Delta Center

Delta Center offers history and culture summer workshops

Participants and staff of the June, 2014 Most Southern Place workshop stopped for a photo at the 1927 Flood Museum in Greenville.

Participants and staff of the June, 2014 Most Southern Place workshop stopped for a photo at the 1927 Flood Museum in Greenville.

For the sixth year, Delta State University has received major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks in American History and Culture program. Funding will allow the Delta Center for Culture and Learning to offer two week-long workshops focusing on the Delta’s rich cultural heritage in June and July of 2015. Each workshop will serve 40 K-12 teachers who will come from Mississippi and across the U.S.

Dr. Luther Brown, former DCCCL said, “Every time we offer this workshop we have over 400 applications coming from all 50 states. This is a very exciting workshop, and we hope to draw applicants from all of Mississippi and the rest of the country.”

Classroom teachers in public, private, parochial and charter schools, as well as home-schooling parents and school librarians, are eligible to participate. They will receive a stipend to assist with expenses and gather with leading humanities scholars and Delta State staff to develop powerful lesson plans relating to the Delta’s heritage and the heritage of their own home regions.

The workshops are titled “The Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, History and Culture in the Mississippi Delta.” Participants will travel throughout the Delta as they visit sites where significant events occurred.

Discussions will focus on civil rights and political leadership, immigrants’ experiences in the Delta, the blues, the great migration, agriculture, the Mississippi River and more. Participants will sample Delta foods, visit local museums and listen to the blues. Field trips will roam as far as Greenville, Greenwood, Indianola, Ruleville, Mound Bayou, Clarksdale, Memphis and stops in between.

Brown will return to the DCCL to direct the workshops between June 21-27 and July 12-18, 2015. Each workshop begins on Sunday evening and runs through the following Saturday afternoon.

Participants can earn five graduate semester hours upon completion of the workshop.

The DCCL at Delta State promotes the understanding of the heritage of the Mississippi Delta. The center will be assisted during the workshops by Delta State faculty members along with faculty from the University of Mississippi, Sam Houston State University, Jackson State University, the University of Memphis and other institutions of higher learning. Local Delta citizens will also tell their own stories and experiences.

There are only 21 Landmarks in American History and Culture topics offered during 2015. The topics range from the transcontinental railroad, mining in the far West, the American Revolution in the Northern Frontier and several workshops focusing on the civil rights movement. A complete list can be found at http://www.neh.gov/divisions/education/summer-programs.

For more information about the Landmarks in American History and Culture workshops, visit the DCCL’s website at http://deltacenterforcultureandlearning.com/southern-place-workshop/, or contact the center at 662-846-4311.

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Alysia Burton Steele's Delta Jewels in the New York Times

Alysia_Burton_Steele

Here is a great New York Times article about Alysia Burton Steele and her Delta Jewels book. The Delta Center and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area are proud to be working with this talented author and photographer. Delta Jewels is a compelling book about Mississippi Delta church mothers. 

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Delta Center welcomes new director

During the celebration of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area designation, Dr. Rolando Herts (far right), director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, is welcomed by (l to r) Dr. Luther Brown, former director; Lee Aylward, DCCL program associate for education and community outreach; and Heather Miller, DCCL program associate for projects. Photo by Roy Meeks.

During the celebration of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area designation, Dr. Rolando Herts (far right), director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, is welcomed by (l to r) Dr. Luther Brown, former director; Lee Aylward, DCCL program associate for education and community outreach; and Heather Miller, DCCL program associate for projects. Photo by Roy Meeks.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University is pleased to announce the arrival of its new director, Dr. Rolando Herts. Herts officially began serving in his new role Aug. 18 after the retirement of Dr. Luther Brown, who established the Delta Center in the year 2000.

“I am excited about working with colleagues at Delta State and partners throughout the Mississippi Delta region,” said Herts. “The Delta Center will be managing the implementation of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, as well as overseeing the International Delta Blues Project. These and other exciting initiatives and programs will utilize the region’s rich cultural heritage as a tool for promoting education, tourism, community engagement and economic development.”

Brown said he looks forward to seeing Herts take on the leading role.

“The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is benefiting the entire Mississippi Delta. It has a strong management plan, and Rolando Herts will lead the effort to turn the plan into reality,” said Brown.

Herts has years of experience working in and conducting research on the Delta region. After completing undergraduate and graduate programs at Morehouse College in Atlanta and the University of Chicago, he returned to the Delta to teach second grade in Indianola with Teach For America. He also directed TRIO Student Support Services at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

While at Pine Bluff, he exposed students to educational cultural heritage and civil rights attractions in Memphis, Atlanta, Birmingham and in Arkansas communities. He earned a doctorate in planning and public policy from Rutgers University, where he examined the MDNHA as a case study of university-community tourism engagement.

“I spent formative years in Eudora, Arkansas, and graduated from Little Rock Central High School, a National Historic Site of the National Park Service — where nine black students led school integration efforts in 1957,” said Herts. “Growing up, all around me were reminders of the importance of cultural heritage, education and community.

“Attending Morehouse reinforced this with educational, social justice and heritage leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays and Dr. Wendell Whalum as exemplars. While working on my doctorate at Rutgers, I met Dr. Luther Brown through Ron Nurnberg, executive director of Teach For America Mississippi Delta. Dr. Brown has been an excellent mentor who has worked tirelessly to preserve and promote cultural heritage in and for the Delta region. I am humbled by this opportunity to help carry on this important legacy.”

Given its management role with the MDNHA and the International Delta Blues Project, the Delta Center will be expanding its capacity to serve as a regional connector and resource for understanding and celebrating the Mississippi Delta’s cultural heritage. Through funding from the Hearin Foundation, the center will soon be hiring a director of blues studies. Undergraduate internship and graduate assistantship positions also will be created, providing Delta State students with experience that will prepare them to engage with the Delta’s emerging cultural economy.

“The Delta region was fortunate to have a visionary like Dr. Luther Brown come into the Delta and open all our eyes to our rich heritage,” said Lee Aylward, DCCl program associate for education and community outreach. “With the arrival of Dr. Herts, the Delta Center will be spreading its wings, not only building on this legacy, but also expanding programming and engagement throughout the Delta.

“As a native of the Delta, Dr. Herts brings to the table an understanding and desire to help promote the region and its importance to the world. With the new program in blues studies coming to the Delta Center, and the approval of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area’s management plan, these are exciting times at the Delta Center. Dr. Herts’ education, background and energy make him the ideal person to lead us to the next level.”

To learn more about the The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, visithttp://deltacenterforcultureandlearning.com/. More information on the International Delta Blues Project is available at http://www.deltastate.edu/president/international-blues-conference/.

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Harvard Law School learns Delta heritage

Harvard University School of Law recently visited the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.

Harvard University School of Law recently visited the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University recently provided an introduction of the Delta’s cultural heritage to a group of law students from Harvard University School of Law.

For the past five years, the Delta Center has worked with the program to make sure the participants have an understanding of the Delta’s history and culture. Lee Aylward from the Delta Center led the tour.

The students were in the Clarksdale area as part of a long-term internship program shared by Harvard and Mississippi State University.

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Florida School Returns to the Delta

 The St. Stephens Episcopal School Delta Heritage Class, in front of “A Cast of Blues,” the collection of life-masks of Blues musicians created by sculptor Sharon McConnell, outside the offices of the Delta Center in Ewing Hall. Group leader William Southerland is on the far right, next to Luther Brown of the DSU Delta Center. Photo by Lee Aylward.

 The St. Stephens Episcopal School Delta Heritage Class, in front of “A Cast of Blues,” the collection of life-masks of Blues musicians created by sculptor Sharon McConnell, outside the offices of the Delta Center in Ewing Hall. Group leader William Southerland is on the far right, next to Luther Brown of the DSU Delta Center. Photo by Lee Aylward.

The DSU Delta Center for Culture and Learning recently provided an overview of the Delta’s cultural heritage to a class from St. Stephen’s Episcopal School of Bradenton, Florida. The class was organized by William Sutherland, a specialist in Southern literature who participated in one of the Delta Center’s workshops in 2010. He has returned to the Delta with two high school classes since then. The workshops are titled “The Most Southern Place on Earth, History, Music and Culture of the Mississippi Delta.” They are offered to teachers annually, and are funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Several former participants have brought their own classes to the region to introduce them to the Delta’s important cultural heritage. The St. Steven’s class spent a week in the Delta, flying in and out of Memphis.

 

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Delta Center recognized as “Best Practice Leader”

Dr. Luther Brown (fourth from left), director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, at the Best Practices panel discussion

Dr. Luther Brown (fourth from left), director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, at the Best Practices panel discussion

Governor Haley Barbour recently commissioned the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Arts Commission to produce a study of the creative economy in Mississippi. The report, prepared with assistance from Regional Technologies, Inc, was released during a day-long symposium on August 10 at the Jackson Convention Center. Numerous presentations provided information on the value of the creative economy, along with examples of how the creative economy helps build communities and provide jobs. The event ended with a "Best Practices Panel" that featured the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.  

The Delta Center is involved in the Mississippi Blues Trail, the new Mississippi Freedom Trail, and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, and other projects. The Delta Center was one of five "Best Practice Leaders" that were featured at the symposium. The others included Mississippi State University’s music program, the Fondren District renovation in Jackson, the Cities of Oxford and Bay St. Louis, and the Mississippi School of the Arts. These entities, and several others, are also featured in the published report. The complete creative economy report is published on-line at http://www.mscreativeeconomy.com.

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