Walk Together, Mississippi Delta” is the second installment of Dr. Rolando Herts’ series, “The Mighty River.”

To read the first installment, click here.

Reprinted with permission by Rolando Herts, Ph.D., Director
The Delta Center for Culture and Learning
and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area

Dr. Herts on the Mississippi Photo credit: Meg Cooper - Melissa Thomas

Dr. Herts on the Mississippi (Photo credit: Meg Cooper – Melissa Thomas)

I ask, for the sake of our beloved Mississippi Delta region: who is willing to walk together, hand in hand to the Mighty River, the Mighty River of Life?

(Photo Credit: Karen McGee, USGS)

Mississippi River Delta (Photo Credit: Karen McGee, USGS)

I posed the above question in the article “The Mighty River and the Mighty Delta,” published by the Cleveland Current last year.

Since that time, I have received interesting responses to this rhetorical inquiry. The responses have not been received via email, phone, or even casual conversation. Rather, the responses have been communicated through active regional engagement.

The Mississippi Delta is moving toward a greater regional vision: an inclusive destination network connected by our shared cultural heritage. We are walking together, and it is very exciting to see.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, a cultural heritage partnership between the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service, is facilitating this movement by sharing Delta stories in diverse ways.

The Passport to Your National Parks program has established a network of museums, visitor centers, retailers, and government offices representing each of the Delta’s 18 counties. These partners cooperatively welcome national travelers, directing them to community-based attractions throughout the region. Recently, The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which manages the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, rewarded a group of passport enthusiasts with National Park Service Centennial t-shirts for collecting all passport stamps in the Heritage Area.

New passport stations will be available soon at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and Cleveland Tourism. Excellent timing, too, as the heart of the Delta opens up to thousands of cultural heritage tourists who will be visiting the home of the most technologically advanced museum in the world. In partnership with the Heritage Area and the Mississippi Delta Tourism Association, the GRAMMY Museum is encouraging these tourists to travel the entire region through its “Top 40 Places to Visit in the Mississippi Delta.”.

The international significance of our rich musical heritage will be illuminated and interpreted at the GRAMMY Museum in partnership with Delta State University, the academic home of the Blues, where the Heritage Area also has collaborated with the university’s International Conference on the Blues, as well as its Winning the Race diversity and race relations conference.

Watermelon Slim at Red's Lounge

Watermelon Slim at Red’s Lounge

As the place where the Civil Rights Movement was sparked with the Emmett Till tragedy, the Delta also has powerful civil rights stories to share. The Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership tells stories of African American church mothers as documented in Alysia Burton Steele’s Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom. Oral history awareness programs have been hosted by partner organizations in several Delta communities, including Ruleville, Charleston, Yazoo City, Itta Bena, and Vicksburg.

In honor of the 2016 National Park Service Centennial, the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C., hosted a special Delta Jewels program on Sunday, March 13. The program celebrated Women’s History Month as well, featuring 91-year-old Mrs. Annyce Campbell, the book’s cover lady, and Reena Evers, daughter of civil rights icons Myrlie Evers-Williams and Medgar Evers. Both ladies were born in Mound Bayou, the “Jewel of the Delta.”

Recently, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area launched a region-wide cultural heritage grants program . The MDNHA has hosted grant information workshops in Clarksdale, Rolling Fork, Indianola, Southaven and at Mississippi Valley State University. This program aims to accelerate the regional partnership momentum, encouraging and empowering organizations and people across the Delta not only to walk together, but also to join hands and collaborate across borders and lines that have divided the region historically.

These are just some of the many opportunities available for us to engage each other. “Walk together, children, don’t you get weary . . . there’s a great camp meetin’ in the Promised Land . . .” and that Promised Land is our beloved Mississippi Delta working together, hand in hand.

 

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