delta Hands for Hope – Photography and oral history program for high school students
-Delta Health Center, Inc. – Establish the Dr. L. C. Dorsey Community Health Center Museum in Mound Bayou
-Delta State University Archives & Museum – Amzie Moore House Museum and Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum docent program; preserving the historic Mississippi Delta Chinese foodways – culture through stories of family, place and cuisine
-DeSoto Foundation – First Contact Historical Trail: Native Americans’ first encounter with Europeans in the Mississippi Delta
-Dockery Farms Foundation – Restore and preserve the historic Dockery Farms cotton gin and develop historical exhibits within the gin building
-Greenville Arts Council – Provide artist residencies to teachers and students that preserve the rich artistic traditions of the Mississippi Delta
-Lower Mississippi River Foundation – Between the Levees: telling the story of the Mississippi River batture
-Mississippi Heritage Trust – Conduct four historic preservation toolkit workshops that teach local towns and organizations how to leverage funding to preserve historic places
-Mississippi State University – Generate knowledge about and provide estimates of the economic value of preserving sites of cultural significance in the Delta
-Mississippi State University Extension Service – Warren County – The Heritage Garden – Know your Roots demonstration garden at Vicksburg National Military Park
-Mississippi Valley State University – Design and present symposium lectures, panel discussions, musical performances and other work in support of the B. B. King Day symposium
-Museum of the Mississippi Delta – Greenwood Leflore and the Choctaw Indians museum exhibit and research monograph
-Rolling Fork Visitors Center and Museum – Multimedia interpretive display expansion and exhibit preservation
-Rosedale Freedom Project – Unsung Voices of Bolivar County: civil rights stories past and present collected by high school students
-Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation – 1868 St. Francis Xavier convent restoration
Representatives from various grantee organizations reported on the positive impacts that the MDNHA grants have had on their projects.
“Because of this grant we’ve been able to share both the Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum and the Amzie Moore House Museum with so many more people than we would have been able to without it,” said Emily Jones, director of Delta State University Archives and Museums. “It’s been very rewarding to recognize that African Americans and Chinese are in the Delta, of the Delta, and represent a piece of our history.”
In DeSoto County, the grant was used to help with the First Contact Trail, an educational initiative designed to give better understanding to Hernando DeSoto’s crossing of the Mississippi River.
“We worked with the Native American community as well as local officials to develop this trail,” said Susan Fernandez, a representative assisting with the project. “This wasn’t just about Hernando DeSoto. This project also was about the people who lived here before DeSoto. We wanted to be sure to tell all sides of the story.”
The Rosedale Freedom Project used the grant to implement story telling projects based on oral histories from the area.
“One of the things our students decided they wanted to do was a podcast to tell the story of education history in their community,” said Jeremiah Smith, director of the RFP. “The students went out and collected oral histories that connected the past of school segregation to present conditions. They realized that history isn’t just something that happened in the past. It has given them a greater sense of why things are the way they are today, which can help them find creative solutions for a better tomorrow.”