The Delta Center at Delta State and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area partnered with Visit Mississippi to promote cultural heritage tourism to the region and state at the 2018 Chicago Blues Festival.
The Delta Center for Culture and Learning's experiential learning component continues to introduce diverse groups of visitors to the vibrant cultural heritage of the 18-county Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.
Recently, The Delta Center hosted a Swedish tour group visiting the Mississippi Delta during Juke Joint Festival. This is the third year that The Delta Center has hosted this international group of traveling music enthusiasts.
Organized and led by Anders Roddar and Klaus Engstrom, the group came to the Mississippi Delta to be immersed in the “Birthplace of the Blues.” During this particular visit, the group also learned about and experienced more of the Delta region’s various cultural heritage assets including African American worship practices, civil rights landmarks, and soul food.
“We try to vary our trips each year. This year’s trip is called ‘Rock Your Blues’ and we started in Woodstock, NY before making our way down here,” said Engstrom. “We have been in Clarksdale several times before, but this is our first time here for the Juke Joint festival."
"The culture here in the Delta is so rich and so real. We love the music, the food, the places, and most of all the people. This time, we wanted to do something that we had not done before, so I said let's see if we can go to an African American church service," explained Roddar. "We are so happy that The Delta Center did this for us. The church was so welcoming and the members there embraced us. It felt like coming home."
During the week, the group visited the “Cast of Blues” exhibit at The Delta Center, Dockery Farms, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, and Po Monkey’s Lounge, the world famous rural juke joint in Merigold. They crossed the Emmett Till Memorial Highway to gather at Robert Johnson’s gravesite at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Greenwood. The group dined on fried catfish and BBQ at The Senator’s Place and Airport Grocery in Cleveland. On Sunday, they attended worship service at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksdale.
For many on the trip, this was their first visit to Mississippi. Peggy Sempler-Boccalini now makes her home in the south of France and attends music festivals regularly. For her, Clarksdale's festival was one of the best she has attended anywhere.
“The feeling is all about the festival. I’ve never seen anything like it," she said. "I live in France now, and we have a lot of festivals and they’re very nice, but there’s something different here. The communication, the being together. You speak with everyone. You are friends. It’s just a very nice feeling here.”
Several of The Delta Center’s experiential learning sites are included on the Top 40 Places to Visit in the Mississippi Delta website. The website was launched recently by GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in partnership with the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area to promote the entire Mississippi Delta as a cultural heritage tourism destination. To learn more, visit http://msdeltatop40.com/.
The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The center serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and is the home of the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop and the International Delta Blues Project.
To recognize their commitment to promoting educational and cultural quality of life in the Mississippi Delta region, GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) have partnered to develop a new website showcasing the Top 40 places to visit in the Mississippi Delta. Delta residents and visitors can discover 40 of the most celebrated locations in the Mississippi Delta beginning today by visiting GRAMMYMuseumMS.org and clicking on the Explore tab.
The Top 40 features cultural heritage attractions throughout the Mississippi Delta that tell the region’s diverse stories. The website underscores the Museum and MDNHA’s shared interest in promoting the entire 18-county Mississippi Delta region as an educational cultural heritage destination of which its residents should be proud.
“As GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, we explore and celebrate the enduring legacies of all forms of music, and we’re also telling the story of the cradle of America’s music right here in Cleveland, the heart of the Mississippi Delta,” said Emily Havens, Executive Director of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. “Our area’s rich musical legacy is a source of pride for Delta residents. We want to encourage everyone to explore and learn about our entire region, from local school groups to travelers from around the globe.”
The Top 40 features panoramic images of some must-see destinations and attractions throughout the Delta. Among the featured attractions are Tunica River Park, the birthplace of internationally renowned actor James Earl Jones; Baptist Town in Greenwood; Vicksburg National Military Park; Cotesworth Mansion in North Carrollton; St. Paul Church of God in Christ in Lexington; and unique local eateries like Blue Front Café in Bentonia and Farmer’s Grocery in Grace.
“The Top 40 celebrates the Mississippi Delta’s rich, diverse culture,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which is the management entity for the MDNHA. “GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and the Heritage Area both are committed to promoting the entire Delta. Yes, the Delta is the birthplace of the Blues, and music is a big part of our story, but there is so much more to discover and experience here, such as civil rights, culinary, and nature-based heritage sites. The Top 40 website highlights examples of these diverse cultural heritage attractions across the Delta region.”
Top 40 attractions were identified in collaboration with the Mississippi Delta Tourism Association and various county boards of supervisors throughout the region. Each of the 18 Delta counties has two attractions represented on the list. Four of the attractions are region-wide, including Bridging the Blues music heritage festival and the Mississippi Freedom Trail for civil rights heritage.
“We appreciate GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area for coordinating the Top 40 list,” said Webster Franklin, President and CEO of the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau and member of the Mississippi Delta Tourism Association. “This is a great program that will bring positive attention to the entire region.”
There are plans to develop the Top 40 even further during a second phase that would make the website even more interactive and participatory.
About GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
Built and operated by the Cleveland Music Foundation — a non-profit organization developed in 2011 — the 28,000-square-foot GRAMMY Museum Mississippi is housed near the campus of Delta State University, home of the Delta Music Institute’s Entertainment Industry Studies program, which features the most unique audio recording facilities in the South. Similar to its sister Museum — the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE — GRAMMY Museum Mississippi is dedicated to exploring the past, present and future of music, and the cultural context from which it emerges, while casting a focused spotlight on the deep musical roots of Mississippi. The Museum features a dynamic combination of public events, educational programming, engaging multimedia presentations, and interactive permanent and traveling exhibits, including a Mississippi-centric area that introduces visitors to the impact of Mississippi’s songwriters, producers and musicians on the traditional and modern music landscape. For more information about GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, visit www.grammymuseumms.org. For breaking news and exclusive content, follow @GRAMMYMuseumMS on Twitter and Instagram, and like “GRAMMY Museum Mississippi” on Facebook.
The National Endowment for the Humanities’ “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop, presented twice this summer (June 21-27 and July 12-18) by The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, exposed 72 K-12 teachers from throughout the United States to the Mississippi Delta’s rich history and cultural heritage. Workshop participants represented 33 states, including Alaska, California, Florida, New Hampshire and Indiana. Several teachers from Mississippi participated as well, including a teacher from Mound Bayou.
Over the past six years, the NEH workshops have brought over $1 million in federal grants to Delta State University. Through these grants, the workshops have generated educational and economic spread effects regionally and nationally.
The workshop model uses an experiential learning approach, giving participants direct contact with and access to historically and culturally significant people and places in the Mississippi Delta. Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center, said this approach inspires deeper understanding of historical events among the participants. The approach also stimulates economic activity, as workshop participants stay in hotels, dine in restaurants and visit educational attractions in Cleveland, Bolivar County and the Delta region.
“This blending of educational and tourism-centered economic activity is beneficial to the Mississippi Delta’s federal designation as a National Heritage Area,” said Herts. “The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is a partnership between the region and the National Park Service to raise awareness of the value of the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural heritage.”
The NEH workshop has created a national network of over 500 educational and cultural ambassadors for the MDNHA. Participants take what they have learned from the workshop back to their schools and communities, sharing stories and lessons from the Delta with students, colleagues, family, and friends nationally and globally. Over the years, many past participants have made return visits to the region, bringing others with them, which has broadened the workshop’s educational and economic impact for the MDNHA.
Dr. Luther Brown, former director of The Delta Center, returned to serve as lead facilitator of this year’s workshops, with support from Lee Aylward, and Brady Gilliam and Amy Kramer, both Robertson Scholars from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Workshop participants heard presentations from blues, southern religion and great migration experts, including: Dr. David Evans, professor of ethnomusicology and regional Studies, University of Memphis; Mississippi Delta native, Dr. Edgar Smith, former vice president of Academic Affairs, University of Massachusetts System; Dr. Charles Reagan Wilson, former director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi; and Dr. John Strait, professor of geography at Sam Houston State University.
In addition, workshop participants were engaged with living historical figures, including civil rights activis Charles McLaurin, who met Fannie Lou Hamer while working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Cathy Wong, who spoke about the presence of Chinese in the Delta and their cultural influence; and key people involved with the Emmett Till story, including Till’s cousins Simeon Wright and Wheeler Parker, both of whom were with Till before his murder.
Participants also visited many historical and educational points of interest throughout the region, including: Dockery Farm, known as the birthplace of the blues, located between Cleveland and Ruleville; Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou; Emmett Till Intrepid Center in Glendora; blues legend Robert Johnson’s gravesite at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church and Fort Pemberton in Greenwood; and the 1927 Flood Museum, Century of History Museum at Hebrew Union Congregation, and Chinese and African American cemeteries in Greenville. The group also traveled to Memphis, the Delta’s largest city, to visit The Cotton Museum, National Civil Rights Museum and Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
The mission of The Delta Center 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 NEH’s “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop and the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.
The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. 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 athttp://www.msdeltaheritage.com.
The Delta played host via the Delta Center's good friend Barbara Levingston to a mother- daughter bicycle travelling team from Austin, TX.
According to the daughter's blog: "I am a a Jewish girl in 7th grade. My family belongs to Temple Beth Shalom in Austin. We moved to Austin last year from Kentucky, where we were members at Temple Adath Israel in Lexington. I'm glad we moved to Austin, where I can do things like be in Girl Scouts at the JCC and ride my bike to school everyday.
But I miss home. So this summer I am completing a 1300 mile bike trip from Texas to Kentucky- to get ready for my bat mitzvah next year. I asked to go to Israel to swim across the Sea of Galilee.
I am going to try and visit all the Jewish temples along the way from Austin to Lexington."
The Delta is getting a lot of visitors this summer, and this is really an ambitious trip! Safe travels...
The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University hosted Emory University of Atlanta for an experiential learning tour of the Mississippi Delta region.
Lee Aylward, program associate for education and community outreach for The Delta Center, provided an introduction of Delta history to the group, and Director Dr. Rolando Herts provided an overview of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.
The group traveled throughout the week around the Delta experiencing cultural heritage sites. The mission of The Delta Center 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 Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project.
For more information, visit www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning.
Letty and Bruce Johnson from Michigan stopped by today to get their passports stamped. They have travelled to all of the National Parks and are making all of the heritage areas. They said to "watch out" as the heritage area is really going to be getting the visitors!
Lee Beaulac from Rochester, N.Y., was a visitor to the Delta today!
Dan and Jerry from Santa Fe stopped by the office today; they are big Delta fans and say that they will be back! We like to hear that!
We had an early morning visitor from Chicago who wanted her National Park Service Heritage Area passport stamped. We were able to accommodate her!!!