Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - May 2017
Dr.Stuart Rockoff
MHC executive director
Director's Message
Practicing the Humanities
 
The Mississippi Humanities Council has been busy with the bicentennial. Most notably, we have been administering a $500,000 grant program for Visit Mississippi, helping to support almost 90 different celebrations and commemorations around the state.  The demand was so strong for these grants that we have already committed all of the funds.

But in addition to celebrating Mississippi's history and heritage, we also wanted to use the bicentennial theme to explore the challenges we continue to face in our state. So we launched the series "Mississippi 50th" as part of our monthly Ideas on Tap discussion program to explore the areas in which Mississippi ranks last among states. Most of the topics we addressed, women in elected office, being single, technology and innovation, and life expectancy, did not seem closely connected to humanities disciplines. When appropriate, the panels brought in historical perspectives on their topics - Mississippi ranked last in number of patents received a century ago, as it still does today. But really, these series of programs highlight the idea that the humanities are a practice as much as a group of scholarly disciplines.

The humanities involve civil discourse, the respectful exchange of ideas based on evidence and facts, not emotion. Using the humanities, we can explore and understand experiences that are different from our own. We can talk across political differences, questioning our own beliefs and views and coming to understand those who see the world from a different perspective. In a climate in which people have their own personalized news sources and can't even agree on a common set of facts, this civil dialogue couldn't be more necessary and important.

These different definitions seem closely related. In order for our society and political system to be healthy, we must be able to discuss our differences in an open and respectful manner. A civil society requires a civil political discourse.

The word "civil" has several different meanings. In the context of discourse, it means courteous and polite. But it also means "pertaining to citizens and their relations with one another or the government" - think of "civil rights." These different definitions seem closely related. In order for our society and political system to be healthy, we must be able to discuss our differences in an open and respectful manner. A civil society requires a civil political discourse.

This is the idea behind Ideas on Tap and many of the projects we support through our grants program. When people gather to discuss affordable housing in Oxford, continuing racial barriers in Tupelo, or the meaning of our state flag in Long Beach, they are practicing the humanities. In this sense, our motto "the humanities are for everyone" can be rewritten as "everyone needs the humanities." Our society needs them. The future of our state and our country depend on them. So thank you for being a supporter and advocate for the humanities.  Now is not the time to be disheartened, but rather a time to redouble our efforts to bring the practice of the humanities to our communities.
Thomas O'Brien, school administrator Mimi Wilson, and MHC director Stuart Rockoff with the Hattiesburg High School students.
Hattiesburg High Students Collect Oral Histories About School Integration

This semester, students at Hattiesburg High School have been working with faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi to collect oral histories about school integration in their community. Funded by the Mississippi Humanities Council through its Mississippi Oral History Project, this initiative is led by Dr. Kevin Greene, Director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage at USM, a Dr. Thomas O'Brien, a professor of education.  They have worked with students and staff at Hattiesburg High School to design and carry out a project to interview members of the local community who experienced school segregation and the tumultuous time of integration. The project is entitled "Prying Open the Door: The Desegregation and Resegregation of Hattiesburg High School."

Earlier this month, the students presented their preliminary findings at a well-attended public event held at the Hattiesburg Train Depot. An impressive group of graduating seniors described the overall project and shared their reflections of what they had learned from the interviews. Plans are already being made to continue the interviews next school year, using a new group of students.

This project is part of the MHC's "State of Change" initiative, which seeks to develop and support oral history projects that document the important social, political, and economic changes that have transformed Mississippi over recent decades. This initiative is part of the Mississippi Oral History Project, a partnership between the MHC, the Center for Oral History at USM, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Funding for the Mississippi Oral History Project comes from the Mississippi Legislature.

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Smithsonian's Water/Ways Application Deadline is June 15

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!
 
Wat er/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, visit our website or contact Caroline Gillespie at cgillespie@mhc.state.ms.us. Applications are due by June 15.
Field Notes
Racial Equity Grant Fund

By Timothy Lampkin, Outreach Coordinator
While traveling across our state I am inspired by the various organizations that have committed themselves to changing the narrative of Mississippi. The path to change can only occur if we collectively work together and heal. MHC supports this effort by providing funding for humanities based programs related to racial equity. We recently funded an unconventional training entitled Difficult Conversations: A Tale of Two Cities, lead by Dr. Marcus Coleman and the Hattiesburg Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. This program utilizes small group conversations to address implicit bias, blame emphasis, and discrimination. We realize topics related to race can be difficult but we have learned by utilizing the humanities communities can engage in civil dialogue. Our racial equity program is designed to work in partnership with our grantees to implement the best public program for their community. We welcome the opportunity to work with you to implement a racial equity project in your community. The next deadline for our regular grant ($2,001-$7,500) is September 15. However, Mini grants (up to $2,000) have no deadlines.  Our racial equity program is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information please email me tlampkin@mhc.state.ms.us.
MHC, Rethink Mississippi Wrap Up Ideas on Tap Spring Series

On May 16, the Mississippi Humanities Council and Rethink Mississippi hosted the last program in a four-part Ideas on Tap spring series called "Mississippi 50th." The series, which began in February, has examined various issues which Mississippi ranks last or close to last on in the nation.

The May 16 panel, moderated by MHC executive director Dr. Stuart Rockoff, focused on the question "Why is Life Shorter in Mississippi?" and addressed various public health issues such as childhood poverty, life expectancy, and infant mortality. The panel featured Dr. Mary Currier, state health officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health; Wengora Thompson of March of Dimes Mississippi; and Dr. Linda Southward, director of Mississippi KIDS COUNT.
Previous program topics in the Mississippi 50th series included the low rate of women in politics, technological innovation, and life for singles in Mississippi.

Ideas on Tap will return in June with a new topic. Follow our Facebook page to keep updated on the program as details develop. For more information, contact Caroline Gillespie at cgillespie@mhc.state.ms.us
Events Across the State Commemorate Mississippi's 200th Year

Art Across Mississippi: Twelve Exhibitions, Twelve Communities
May 6, 2017-May 19, 2018
Various sites
To celebrate Mississippi's Bicentennial year, the Mississippi Museum of Art curates exhibitions from its collection for twelve host venues across the state. These exhibitions feature artworks by regionally acclaimed artists past and present including Walter Anderson, William Dunlap, William Ferris, Ke Francis, Marie Hull, Hystercine Rankin and Sulton Rogers, among many others.  Art Across Mississippi: Twelve Exhibitions, Twelve Communities  provides residents throughout the state with an opportunity to enjoy high-quality exhibitions from the museum's permanent collection in their own communities, to reflect on the rich heritage of Mississippi's visual arts and to contemplate the meaning of the bicentennial moment.
 
Riverfest Music & Arts Festival
April 7-June 8, 2017
Vicksburg, MS
Annual festival in Vicksburg featuring live music, handmade arts and crafts show, 5K race and children's activities
 
FestivalSo uth
June 1-17, 2017
Hattiesburg, MS
A special series of cultural and educational programs that will be part of the annual FestivalSouth event. Funded programs will include a new display exhibit about Muppets creator Jim Henson and various puppetry arts performances
 
31st Annual South Mississippi Summer Fair
June 8-18,2017
Mississippi Coast Coliseum, Biloxi, MS
A family-friendly, jam-packed event offering rides, live music, shows, contests and entertainment.
 
Mississippi Visions: Works by Contemporary Mississippi Artists
June 1-30,2017
Oxford, MS
A month-long art exhibit in June highlighting the diverse work of our state's contemporary artists. Will also include a series of free hands-on workshops where the public can learn about the artistic process .

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Coming Up: Humanities Programs Sponsored by MHC

June 13-16, 2017
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Biloxi

Whole School Initiative presents: "The Magic of Magic: A Tool for Arts and Humanities Integration"
Public event during the Mississippi Arts Commissions Whole Schools Initiative Sum
mer Institute, exploring the use of arts integration and the humanities disciplines as viable tools to engage and empower teachers and students.

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