For a fifth year, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) has awarded more than $200,000 in grants for 12 projects focused on cultural heritage development in communities across the Mississippi Delta.
The funded work focuses on MDNHA’s themes, ranging from the culture of the Delta blues and its influence on American music to the rich natural history and resources of the land and water of the Mississippi River and Delta. The grants support learning opportunities for students, museums, documentary films, and the historic preservation of Delta landmarks.
“This year’s funding brings the total amount of grants made by the Heritage Area since 2016 to more than $1 million, and the grants have supported a wide range of community projects that promote and preserve the cultural heritage of the Mississippi Delta,” said Dr. Myrtis Tabb, chair of the MDNHA Board of Directors. “We continue to see regional and national interest in our grant program and were thrilled to have received nearly 30 applications for this funding.”
“The proposals this year addressed a wide variety of culturally based themes, allowing us to fund a more diverse range of projects,” said Meg Cooper, chair of the MDNHA Grants Committee. “This grant program helps us expand our mission by supporting organizations that are already doing amazing things in our Delta communities.”
In previous years, MDNHA grant program awardees participated in face-to-face orientation sessions at Delta State. The sessions included presentations from MDNHA staff and board members, as well as presentations from past and current awardee organizations about their funded projects.
“The orientation sessions have been a critical aspect of building social capital networks in our service region focused on cultural heritage development,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, executive director of the MDNHA and director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, which serves as the management entity for MDNHA.
Due to COVID-19 social distancing measures, this year’s orientation session was held virtually via Zoom. Awardees shared plans for their funded projects and MDNHA staff introduced them to the MDNHA’s new online portal for managing their projects and reporting progress on a quarterly basis.
“Despite COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing measures, MDNHA has adapted to this new normal. Inspired by our partnership with the National Park Service and our membership with the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, we continue our work building and expanding a network of community resources and organizations that are promoting diverse engagement with Mississippi Delta cultural heritage,” stated Herts.
Grant recipients and their funded projects this year include:
B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, Indianola, MS – $24,426 to conduct a camp that will give local students an immersive experience in local cultural dance, fitness, music, writing, art and culinary lessons.
Charleston Arts and Revitalization Effort, Charleston, MS – $6,000 to preserve the historical landmark home of the legendary world champion Duroc boar, “Scissors,” and to add storyboards to educate and inform visitors about the site’s historical significance.
Cleveland Music Foundation, GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, Cleveland, MS – $24,194 To conduct two camps that educate area youth on the musical heritage of the MS Delta.
Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland, MS – $24,500 to host an international convention to educate global leadership in music tourism and demonstrate how music impacts, benefits, and improves tourism.
Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, MS – $8,085 To chronicle the history of the founding and development of Jackson-based Trumpet Records by Lillian McMurry and the success of its Delta-based artists.
Delta State University’s Local Government Leadership Institute, Cleveland, MS – $10,000 to develop a summer program to demonstrate to young Black men a pathway to municipal leadership and careers by developing a deeper understanding of Black leaders who have come before.
Family and Youth Opportunities Division, Inc., Clarksdale, MS - $24,500 for the renovation and preservation of historic Myrtle Hall Library for Negroes, registered as a National Historic Site, to serve as an historical museum in the community.
From the Heart Productions, Ruleville, MS – $22,680 to create a program that works with local high school students who will advance their understanding and appreciation of the Delta’s cultural heritage through filmmaking.
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Philadelphia, MS – $24,500 to conduct research into Greenwood Leflore and his impact on Choctaw and Mississippi Delta history.
Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, MS – $24,500 to develop a course that documents and researches three local landmarks of significance to the civil rights movement in Itta Bena.
Mound Bayou Civic Club, Mound Bayou, MS – $24,500 to create a public museum that tells the cultural history of Mound Bayou.
Tutwiler Community Education Center, Tutwiler, MS – $8,200 to expand the marketing of Tutwiler quilts to regional tourist centers.
The total of $226,085.00 in grants will be matched by an additional $377,017.13 provided by the applicants and their communities for a total cost of $603,102.13 for all funded projects.
The MDNHA Grants Program provides funding of up to $24,500 for local projects, which must be matched on at least a 1:1 basis by in-kind or cash resources. For more information on the Grants Program and funded projects, visit www.msdeltaheritage.com/grants/.
The MDNHA includes 18 counties that contain land located in the alluvial floodplain of the Mississippi Delta: Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Panola, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, Warren, Washington, and Yazoo. 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 at www.msdeltaheritage.com.
Photo: MDNHA staff and organization representatives who were awarded MDNHA grants this year participated in a virtual orientation session due to COVID-19 social distancing measures.