Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - April 2017
Dr.Stuart Rockoff
MHC executive director
Director's Message
NEH Matters in Mississippi

Fifty-two years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation establishing the national endowments for the arts and humanities. Upon signing the bill, President Johnson noted that a great nation needed great art and humanities, declaring, "In the long history of man, countless empires and nations have come and gone. Those which created no lasting works of art are reduced today to short footnotes in history's catalog." Ever since, both NEH and NEA have leveraged a relatively tiny amount of federal funding to support and foster artistic expression and cultural and historical understanding across the country.

In 1972, educational leaders in Mississippi, including Porter Fortune, the chancellor of Ole Miss, and John Peoples, the president of Jackson State University, came together to establish the Mississippi Committee for the Humanities, which was designed to function as the statewide partner of the NEH, distributing federal funds to help support grassroots public humanities programs. Since 1987, we have been known as the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Sharing this history is especially important now as Congress debates whether to continue to fund NEH, and by extension the state humanities councils. We must educate Mississippians about the impact NEH has had on our state.

Sharing this history is especially important now as Congress debates whether to continue to fund NEH, and by extension the state humanities councils. We must educate Mississippians about the impact NEH has had on our state. For the past few weeks, we have been highlighting this impact through our social media, using the hashtag #NEHMattersinMS. Each weekday, we recognize a cultural institution or project that has received significant NEH support. These include: the Mississippi Blues Trail; the newspaper collection at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History; the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss, whose former director, William Ferris, became the NEH chairman; the Eudora Welty House and Garden, and so many more. Visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter (@ms_humanities) or Instagram (mshumanitiescouncil) to learn how much NEH has done to foster the cultural richness of our state.

These examples don't even include the work of the Mississippi Humanities Council. The NEH has been our primary funder since we were founded 45 years ago. As you read this newsletter, you will see how we are helping to support more than 70 different local bicentennial projects; how our racial equity grant program, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is fostering deep explorations of our state's often difficult history through documentary films, panel discussions, and community dialogues; how we are bringing diverse groups of people together to discuss the important issues we all face in our monthly "Ideas on Tap" series; how we are instilling a love of books and reading through the Prime Time Family Reading and LuciƩrnagas programs; and how we are bringing Smithsonian traveling exhibits to small towns across Mississippi. The MHC creates opportunities for Mississippians to learn about themselves and the larger world and enriches communities through civil conversations about our history and culture.

If you appreciate the work we do, there are a few ways you can help. First, please contact your senators and member of congress and remind them of the value their small investment in the humanities represents for Mississippians. Tell them to continue to fund the NEH and the work of the state councils. This is very easy to do - each member our delegation has a simple email form on their congressional website. Also, you can show your support for the humanities in Mississippi by making a tax deductible donation to the MHC here. The more private support we receive, the less reliant we will be on federal funding. Thank you for your friendship and for all you do to support the arts and humanities in Mississippi.
Field Notes
Racial Equity Grant Fund

By Timothy Lampkin, Outreach Coordinator
The Mississippi Humanities Council has provided funding for 20 projects totaling more than $63,000.00 to support racial equity programs in our state. We want to continue elevating the conversation regarding race and its lingering impact in communities. It has been rewarding to see the dedication of organizations committed to bringing people together to have honest discussions about race. We utilize humanities-based public programs to engage in meaningful conversations related to the implicit bias, civil rights, discrimination, and inequities in the state of Mississippi. The racial equity fund was established with the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to encourage racial healing. We are currently accepting grant applications for new projects and would love to work with your organization if you are interested in implementing a project. Our racial equity grant program follows the same guidelines and uses the same forms as our general grants program. The regular grant ($2,001-$7,500) deadlines are May 1 and September 15. Mini grants (up to $2,000) have no deadlines. Check out the list of projects we have already funded here. For more information please contact me at lampkin@mhc.state.ms.us.
Next Major MHC Grant Deadline is May 1

The Mississippi Humanities Council grants program supports projects that stimulate meaningful community dialogue, attract diverse audiences, are participatory and engaging, and apply the humanities to our everyday lives. Grants may be used to support public humanities programs, exhibits, the planning of larger projects, and the development of original productions in film, television, radio or online resources. The MHC also offers special grants to support oral history projects around the state.

Larger grants ($2,001-$7,500) deadlines are May 1 and September 15. Funded events may not occur fewer than ten weeks from the deadline date, and pre-consultation with MHC staff is required before submitting an application. Grant application forms and other related documents may be found on the  Grants page of the MHC website.

Vonkervius Jackson, 16-year-old student at Gentry High School. Photo courtesy of Mississippi Today.
R.O.O.T.S. of Sunflower County
Changing the Narrative of African American Men in the Delta

For decades, negative stereotypes of African American men have been apart of a national discussion. When we examine our state, the Mississippi Delta is often portrayed as a place of hopelessness. However, young men of color in Sunflower County have engaged in a series of conversations to help change the narrative and tell their stories. The Mississippi Center of Justice, ACLU of MS, and Story for All have partnered in an innovative approach to community engagement as part of the Sunflower County Systems Change Project. The Mississippi Humanities Council supported the planning and implementation of the Reclaiming Our Origins Through Story (R.O.O.T.S) initiative through our racial equity grant fund. Young men of the Mississippi Delta interviewed local community members and each other about the historical racial disparities that exist in Sunflower County, particularly related to education. The Mississippi Humanities Council supported this project because it believes uplifting the voices of the underserved combine with positive storytelling can help transform communities. The R.O.O.T.S. project will mount an exhibit related to the R.O.O.T.S. project at the Smith Robertson Museum in Jackson during the month of May. There will be an opening reception May 4, 2017 at 6 p.m.

'Yazoo Revisited' and 'Conversations' to Explore School Integration in Mississippi

On Friday, April 28 at 8 p.m., Mississippi Public Broadcasting will air "Yazoo Revisited: Integration and Segregation in a Deep Southern Town," a documentary film looking back at the history and integration of Yazoo City schools and how race relations have developed since then.

In 1970, under a ruling by the Supreme Court, Mississippi finally implemented full integration of its public schools. The issue had been the center of heated controversy throughout the South in the 16 preceding years since the groundbreaking decision of Brown v. the Board of Education declared racially segregated public schools to be unconstitutional. 

In contrast to many other school districts in Mississippi, the integration of the Yazoo City schools went smoothly and without incident. In fact, the peaceful manner in which the black and white communities came together to see the transition through was widely seen as a model for success, at least for a couple of decades.

Renowned writer and Yazoo City native Willie Morris returned to his hometown to cover the integration story for Harper's, resulting in his 1971 book, "Yazoo: Integration in a Deep Southern Town." 

Fast forward to 2015, when David Rae Morris, filmmaker and son of the late Willie Morris, produced a documentary further exploring Yazoo City's unique integration story. Through in-depth interviews with former students, faculty, administrators and community leaders, "Yazoo Revisited: Integration and Segregation in a Deep Southern Town" examines the factors that enabled Yazoo to successfully integrate, and how things began to regress in later years.

The documentary will premiere on MPB Television on Friday, April 28 at 8 p.m., with an encore presentation on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. To watch a preview, visit www.mpbonline.org.

The Mississippi Humanities Council has supported the documentary through several grants, including most recently a W.K. Kellogg-funded racial equity grant. Following the broadcast, MPB will air a special episode of "Conversations" that will explore school integration in Mississippi today, featuring Dr. Phil Burchfield, superintendent of the Clinton Public Schools, Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, and Rex Buffington of the Stennis Center for Public Service. This special program is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities through its "Legacy of Race in America" initiative.
Smithsonian's Water/Ways to Make Splash in Mississippi
Call for Applications

The Smithsonian's newest traveling exhibit, Water/Ways, is coming to Mississippi! The exhibit, which will tour the state between May 2018 and March 2019, will make stops in six towns throughout Mississippi during its stay. The MHC is now accepting applications for Water/Ways host sites, so if you would like your community to have access to a free-of-charge, Smithsonian-quality exhibit, now is your chance to apply!
 
Water/Ways, an exhibition from the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street, explores the relationship between people and water. It explores the centrality of water in our lives, including its effect on the environment and climate, its practical role in agriculture and economic planning, and its impact on culture and spirituality.
 
Water/Ways is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, and local host institutions. Since 2002, the MHC has served as the official state sponsor of Museum on Main Street and has toured 8 different exhibits in 48 locations around the state. Its most recent Museum on Main Street exhibit, Hometown Teams, toured Mississippi throughout 2016.
 
For more information on Water/Ways and how to apply, contact Caroline Gillespie at cgillespie@mhc.state.ms.us. Applications are due by June 15th.
Postcard image of the Mississippi River Basin Model in southwest Jackson (public domain).
Mississippi River Basin Model
Built by prisoners of war, the largest small-scale model ever constructed

Mostly obscured beneath briars, brambles and vegetative debris in a nearly forgotten public park in southwest Jackson, a remarkable manmade structure holds fascinating clues to how World War II-era engineers learned to predict and respond to flooding and other hydraulic disasters on the nation's major waterways.

The Mississippi River Basin Model, located in Buddy Butts Park on the Jackson-Clinton boundary off McRaven Road, is the largest and most encompassing physical model of a river system in the world and perhaps the most successful experiment in hydraulic engineering ever constructed. It  is historically significant because of the role World War POW's played in its construction, the discoveries and advancement it brought about in the world of hydraulic engineering and for the impacts on flood control structures stretching from the Dakotas in the north to Louisiana in the south. The Mississippi River Basin Model is a scale replica of the Mississippi River Basin. It was constructed from 1943 to 1966 by the Army Corps of Engineers to study the hydraulics of the Mississippi River, and review impacts of construction of hydraulic structures both upstream and downstream along its banks.

On Friday, April 28, the Friends of the Mississippi River Basin Model will host an educational tour of the model from 9-11 a.m. In addition to guided walking tours of the accessible portions of the model, this free and public event will included historical photo displays and talks by representatives of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the U.S. Army Core of Engineers.

For a detailed schedule of events, visit the Friends of the Mississippi River Basin Model's Facebook event page here. To read a more detailed history of the model, go here.
Panelist Deeneaus Polk speaks during April 11's Ideas on Tap.
Ideas on Tap Continues 'Mississippi 50th' Series in Jackson

On April 11, the Mississippi Humanities Council hosted the third installment of its Ideas on Tap "Mississippi 50th" spring series. The program, "Ideas on Tap: Why is Mississippi 50th for Tech and Innovation?" took place at Hal and Mal's in Jackson and was co-sponsored by Rethink Mississippi.
 
The panel examined the issues of technology and innovation in the state by focusing on ways that Mississippi lags behind other states, such as the fewest patents per capita, the low rate of STEM jobs, and the lack of high-tech firms in the state. In addition to recognizing these shortcomings, the panelists also addressed ways to encourage growth in the technology and innovation fields in Mississippi. Program panelists included Tasha Bibb , entrepreneurial development manager for Innovate Mississippi; Nader Dabit, founder of the Jackson Area Web and App Developers group; Deeneaus Polk, apprenticeship business coordinator at the Mississippi Community College Board; and Dr. Robert Hester, professor in physiology and chair of the Patent Committee at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Rethink Mississippi editor Jake McGraw moderated the panel.
 
This program was the third in Ideas on Tap's spring series "Mississippi 50th," which addresses issues on which Mississippi ranks last or close to last in the nation. The final program in the four-part series will be held May 9. For more information on Ideas on Tap, contact Caroline Gillespie at cgillespie@mhc.state.ms.us.
The MHC's most recent Prime Time family reading program just finished at Lincoln Garden Apartments, part of the Springboard to Opportunities community. The program at Lincoln Garden was supported by a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson. Photo courtesy of Jerry Jenkins.
Coming Up: Humanities Programs Sponsored by MHC

April 19-23, 2017
Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc., Holly Springs

Behind the Big House program & tour
Behind the Big House: Preserving the Histories and Architecture of Slavery is an educational program initiated by Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. held in conjunction with the Annual Pilgrimage that explores the area's rare extant inventory of structures related to slavery. Now in its fourth season, the tour has garnered rave reviews for its innovative, inclusive approach to heritage tourism. 


April 28-29, 2017
The Museum of Mississippi Delta, Greenwood
The Lebanese in America traveling exhibit
The Lebanese in America traveling exhibit is coming to The Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood April 17-May 12, 2017. The exhibit contains eight narrative pop-up dis
plays withphotographs, graphics, and QR Codes linked to supplementary materials. The panels describe the history, conditions and impact of Lebanese immigration nationally, offering a framework in which a similar, regional-focused exhibit could be produced in the future. An opening reception for the exhibition to which the Lebanese and Syrian community will be invited to attend and participate in sharing their stories. Both the exhibit and the workshop will be free and open to the public.


Visit Mississippi and Mississippi Humanities Council Award Over $96,000 in Bicentennial Grants in April

To support local celebrations of the Mississippi bicentennial, the Mississippi Humanities Council is partnering with Mississippi Development Authority's Visit Mississippi to oversee a Bicentennial Grants Program. In April, the review committee awarded more than $96,000 to 19 different projects across the state, bringing the total awarded to date to over $376,000.  Due to the overwhelming demand, May 1 will be the last deadline offered for the Bicentennial Grants Program.
 
Among the projects funded in April are (visit the MHC website for a full listing):
                                                                                                                                                      
Mississippi Writers Series-Celebrating Mississippi 200!
Columbus Arts Council, Inc.
A Mississippi writers series featuring talks by nationally published Mississippi authors, screenings of two films based on books by Mississippi authors, and concluding with readings by members of the Columbus Writers and Storytellers Guild and presentations by local theater students based on their writings about Mississippi history. Various dates.                                                                                                                                                                          
Carrollton Walking Tour App for Smart Phones
Town of Carrollton
Development of a walking tour app for smart phones focusing on local architecture accompanied by related historical content.
                                                                                                                               
"Tupelo Spirit" Video Production
Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau 
Three-minute film project centering on Tupelo's spirit of community development and incorporating the stories of three local residents who illustrate this spirit, to be shown at Tupelo's new visitors' center.

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