Delta Center presents at national conference for social studies educators

The staff of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State recently presented at the National Association of Social Studies Teachers’ annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The presentation, “Transforming Classrooms Through Experiences in the Mississippi Delta,” highlighted The Delta Center’s National Endowment for the Humanities workshop “The Most Southern Place on Earth, the Music, Culture and History of the Mississippi Delta.”

The conference was attended by social studies teachers from across the country. The presentation was organized and planned by two former “Most Southern” workshop participants Heidi Imhof and Kelly Scallion, both high school history teachers from Fairbanks, Alaska. The duo participated in the 2010 workshop.

“We wanted this presentation to serve as a way to repay The Delta Center for all that was shared with us and to document how that information continues to be shared with our students and communities all across the United States,” said Imhof.

“We cannot begin to tell you how much the Delta means to us,” added Scallion. “This was the least we could do to show our appreciation for opening a new chapter in each of our lives.”

Imhof and Scallion served as moderators for the presentation. In addition to an overview of the workshop provided by TDC staff, the presentation featured 10 additional former workshop participants from Buffalo, New York, Phoenix, Arizona, Columbus, Ohio, Tennessee, as well as two Mississippi teachers from Jackson and Columbus. These presenters discussed Delta cultural heritage educational topics used in their classrooms, including Emmett Till, Freedom Summer and blues music.

Presentation attendees were treated to Delta Blues music selections, as well as tastes of hot tamales and koolickles, which are celebrated Delta food delicacies. The moderators also gave special thanks to members of TDC staff who facilitated the 2010 workshop, including Dr. Luther Brown, Dr. Henry Outlaw, Lee Aylward and Heather Miller.

TDC is preparing to host its seventh year of the workshop in the summer of 2016. Applications are currently being accepted for the 2016 workshop. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/mostsouthern/.

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. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

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MDNHA, Delta Center highlighted at National Trust conference

Dr. Rolando Herts (center) with National Heritage Areas program representatives Heather Scotten (left) and Martha Raymond at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s PastForward Conference in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Rolando Herts (center) with National Heritage Areas program representatives Heather Scotten (left) and Martha Raymond at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s PastForward Conference in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, was recently invited to represent both organizations in a panel discussion at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2015 PastForward Conference in Washington, D.C.

The conference launched a year-long celebration of the National Historic Preservation Act’s 50th anniversary, attracting hundreds of historic preservation scholars, policymakers, experts and activists from around the nation.

The session was part of the preservationVOICES Learning Lab presentation track organized by the National Trust in partnership with the National Park Service and the Kellogg Foundation. The session, “Recognizing Our Shared History,” focused on how the NPS works to tell inclusive stories of all Americans, reflecting national values of social and environmental justice.

Over 150 conference guests attended the session. Among those in attendance were Martha Raymond and Heather Scotten, NPS colleagues from the National Heritage Areas Program office in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Rolando Herts. Photo by David Keith.

Dr. Rolando Herts. Photo by David Keith.

“How meaningful to have the National Heritage Areas program represented by Dr. Herts in this national forum, telling the story of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and the important work of The Delta Center and partners,” said Raymond.

“Through their educational programs and partnerships, National Heritage Areas play a critical role in racial healing and in the social and environmental justice movement, which is precisely why heritage area leaders like Dr. Herts were invited to the preservationVOICES track,” said Scotten. “Dr. Herts is a wonderful ambassador for the National Heritage Areas program. The work of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and The Delta Center is creating opportunities for greater dialog about the history of the Delta, as well as past and current Delta residents.”

Herts’s presentation, “Telling the Delta’s Story: Recognizing Our Shared History Through Partnerships,” discussed the MDNHA’s and The Delta Center’s collaborative work with Delta State’s Winning the Race conference and the International Conference on the Blues, as well as Mississippi Valley State University’s BB King Day and the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership Program.

“Participating in this Learning Lab was both informative and inspiring,” said Herts. “The National Park Service is doing important work in communities across the country to give voice to diverse cultural heritage perspectives. The panel session illuminated this work with tangible examples that conference attendees seemed to find very useful.”

“Recognizing Our Shared History” panelists were led by moderator Dr. Luis Hoyos. Photo by David Keith.

“Recognizing Our Shared History” panelists were led by moderator Dr. Luis Hoyos. Photo by David Keith.

Other panelists included NPS representatives Dr. Elaine Jackson-Retondo, National Historic Landmarks program manager; Nigel Fields, acting deputy associate director for Interpretation, Education and Volunteers; and Carol Shively, coordinator for the Civil War to Civil Rights Commemoration. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Luis Hoyos, professor of architecture at Cal Poly Pomona.

The National Heritage Areas Program team also displayed MDNHA informational materials and Mississippi tourism brochures at the NPS Find Your Park booth.

To learn more about the 2015 PastForward conference, visit http://pastforwardconference.org/.

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Herts selected for Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, will take part in the year-long Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, will take part in the year-long Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.

The Delta Regional Authority recently announced 52 community leaders for an intensive year-long leadership training program across the Delta region known as the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy. Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, will participate as a fellow in the program’s 11th year.

Herts will join other DLI fellows from each of the eight Delta region states. Participants are nominated by their respective governors to participate in the year-long leadership training program.

“Our communities and region need strong local leadership to continue to grow and thrive. This is why DRA has made investing in our leaders a priority,” said Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the DRA. “I’m very proud of this class and what they have already accomplished in their own communities. DLI will only further prepare them to continue to lead.”

Over the course of the Executive Academy year, Herts will attend six sessions across the Delta region and in Washington, D.C. to engage in advocacy training, case study discussion, and on-the-ground field studies of priority issue areas for the region, including Workforce Training and Education, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Public Health, Transportation and Basic Public Infrastructure.

“I believe that it is my life purpose to continue to help improve quality of life in the Delta region through education and community and economic partnership development,” said Herts. “Becoming part of the Delta Leadership Institute will equip me with social and intellectual capital resources to serve our region more effectively and with greater impact.”

Since 2005, the DLI has worked to improve the decisions made by community leaders across the Delta by broadening their understanding of regional issues, building a corps of alumni that have a regional and national perspective, developing a toolkit of resources for addressing issues facing their local communities, and providing the training and professional development needed to extend the pipeline of skilled local leadership within Delta communities.

The newest DLI class is holding orientation this week and its first session of the academy in Memphis, Tenn.

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives through strategic investments in economic development in 252 counties and parishes across eight states. Through the Rural Communities Advancement Program, the DRA has provided leadership development to more than 400 community leaders over 10 years and strengthened regional collaboration with its Delta Leadership Institute.

The DRA partners with Arkansas State University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe for programming and organizational support of the institute. Learn more about the Delta Leadership Institute at dra.gov/leadership.

“The Delta region has been with me throughout my personal and professional life,” added Herts. “I am passionate about improving quality of life here through cultural heritage education, tourism and partnership development. I believe that the academy will empower me and others to accomplish this more effectively through collaboration.”

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MDNHA, Delta Center announce Delta Jewels oral history partnership

Alysia Burton Steele, center, with Delta Jewels church mothers at a Delta Jewels Community Gathering in Yazoo City. Mississippi Valley State University will host the inaugural Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership program on Oct. 29 as part of the university’s Zelma T. Howard Lecture Series.

Alysia Burton Steele, center, with Delta Jewels church mothers at a Delta Jewels Community Gathering in Yazoo City. Mississippi Valley State University will host the inaugural Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership program on Oct. 29 as part of the university’s Zelma T. Howard Lecture Series.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area recently forged the “Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership” with Alysia Burton Steele, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism professor at the University of Mississippi. Steele is the author of “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom,” a book of oral histories and portraits of over 50 African American church mothers from the Mississippi Delta, including civil rights icon Myrlie Evers-Williams. The book has received national media coverage, including The New York Times, NBC, National Public Radio, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, Southern Living, Essence and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The partnership will provide opportunities for MDNHA and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University to present oral history programs and workshops with regional, statewide and national organizations. The partnership is designed to make oral history education and awareness accessible to diverse communities, as well as to promote Mississippi Delta culture and history on a broader scale.

Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Miss. will be the first organization to host an oral history program under this new partnership.

“Mississippi Valley State University is honored to host the inaugural program for the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership,” said La Shon Brooks, Chief of Staff at MVSU. “Providing a space where these culturally enriching oral histories will be shared with our students, faculty, staff and community members aligns with the public education mission of our institution.”

MVSU’s oral history program is part of the Zelma T. Howard Lecture Series sponsored by the university’s Department of English. The presentation will take place at the William W. Sutton Administration Building, Auditorium 103, on Oct. 29 at 10 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The MDNHA and The Delta Center partnered with Steele earlier this year to host a series of Delta Jewels community gatherings aimed at promoting cultural heritage and oral history awareness. The events took place in several Delta communities including Clarksdale, Charleston, Indianola, Yazoo City, Ruleville and Mound Bayou. The Mound Bayou gathering was hosted in conjunction with the city’s 128th anniversary celebration in July.

The gatherings attracted over 500 guests from throughout the Mississippi Delta region and the nation. Steele and the Delta Jewels also presented sessions at Delta State University’s Winning the Race conference. Continued demand for these presentations led to the creation of the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership.

“This new partnership will help the MDNHA to fulfill various aspects of its management plan approved by the National Park Service, including oral history education, promoting Delta culture and history, and telling Delta stories,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the MDNHA and The Delta Center. “The partnership also serves as a vehicle for the MDNHA to offer expanded Delta Jewels programming in the Mississippi Delta and beyond.”

“I am excited about this partnership, and I believe we will reach diverse groups of people,” said Steele. “These presentations and the book’s contents transcend race, age, class, gender and geography. I have received messages from readers in Italy, France, New Zealand and Australia. I believe everyone can relate to having a special elder in their lives and I want to inspire people – all people – to record their family history.”

To learn more about hosting a Delta Jewels oral history program or workshop, contact Herts at rherts@deltastate.edu, or call The Delta Center at 662-846-4311.

The MDNHA is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. The area 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 at www.msdeltaheritage.com.

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Miller named Employee of the Month

Heather Miller, with the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, was named the September 2015 Employee of the Month.

Heather Miller, with the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, was named the September 2015 Employee of the Month.

The Delta State University Staff Council recently honored Heather Miller as the September 2015 Employee of the Month. Miller works in the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State.

Miller, from Cleveland, Miss., received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Delta State in 2003 and her MBA form Delta State in 2009. 

She has worked in various roles at the DCCL since 2007. She currently works as the program associate for projects.

Miller is married to her husband, Marc, and they have a two-year-old son named Cole.

Employee of the Month distinction is given to a staff member who has provided service at Delta State that is considered over and beyond those duties outlined in his or her job description. Nominations are submitted by colleagues on campus.

Each winner receives a plaque, monetary award, WalMart gift card from the Student Government Association, an engraved insulated coffee mug, a free parking decal courtesy of the Campus Police Department, a box of treats from The Sweetery, a parking spot of their choice, marquee announcement and website recognition.

For an archived list of previous Employee of the Month winners, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/about-dsu/administration/staff-council/staff-council-employee-of-the-month/employee-of-the-month-archives/

Delta State’s Staff Council serves as a liaison between the administration and the staff to provide a formal process for staff to discuss issues involving university policies and procedures and to forward ideas, recommendations and opinions to the president.

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Bobby Rush and Super Chikan thrill BPAC crowd

Blues legends Bobby Rush and James “Super Chikan” Johnson teamed for a free concert at Delta State’s Bologna Performing Arts Center Tuesday night as the closing act of the university’s second annual International Conference on the Blues. The event, “The Storytellers featuring Bobby Rush and Super Chikan: Up Close and Personal,” was a stripped-down concert format that invited the crowd to experience the two renowned blues artists singing and telling stories about their lives, careers, the blues and the Mississippi Delta in distinctly personal ways. Photo by Rory Doyle/Delta State University

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Pictures from Monday’s blues conference events

Dr. William Ferris, a widely recognized leader in Southern studies, African American music, and folklore, delivers the keynote address at the second annual International Conference on the Blues Monday at Delta State University. Ferris the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the senior associate director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South. He is also adjunct professor in the curriculum on folklore. The conference continues Tuesday, ending with a free concert featuring Bobby Rush and James “Super Chikan” Johnson. For more information, visit www.deltastate.edu/blues. Photos by Rory Doyle.

Dr. William Ferris, a widely recognized leader in Southern studies, African American music, and folklore, delivers the keynote address at the second annual International Conference on the Blues Monday at Delta State University. Ferris the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the senior associate director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South. He is also adjunct professor in the curriculum on folklore. The conference continues Tuesday, ending with a free concert featuring Bobby Rush and James “Super Chikan” Johnson. For more information, visit www.deltastate.edu/blues. Photos by Rory Doyle.

GRAMMY winner Dom Flemons (right) and Don Allan Mitchell, co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues, during one of the conference sessions on Monday. Flemons is the “American Songster,” pulling from traditions of old-time folk music to create new sounds. Having performed music professionally since 2005, he has played live for over one million people within the past three years. As part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, which he co-founded with Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, he has played at a variety of festivals, spanning from the Newport Folk Festival to Bonnaroo, in addition to renowned venues such as the Grand Ole Opry. The International Conference on the Blues continues Tuesday. For more information, visit www.deltastate.edu/blues. Photos by Rory Doyle.

GRAMMY winner Dom Flemons (right) and Don Allan Mitchell, co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues, during one of the conference sessions on Monday. Flemons is the “American Songster,” pulling from traditions of old-time folk music to create new sounds. Having performed music professionally since 2005, he has played live for over one million people within the past three years. As part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, which he co-founded with Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, he has played at a variety of festivals, spanning from the Newport Folk Festival to Bonnaroo, in addition to renowned venues such as the Grand Ole Opry. The International Conference on the Blues continues Tuesday. For more information, visit www.deltastate.edu/blues. Photos by Rory Doyle.

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Bobby Rush and Super Chikan launch “Storytellers” tour at Delta State

GRAMMY Award nominee Bobby Rush (left) and James “Super Chikan” Johnson will be featured in a free concert at the Bologna Performing Arts Center on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.

GRAMMY Award nominee Bobby Rush (left) and James “Super Chikan” Johnson will be featured in a free concert at the Bologna Performing Arts Center on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.

Blues legends Bobby Rush and James “Super Chikan” Johnson have teamed up to perform a free concert at Delta State University’s Bologna Performing Arts Center on Oct.6. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m, and the concert will begin at 7 p.m.

The event, “The Storytellers featuring Bobby Rush and Super Chikan: Up Close and Personal,” will be the closing activity for Delta State’s second annual International Conference on the Blues, which is part of the institution’s International Delta Blues Project.

The concert is free and open to the public through sponsorship from the IDBP and the BPAC.

“We are always pleased to present free programming for our community,” said Laura Howell, executive director of the BPAC. “This partnership with the International Delta Blues Project provides a great opportunity for access to these incredible blues musicians and the stories they have to tell.”

“Storytellers” is a stripped-down concert format that invites music lovers of all ages and backgrounds to experience two renowned blues artists singing and telling stories about their lives, careers, the blues and the Mississippi Delta in distinctly personal ways.

“This concert is about telling where I come from and where my people come from — the Mississippi Delta,” said Rush. “It is about sharing my life and the lives of people who came before me. It’s about impacting the lives of those who are coming after me.

“I am 81-years-old. Now that B.B. King has passed, I am the oldest blues singer in the world. I want to tell the story of where the blues came from, what it is about and where it should go. These are stories that need to be told. I want to educate people about this, and Delta State’s International Conference on the Blues is the place to start.”

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, is thrilled to bring the talented musicians to campus.

“We are excited that Bobby Rush and Super Chikan chose Delta State, the home of the International Delta Blues Project, as the place to launch their tour,” said Herts. “This concert is part of a broader effort to promote Delta State, Cleveland, and the Mississippi Delta as leading destinations for Blues music and culture. We also are pleased that generous support from the Hearin Foundation and our partnership with the BPAC allow us to make this live concert event free for Delta residents and visitors.”

The “Storytellers” concert is featured on the live music performance schedule for the Bridging the Blues Festival, an annual series of September and October events across Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee celebrating the rich music and culture of the region.

A GRAMMY Award nominee, Bobby Rush is the winner of multiple Blues Music Awards including Soul Blues Album of the Year, Acoustic Album of the Year and Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year. Rolling Stone magazine named him “The King of the Chitlin’ Circuit,” a distinguished African American cultural heritage designation that pays homage to the Southern network of clubs, theaters, halls and juke joints that catered to black audiences during the racially segregated Jim Crow Era. Rush has recorded over 100 albums in his more than 60-year career. He continues to perform over 200 shows a year from Mississippi to Japan and headlines major festivals and concerts for upwards of 20,000 people a night.

James “Super Chikan” Johnson is the recipient of the Mississippi’s Governors Award for Excellence in the Arts and the recipient of the prestigious Artist Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission. He is a native of Darling, Miss., a rural Mississippi Delta community located in Quitman County. As a boy growing up in the country, he was fascinated by his family’s chickens, thus earning him the nickname “Chicken.” His critically acclaimed debut album, “Blues Come Home to Roost,” featured songs about humorous and serious aspects of life in the Mississippi Delta. The album earned him awards for Best Blues Album and Best Debut Album from the 1998 Living Blues Magazine Awards.

For more information about the “Storytellers” concert, visit http://bolognapac.com/events/the-storytellers-featuring-bobby-rush-and-super-chikan-up-close-and-personal/.

For over 21 years, the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State University has been bringing together artists and audiences to celebrate the arts and enrich the cultural life of the Delta community. For more information on upcoming performances, visit www.bolognapac.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 Delta Center is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

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Mississippi Blues Commission names B.B. King Secretary of State of the Blues

Blues legend B.B. King, Mississippi's Secretary of State of the Blues, surrounded by friends and admirers at the dedication of the "Kilmichael: B.B. King's Roots" Mississippi Blues Trail marker on Aug. 21, 2012 in Kilmichael, Miss. (Photo credit: Mississippi Blues Commission)

Blues legend B.B. King, Mississippi's Secretary of State of the Blues, surrounded by friends and admirers at the dedication of the "Kilmichael: B.B. King's Roots" Mississippi Blues Trail marker on Aug. 21, 2012 in Kilmichael, Miss. (Photo credit: Mississippi Blues Commission)

The Mississippi Blues Commission has designated music legend B.B. King as Mississippi’s Secretary of State of the Blues. One of the most renowned musicians in the world, King passed away in May of 2015.

Mississippi is the first and only state to recognize the contributions of a musician in this manner. The commission will be presenting the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center with a resolution for this recognition signed by Gov. Phil Bryant and the four living previous governors of Mississippi: Gov. William F. Winter, 1984-1988; Gov. Ray Mabus, 1988-1992; Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, 2000-2004; and Gov. Haley Barbour, 2004-2012. The resolution will be part of the permanent collection at the B.B. King Museum & Interpretive Center in Indianola, Miss.

The resolution will be presented at the International Conference on the Blues at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. The conference, presented by the International Delta Blues Project and a diverse array of regional partners, includes a Blues Brunch featuring a panel discussion moderated by noted blues scholar Dr. William Ferris and comprised of members of the Mississippi Blues Commission. Blues legends Bobby Rush and James “Super Chikan” Johnson will also be in attendance. The presentation of the resolution will take place during the conference’s brunch event on Oct. 6 at 9:30 a.m. in the Delta Music Institute on Delta State’s campus.

“On behalf of the entire Mississippi Blues Commission, it is a privilege to honor B.B. King as our Mississippi Secretary of State of the Blues,” said J. Kempf Poole, chairman of the Mississippi Blues Commission. “Mr. King is one of Mississippi’s most influential sons, and with this designation I am proud to say that B.B. King has taken his rightful place at the head of the blues table.”

Known worldwide as “The King of the Blues,” King was considered one of the most influential musicians of all time. His artistic contributions and accolades are numerous and span decades. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the R&B Music Hall of Fame, King received more than a dozen GRAMMY Awards between 1970-2010, including the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and a GRAMMY Hall of Fame Award for his historically significant recording “The Thrill is Gone.”

An emotional King is surrounded by Mississippi legislators in Jackson, Miss. as he is presented with a concurrent resolution naming Feb. 15, 2005, as B.B. King Day. (Photo credit: Mississippi Blues Commission)

An emotional King is surrounded by Mississippi legislators in Jackson, Miss. as he is presented with a concurrent resolution naming Feb. 15, 2005, as B.B. King Day.
(Photo credit: Mississippi Blues Commission)

During the 1990s, he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Medal of Arts, and the Kennedy Center Honors. During the 2000s, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music awarded him the Polar Music Prize, and President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from Tougaloo College, Yale University and Brown University, King was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as No. 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

“Mississippi is known the world over as the birthplace of America’s music, and B.B. King is one of its founding legends and one of our state’s most treasured gifts to the music world,” said Gov. Phil Bryant. “For decades, our souls have been stirred by his talents. From juke joints to concert halls, there is no place his influence hasn’t reached. Deborah and I are saddened by B.B.’s passing. Mississippi has lost a legend. He is the king. The thrill is gone.”

Former Gov. Haley Barbour echoed Bryant’s sentiments.

“B.B. King was a wonderful ambassador for Mississippi,” said Barbour. “The King of the Blues never forgot Mississippi was home, and he graced us often with his presence. He will be missed. Marsha and I had him for lunch at the Governor’s Mansion on a day he was honored by the legislature. He was warm and delightful, but I will never forget how he gave credit to the people that had helped him throughout his career. He had a big heart as well as big talent.”

The Mississippi Blues Commission is a body of 18 appointed commissioners representing major organizations and geographic/political regions supporting blues initiatives throughout the state. One of the commission’s major projects is ongoing governance of the Mississippi Blues Trail, which began unofficially with two preliminary markers placed in Indianola, which King adopted as his hometown. Highlighting the importance of his contributions, the first marker was placed at a corner where King played as a young man. The other was placed at historic Club Ebony, which is now part of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.

Continuous expansion of the Mississippi Blues Trail throughout the state, country and the world is a testament to the global influence of blues music and culture. The Mississippi Blues Trail consists of more than 170 markers throughout the state. There also are 14 out-of-state Blues Trail markers, two of which are located outside of the U.S. — one in Norway, commemorating the Notodden Blues Festival, and the other in France, commemorating the Cahors Blues Festival.

“Local and global tourism and cultural heritage influences of the Mississippi Blues Trail will be discussed during the Blues Brunch at the International Conference on the Blues,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, a member of the Blues Commission, and director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. “Members of the commission will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Mississippi Delta native and blues and southern studies expert Dr. Bill Ferris from UNC Chapel Hill. This is an appropriate venue for the Mississippi Blues Commission to pay homage to B.B. King, a local hero whose musicianship and life achievements have helped to put the Mississippi Delta on the international map as a blues heritage destination.”

The Mississippi Blues Trail has been made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, AT&T, and the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University. The program is housed within and managed by the Mississippi Development Authority’s Visit Mississippi.

For more information, contact Mary Margaret Miller, bureau manager for Creative Economy & Culture at Visit Mississippi, at mmmiller@mississippi.org or 601-213-7300.

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 is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

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International Conference on the Blues brings musicians, music scholars to campus

The Second Annual International Conference on the Blues promises to bring legendary entertainment and academics to Delta State University on Monday, Oct. 5 and Tuesday, Oct. 6, including GRAMMY award-winning Blues artist Dom Flemons, former National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Dr. William Ferris, an historic statewide proclamation honoring B.B. King and a free performance from GRAMMY-nominated Blues musician Bobby Rush and Mississippi Governor’s Award-winning Blues musician James “Super Chikan” Johnson.

The conference, which is still open for registration, brings together Blues scholars, historians and fans from all over the United States in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a place known as the epicenter of Blues music and history.

Among the highlights of this year’s Blues conference:
* the bestowing of a statewide proclamation signed by all five living Mississippi governors designating B.B. King as the “Mississippi’s Secretary of State of the Blues”;
* a keynote address by Blues scholar and Southern culture historian Dr. William Ferris of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
* a master class and performance from GRAMMY winner Dom Flemons, known as the “American Songster”;
* events highlighting Blues music songwriters and performers including ‘Blues in the Round’ sponsored by Visit Mississippi;
* and “The Storytellers featuring Bobby Rush and Super Chikan: Up Close and Personal”, a free public concert sponsored by the International Delta Blues Project and the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

Visit here for a complete schedule of events, or here for a complete list of presenters.

“This year’s International Conference on the Blues represents the power of the Blues to strengthen partnerships and to engage diverse communities on local, regional, national, and global scales,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning. “We appreciate the generous support of the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and other organizations that are making this conference possible, including Visit Mississippi, Entergy, Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, Bridging the Blues, Mississippi Blues Commission, BPAC, Mississippi Grounds, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, the Dockery Farms Foundation and several other sponsors and partners. Through these relationships, Delta State University is empowered to offer an unparalleled educational and cultural experience to its students, faculty, and staff, as well as Delta residents and visitors.”

The second annual conference is part of the International Delta Blues Project, which is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and is based at The Delta Center for Culture and Learning. The conference is being managed by a team of campus and community collaborators including the Delta Music Institute, the Department of Music, the Division of Languages & Literature, the Office of Institutional Grants, and Cleveland Tourism.

“I always marvel at the variety of scholars that our conference attracts,” said Dr. Shelley Collins, a professor in the Department of Music and co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues. “Either our presenters are alums of these schools, graduate students at these universities, or teach at the following institutions: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, George Washington University, The University of North Texas, the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho, the University of Oregon, Indiana University, Loyola University of New Orleans, Columbus State University, the New York City Public Schools, and Perm State University in Russia.”

Flemons who is known the “American Songster,” has performed music professionally since 2005 and has played live for over one million people just within the past three years. As part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, which he co-founded with Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, he has played at a variety of festivals spanning from the Newport Folk Festival to Bonnaroo, in addition to renowned venues such as the Grand Ole Opry.

Ferris, a widely recognized leader in Southern studies, African American music, and folklore, is the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the senior associate director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South. He is also adjunct professor in the curriculum on folklore.

The former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ferris has conducted thousands of interviews with musicians ranging from the famous (B.B. King) to the unrecognized (Parchman Penitentiary inmates working in the fields). He has written or edited 10 books and created 15 documentary films.

“Bill Ferris is a personal hero of mine,” said Don Allan Mitchell, interim chair of the Division of Languages & Literature and co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues. “Every Blues class I teach, I have my students read his groundbreaking Blues from the Delta book, which is an essential text for any Blues scholar or fan.”

Mitchell said the appearance by Flemons expected to be an exciting part of the conference.

“Dom Flemons is known for his work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, but he is also a walking American songbook, and his knowledge and expertise in playing the country Blues and classic Blues is phenomenal,” Mitchell said.

This year’s conference promises to build on the vision established for the event when it began last year, Mitchell added.

“We hope to establish a long-term and sustainable Blues musicology conference, and we especially want to foster the next generation of emerging scholars of the African American Blues tradition,” he said. “Yes, the Mississippi Delta has a legacy tied to the Delta Blues, but the Blues has become a world-wide music, and we want to examine all genres of the Blues and its ever-present global influence. We know that Cleveland & Delta State prides itself on hospitality, so we think we are a perfect place to host such scholarly dialogues.”

For more information, please contact Mitchell and Collins at blues@deltastate.edu.

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 is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

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