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River kings visit campus

The Office of Student Life, Quality Enhancement Plan, the International Delta Blues Project, the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, and the Delta Music Institute partnered on April 11 to host Southern hip-hop artists and social activists Marco Pavé and Alfred Banks for two events open to the Delta State community and public.

These events were part of the sustainability mission of Delta State’s annual Winning the Race Conference.

Scott Barretta from the International Delta Blues Project moderated a lunch panel featuring Pavé and Alfred Banks. The discussion centered on the intersections of music, social justice and activism, as well as music entrepreneurship, the creative economy and regional musical influences. Later that afternoon Pavé and Banks performed a casual, lounge-style concert in the Union. 

Pavé, a Memphis native, and Banks, from New Orleans, have built solid followings in and around their respective cities and beyond. Pavé has been featured on Apple music, MTV, The Root and has delivered a Ted Talk on arts entrepreneurship. Banks has been featured on RevoltTv, BBC Russia, on several national tours, and has a song featured in a Volkswagen commercial. On their own, they both have viable careers, but in the summer of 2016 they decided to join forces and tour together through the River Kings Tour. Their 2016 efforts were so successful that round two will be an 18-city tour.

Take Me to the River - a deeper insight

One of the foremost challenges for the blues today concerns how to make the music relevant for young people. This is of particular concern in the Mississippi Delta, where the blues is both our cultural heritage and a driver of the economy. Pursuing awareness of these issues and developing effective strategies is a central goal of the International Delta Blues Project’s Blues Leadership Incubator program, which is housed in The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University. This series of free public workshops, lectures, and events inspire Mississippi Delta residents, particularly youth, to consider how Blues tourism, arts, culture, and creativity can lead to economic opportunity.

A major impediment is simply that blues is, to a large degree, a historical music. The blues is thought to have emerged around 1900, and achieved commercial popularity soon thereafter. It remained a dominant form of African American popular music until the early 1960s, when it was largely surpassed by soul music. 

While the blues remains popular today among certain discrete audiences—notably, a largely white one for traditional blues, and a largely African American one for “soul blues” or “southern soul”—it’s generally not a music with which young people are actively engaged, either negatively or positively.  

This “problem” isn’t particular to the blues, as older people often lament the tastes of youth. But if we hope to get young people to engage with the music for purposes of economic growth and in developing a deeper sense of place, what strategies might we employ?

Take Me to the River

An interesting case of attempting to bridge the musical gap between generations is depicted in the documentary “Take Me to the River,” which pairs hip-hop artists together with soul and blues veterans for unique takes on soul classics. It was filmed in Memphis’ historic Royal Studios, where Al Green cut his biggest records for the late producer Willie Mitchell. The intergenerational theme is heightened by the fact that Mitchell’s son, Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, now runs the studio, and was awarded the 2016 GRAMMY Record of the Year for his production of the Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars hit “Uptown Funk.”

An educational program associated with the film is currently touring the country, and on October 12 stopped in Cleveland at the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. The evening began with presentations by students from the Rosedale Freedom Project and Delta Hands for Hope of Shaw who are engaged with oral history and photography projects funded by grants from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. 

Following an abbreviated screening of the film was a live performance featuring Stax Records soul veteran William Bell, 77 and still in full possession of his powers, and Memphis rappers Al Kapone and Frayser Boy; all three are featured in the film. The backing band likewise reflected a cross-generational theme, with the young members of the Stax Music Academy Alumni Band paired with soul veterans Leroy and Charles Hodges of the Hi Rhythm Section, the studio group behind Al Green’s hits

Reclaiming soul heritage

The intent of the film and its associated educational program is to introduce young people to the legacy—and continuing relevancy—of Memphis’ grand soul heritage of the ‘60s and early ‘70s on the Hi and Stax labels (Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, the Bar-Kays, Isaac Hayes, Johnnie Taylor, and many more).  The film evokes the heyday of Stax and Hi via performances by label veterans including Mavis Staples and Otis Clay (soul stars Bobby Rush and Bobby “Blue” Bland, who recorded for other labels, also appear).

The film also emphasizes the idea that Stax was a relative oasis of racial tolerance during the Civil Rights Movement—most notably, house band Booker T and the MGs was integrated. This latter idea was popularized in Peter Guralnick’s influential 1986 book Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, which addressed the potential for music to transcend racial boundaries. 

In his recent book Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South, historian Charles Hughes takes a more cautious view, arguing, for instance, that while soul music can be seen as illustrating the potential for biracial cooperation it was simultaneously serving as a political symbol of Black Pride and a sign of “blackness.” Nonetheless, a lesson from the era is that music can serve as an avenue for bridging social gaps.

Hip-Hop and Soul

Memphis has been a hotbed for rap since the 1990s, when new Southern hip-hop sounds challenged the predominance of music from both coasts. The regional style received its greatest attention via the 2005 Craig Brewer-directed film “Hustle and Flow.” The soundtrack featured multiple songs by Kapone, and the track “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” by Three 6 Mafia (including Frayser Boy) received an Academy Award, a cultural milestone for the genre.

During the filmed collaborations the younger artists—including Kapone, Frayser Boy, Snoop Dog and Lil’ P-Nut (b. 2002)—reveal their great respect for their elders, who in turn sometimes seem somewhat bemused with the collaborations. The most striking scene in the film, though, is of Bland, seemingly oblivious to the camera, giving voice lessons to Lil’ P-Nut.

In these collaborations the connections between the musics are made clear, something that is likewise well known to hip-hop artists who regularly sample vintage soul sounds. It’s usually not the case, though, that fans of contemporary hip-hop are aware of the origin of the samples that they are hearing. In addition to samples often being buried in the mix, contemporary recording artists usually don’t recognize their presence except in the credits of CDs, a delivery platform that most young people don’t use. 

There are also historical reasons why the connections between soul and rap typically aren’t made. A subtext of the film is that the potential personal ties that might have existed in the Memphis music scene over the last half century were severed with the collapse of Stax Records in the mid-‘70s. With its departure, and a change of ownership at Hi, Memphis ceased to be a major center for hit recordings, and it has yet to reclaim its earlier glory.

Stax’s rise and fall and revival

Both Hi and Stax were founded in the 1950s, and helped define the emergent “Memphis sound” in the 1960s. A veteran of the rich West Memphis R&B scene, Willie Mitchell recorded many instrumental hits on Hi in the 1960s, and at the end of the decade took the helm of Royal Studios, where he produced hits for Hi by Green, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles and others.

Stax’s history goes back to 1959, when siblings Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton founded Satellite Records in an old movie theater in south Memphis. The Stax label was introduced in 1961, and produced dozens of hits over the next decade and half. During the early to mid ‘60s it was best known for artists including Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, and Sam and Dave—their hits, along with those of their peers at Motown, remain as the most popular signifiers for ‘60s soul.

The tragic death in 1967 of Redding, the label’s star, the assassination in 1968 of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, and the discovery around the same time that the label’s longtime partner Atlantic Records owned Stax’s back catalog—the wealth of any established label—contributed to a dramatic reorientation under the leadership of co-owner, and later owner, Al Bell.

A commitment to Civil Rights and black pride was expressed through events such as the 1972 Wattstax festival and uplifting anthems such as the Staple Singers “Respect Yourself.” The label also expanded dramatically through moving into other genres, and broke ground in the production of thematic album-length projects (instead of just singles), most dramatically through the work of Isaac Hayes.

The label achieved many successes in the 1970s via artists such as Hayes, the Staple Singers and Johnnie Taylor, but in 1975 the label was forced to go into bankruptcy, and multiple fraud charges were also brought against Bell, who was later acquitted of all of them. In the film commentators explain the label’s demise in terms of discriminatory behavior by the Union Planters bank, suggesting that the city’s establishment didn’t act to shore up a black-owned business. 

A more nuanced take of the situation is found in Robert Gordon’s book Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. While Gordon acknowledges that race likely affected the tone of the bankruptcy proceedings, he also argues that the downfall of Stax can be seen in terms of its business practices—growth that was too fast, a bloated staff with a payroll it couldn’t maintain, cash inflow strangulated by distribution problems, and a collapse of Union Planters, whose biggest loan client was Stax.

In any case, the departure of Stax was both an economic and cultural disaster, and no other label stepped in to take its place.  In the late ‘80s the iconic Stax headquarters at 926 East McLemore was demolished. Willie Mitchell continued to run Royal Studios around the corner, but was often overlooked in discussions about Memphis’ economic potential.

A decade later Memphis was at the beginning of a wave of cultural tourism that built upon its musical legacy—Beale Street, the blues, Elvis and soul—and grand plans were laid out for a revival of Stax. Many people were reasonably skeptical, but in May of 2003 the Stax Museum of American Soul Music was established in the same location as the label, replete with facsimiles of the original sign and marquee as well as a reproduction of the studio’s signature sloped floor, a legacy of the building’s past as a theater. 

Adjacent to the museum today is the Stax Music Academy, which provides music education, and the associated Soulsville Charter School, which has a heavy dose of music history—American history!—in its curriculum. Today, music instruction is sadly lacking in many schools, and the Academy and its associated programs demonstrate a way that music can be taught not just as technique but as a way of teaching the hip-hop generation about their history. 

Lessons for us?

The tale of Stax —its early glory, its decline in contentious times, and its current role as a both centerpiece for cultural revival—provides both inspiration and a note of caution about the potential difficulties in drawing upon older music to inspire contemporary young people. How do we frame blues in a way that makes it relevant or not relegated to “old people’s music”? How do we explain the story of its historical rise and fall and its contemporary renewal in the form of cultural tourism? How do we insure that transparency and authenticity is the development of this tourism?

Blues Leadership Incubator events such as "Take Me to the River" invites us to engage the beauty of creative brilliance while gaining a richer understanding of the social and cultural forces that fostered such creativity in the past and how it all relates to opportunity today. 

International Delta Blues Project, GRAMMY partner for free public film and music event

William Bell acknowledges the audience for their standing ovation following his performance.

William Bell acknowledges the audience for their standing ovation following his performance.

The Delta Center's International Delta Blues Project at Delta State University recently partnered with GRAMMY Museum Mississippi to present a free, public event of educational film and live music.

The "Take Me to the River" community film screening is one of several Blues Leadership Incubator events that have been offered by the International Delta Blues Project. Blues Leadership Incubator events focus on economic opportunity related to Blues education and tourism in the Mississippi Delta. These events are free and open to the public through a generous grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation.

Nearly 150 guests from throughout the Mississippi Delta gathered at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi to see a 45-minute version of the critically-acclaimed documentary “Take Me to the River,” produced by Martin Shore and created at historic Royal Studios in Memphis. The film brings multiple generations of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians together, following them through the creative process of recording an historic new album.  “Take Me To The River” features Terrence Howard, William Bell, Snoop Dog, Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, Lil P-Nut, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Yo Gotti, Bobby Rush, Frayser Boy, The North Mississippi Allstars and many more.

Martin Shore introduces his film Take Me to the River

After viewing “Take Me to the River," the crowd enjoyed live performances from The Hi Rhythm section (featuring Charles and Leroy Hodges), Stax Music Academy Alumni Band, William Bell, Frayser Boy, Al Kapone, and GRAMMY winner Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, owner of Royal Studios. Boo Mitchell recently served as keynote speaker for Delta State's International Conference on the Blues during a Blues Brunch held at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi.

According to Frayser Boy, an Academy Award winner for Best Original Song, these performances are as much about education as they are entertainment.

“I come from a hip-hop background. I never really used live music in performances before I was invited to be a part of this project, “ he said. “But these guys have taught me more in a couple of years than the fifteen or so previous years I was working in this business. All these old guys - these guys that have spent their lives making music - they taught me to better understand where music comes from, and how important it is to our communities. Just as importantly, they are teaching me how to make a career out of this, not just a single record. To do that, I need to know where my music comes from and why it was made the way it was made.”

Attendees linger in the lobby of the museum and visit with the musicians following the performance.

To underscore the educational emphasis of the event, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area was invited to open the program with oral history documentaries created by students from Delta Hands for Hope of Shaw, MS, and the Rosedale Freedom Project of Rosedale, MS. The students attended after-school workshops learning film and oral history skills through a grant from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. The students interviewed and photographed Mississippi Delta residents to learn how music has influenced their lives.

“The Take Me To The River program was one of the best nights of music we’ve had at the Museum,” said Jane Marie Dawkins, Education and Public Programs Manager for the museum. “The artists, film and student projects all provided a very entertaining and educational experience. It meant a lot to us to showcase this music from our region, and it was an unforgettable night at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi.”

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 and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place On Earth” workshops. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

Delta Center to present First Tuesday Blues session

Scott Barretta discusses the early years of Muddy Waters' career. To view the entire presentation, click here.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University will present a First Tuesday session focused on the International Delta Blues Project on March 15 at 12:10 p.m. in the Fielding Wright Art Center.

The session will have a special focus on the Blues Studies program that has launched at Delta State.

First Tuesday guests will be treated to a lecture from renowned Blues historian Scott Barretta, host of Highway 61 Radio and recipient of the 2016 Mississippi’s Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for Mississippi heritage. Barretta will teach the Sociology of the Blues course for the International Blues Scholars Program, a new online undergraduate and graduate certificate in Blues Studies that is being offered during the 2016 summer session. The online program will be available to Blues students and aficionados around the world.

The Delta Center is the home of the International Delta Blues Project, an initiative aimed at advancing Delta State University as the academic home of the Blues. The project is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation in Jackson and consists of the following components:

The interdisciplinary Blues Studies program that includes courses offered through various academic units at Delta State including music, languages and literature, social sciences and history, and the Delta Music Institute.

The International Conference on the Blues, an educational and cultural conference that has featured renowned and emerging Blues scholars, as well as award-winning Blues musicians.

The Blues Leadership Incubator, a series of lectures and workshops for the public and business community aimed at providing a deeper understanding of economic opportunity related to Blues tourism and the creative economy.

First Tuesday is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and is a program by the Art Department and the First Tuesday Committee. The events are normally scheduled for the first Tuesday of each month during the fall and spring semesters. First Tuesday features lectures, readings and presentations representing diverse perspectives in the arts and humanities. All events are free and open to the public.

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 International Delta Blues Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit www.deltacenterdsu.com.

The Senator's Place hosts GRAMMY discussion

In order to help the community better understand economic opportunities related to the opening of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, a gathering was held on Monday, February 22 at The Senator's Place in Cleveland. Representatives of the museum were present along with regional elected officials, Delta State administration and department heads, and members of the Mississippi Development Authority. The discussion addressed a broad variety topics on entrepreneurship opportunities, local ordinances and laws, and educational visions involving the museum. Attendees were treated to a meal provided by the restaurant. 

Attendees surveyed after the gathering responded overwhelmingly that this was a worthwhile event.

Comments from attendees:

Good info, good food, really good experience
This is a great economic development opportunity for Cleveland. The presenters were very knowledgeable.
Enjoyed everything, very informative

Blues Brunch Panel Discussion

As part of the Blues Incubator programming, a Panel Discussion with the Mississippi Blues Commission occurred during the International Conference on the Blues. Introductions were made by Dr. Rolando Herts, Director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the panel was moderated by Dr. William Ferris, former Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities and current Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina as well as the senior associate director of UNC's Center for the Study of the American South.

Panel members were musicians James "Super Chikan" Johnson and Bobby Rush, as well as Mississippi Blues Commission representatives Bob Arentson, Wanda Clark, Mary Margaret Miller, J. Kempf Poole, and Edgar E. Smith.

Stolle to present blues lecture in Clarksdale

Roger Stolle will present a lecture on blues entrepreneurship and the Mississippi Delta’s creative economy as part of Delta State University’s International Conference on the Blues Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center.

Roger Stolle will present a lecture on blues entrepreneurship and the Mississippi Delta’s creative economy as part of Delta State University’s International Conference on the Blues Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center.

Roger Stolle, owner of Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art in Clarksdale, Miss,, will present a lecture on blues entrepreneurship and the Mississippi Delta’s creative economy as part of Delta State University’s International Conference on the Blues.

The pre-conference lecture event will take place Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center, a Delta State satellite campus located at 109 Clark St. in Clarksdale. The lecture is free and open to the public through a partnership between CCHEC and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which is the home of the International Delta Blues Project.

“I am so pleased to be working with the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University to offer this lecture at the CCHEC campus,” said Jen Waller, director of the Coahoma County Higher Education Center. “Roger Stolle has been a blessing to the Clarksdale community for years. He has used his passion, drive and skillset to promote the music that he loves. His story is inspiring and certainly worth listening to.”

The International Delta Blues Project features three components: the International Conference on the Blues, which will take place at Delta State’s main campus in Cleveland on Oct. 5-6; the Blues Studies minor, which has launched this fall semester at Delta State; and the Blues Leadership Incubator, which focuses on blues and economic development.

Stolle’s lecture represents one in a series of lectures and workshops that are part of the Blues Leadership Incubator. These lectures and workshops are designed to provide the public with a deeper understanding of the Mississippi Delta’s creative economy.

“Delta State is a regional institution that serves the Mississippi Delta through educational, cultural and economic development,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center. “This lecture will provide an opportunity for the Clarksdale community to learn more about how the International Delta Blues Project is doing this by engaging accomplished creative economy professionals like Roger Stolle to share their knowledge and expertise with Delta communities.”

After a successful 13-year marketing career in corporate America, Stolle moved to Clarksdale in 2002 to “organize and promote the blues from within.” He is the author of the book “Hidden History of Mississippi Blues” and co-producer of the films “M for Mississippi” and “We Juke Up in Here.” He co-founded several Clarksdale based music and cultural festivals including the Juke Joint Festival, the Clarksdale Film Festival, the Clarksdale Caravan Music Fest, and the Delta Busking Festival. He is also the recipient of the Keeping The Blues Alive Award and the Blues Music Award from the Blues Foundation.

“We in Mississippi — especially Clarksdale — were building a creative economy before there was even a name for it,” said Stolle. “When I moved to Clarksdale 13 years ago, we had live blues just two nights a week, one festival per year and one museum. Today, we have live blues seven nights a week, over half a dozen festivals and two museums. We also have a dozen new businesses downtown and at least 150 additional hotel rooms.”

Don Allan Mitchell, co-chair of the blues conference, and a Delta State professor, is excited to add Stolle to the conference schedule.

“Mr. Stolle’s bold business decision to open up Cat Head in 2002 is exactly the visionary, entrepreneurial thinking that we know will inspire our students at Delta State, as well as our wider Delta Community,” said Mitchell. “It is an honor that Roger is so supportive of the conference.”

In addition to catalyzing Clarksdale’s revitalization through blues music and culture, Stolle is a highly sought after marketing, public relations, and artist booking expert both locally and globally. He has worked with a wide array of clients including the Mississippi Blues Trail, and many blues record labels, festivals, and non-profit organizations.

He has also booked Mississippi bluesmen on numerous festivals and tours — taking Delta legends such as Big George Brock, James “T-Model” Ford and Robert “Bilbo” Walker to countries like Italy, Switzerland, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Brazil.

To register for attendance at Stolle’s lecture and for more information, contact Jen Waller via email at jwaller@deltastate.edu or phone at 662-645-3555.

To register for the International Conference on the Blues, visit the conference website at http://www.deltastate.edu/president/international-blues-conference/.

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/.

Markusen to highlight Clarksdale at Winning the Race conference

Dr. Ann Markusen, director of the Arts Economy Initiative and the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, will facilitate a Lunch and Learn community session at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale as part of the Winning the Race conference.

Dr. Ann Markusen, director of the Arts Economy Initiative and the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, will facilitate a Lunch and Learn community session at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale as part of the Winning the Race conference.

Dr. Ann Markusen, director of the Arts Economy Initiative and the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, will facilitate a Lunch and Learn community session in Clarksdale as part of the Winning the Race conference at Delta State University.

As part of Delta State University’s engagement with the Mississippi Delta region, the institution’s Winning the Race conference has invited Markusen to speak at a pre-conference event March 30 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center, a Delta State satellite campus located at 109 Clark Street in Clarksdale.

The free session is open to the public with joint sponsorship from the city of Clarksdale, the Coahoma County Tourism Commission, Clarksdale Revitalization, Inc., Crossroads Cultural Arts Center and the International Delta Blues Project at The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.

To register for attendance, contact The Delta Center via email at hmiller@deltastate.edu or by phone at (662) 846-4311.

Markusen will also present two sessions on creative placemaking and the creative economy during the Winning the Race conference at Delta State on March 31. One of the sessions will focus on Clarksdale.

In 2014, Clarksdale Revitalization, Inc. received a highly competitive $350,000 grant from ArtPlace to create the Crossroads Cultural Arts Center. The center will preserve the region’s rich history of art, writing and music, with a focus on African American contributions to the arts. Plans for the center include an art gallery, as well as performance and retail spaces.

“Being awarded an ArtPlace grant is a powerful indicator that a community has the right elements for harnessing the power of the creative economy,” said Markusen. “The Lunch and Learn community session will help citizens and stakeholders to understand what creative placemaking is about and the opportunities that it presents for socioeconomic inclusion and diversity in Clarksdale and throughout the region.”

Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett is looking forward to hosting the experienced lecturer.

“The renewal of Clarksdale’s downtown has happened through realizing the cultural assets and developing the creative economy that was already working into an engine that is still picking up steam,” said Luckett. “We are thrilled that Dr. Markusen is bringing her expertise to Clarksdale. We look forward to her imparting from her experience, which we can use as we continue to develop our creative economy.”

Markusen is principal of Markusen Economic Research and is professor emerita and director of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics and its Arts Economy Initiative at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. She holds a foreign service bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s and doctorate in economics from Michigan State University. She has taught at Colorado, California Berkeley, Northwestern and Rutgers universities.

The Lunch and Learn event also will serve as an inaugural workshop for the Blues Leadership Incubator under Delta State University’s International Delta Blues Project, which is funded by the Hearin Foundation. The Blues Leadership Incubator is a series of workshops and seminars designed to build awareness of opportunities for Delta residents to engage with the creative economy.

“This event will help to promote community awareness of how blues and other African American art forms are key drivers of the Delta’s creative economy,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center. “We look forward to Dr. Markusen educating both residents and visitors in Clarksdale and at Delta State about how creative placemaking and the creative economy are opportunities for diversity and inclusion throughout the region.”

“Blues tourism has become a major economic driver for Clarksdale and the Delta,” added Lee Aylward, lead coordinator for the International Delta Blues Project. “Clarksdale literally is ground zero, the crossroads of blues tourism in the Delta with its many Mississippi Blues Trail markers and rich, living blues culture. The Blues Project’s support of the Lunch and Learn event is timely.”

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 http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

The Coahoma County Higher Ed Center is a partnership between Delta State University and Coahoma Community College. Its mission is to expand educational opportunity for the people in Coahoma County and surrounding counties by offering classes and events that will encourage personal development and promote a higher quality of life for all people in the Mississippi Delta.

Follow all Winning the Race conference updates at http://www.deltastate.edu/winning-the-race/.