Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - October 2017
Stuart Rockoff
MHC executive director
Director's Message
Having the Hard Conversations

Whenever I leave Mississippi, I am prepared to deal with the many misperceptions and assumptions outsiders have about our state. Just this week, the acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates mocked a William Faulkner banner at the Mississippi State University Library, writing on twitter: "So funny! If Mississippians read, Faulkner would be banned." We are all familiar with these stereotypes and understand how easy it is to caricature us. Mississippi carries the heavy burden of its history, but few outsiders grasp how awful parts our past were and even fewer understand how much progress we have made. When I attend national conferences or meetings with colleagues from other states, I often say that Mississippi is far more complicated than they realize.

Recently, we have been working on a national project to foster dialogue across differences in our communities. A group of state humanities councils has been tasked with developing programs that might bridge some of the political and cultural divides that weaken us as a country. For the Mississippi Humanities Council, there was no way to tackle the issue of what divides us from each other without confronting race. This approach made many of our colleagues from other states uncomfortable. But in Mississippi, the burden of our history prevents us from ignoring that elephant in the room. As far back as our founding in 1972, the Mississippi Humanities Council has not been shy about addressing race.

In fact, one of our goals is to help foster these hard conversations. We don't impose them, but rather work with our community partners to support civil discussions on these difficult topics. Next week, we will hosting an Ideas on Tap program in Cleveland that will discuss our state flag. Abe Hudson, a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, has organized the program, inviting his Republican colleague, Representative Dana Criswell, to join him on the panel with Delta State historian Chuck Westmoreland. As moderator, my goal will be to guide the discussion to ensure people on different sides of this heated issue gain a greater understanding of the opposing view. While some may use the flag to sow division, our purpose is to foster civil dialogue and address the racial divide that still holds our state back.

The following evening, we will be presenting our regular Ideas on Tap program at Hal & Mal's in Jackson, and will explore the issue of monuments from a humanities perspective. Instead of debating whether we should take down Confederate monuments, this program will foster a greater understanding of the history of our monuments and what they ultimately say about who we are as a society.

Kendi's lecture and these MHC dialogue programs are a reminder that the humanities should inspire us to consider different points of view and confront ideas that might challenge our basic assumptions.

In addition to convening these discussions, we also bring in insightful and sometimes provocative voices. A few weeks ago, we had the honor of presenting Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, the award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, as our Cora Norman lecture. His book title is drawn from a speech by former Mississippi senator and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and during his talk he explained how the assumption of a hierarchy of races has undergirded much of our debate over race, even into the present-day. It was an incredibly engaging and thought provoking talk. Kendi's lecture and these MHC dialogue programs are a reminder that the humanities should inspire us to consider different points of view and confront ideas that might challenge our basic assumptions.

The MHC is committed to using the tools and disciplines of the humanities to guide these difficult conversations as we navigate toward a better Mississippi. We know we aren't alone. Partners like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation have helped inspire and support this important work. They know Mississippi is far more complicated than stereotypes would suggest, and the burden of our history offers a remarkable opportunity to become a national model of racial healing and transformation.
Field Notes
Racial Equity Grant Fund

By Timothy Lampkin, Outreach Coordinator
We have supported all kinds of projects since launching our racial equity program last year. It has been great working with organizations all across the state. We understand discussing race can be difficult but we are optimistic by telling the truth about our past, we can create a better future. Authentic storytelling is a powerful tool which has been used to help communities heal. One of our most recent grantees, the Rosedale Freedom Project, was funded to help youth create and document Freedom Stories. Youth are working with a humanities scholar to develop documentaries to share with their community. The project will also help students submit their work to film festivals to foster additional dialogue about race and diversity.
 
Our racial equity program is looking for additional projects to support. We encourage you to apply for a mini-grant up to $2,000 for a racial equity project in your community. I'm available to discuss your project before you submit your application. Mini-grant projects must be submitted six weeks prior the project starting and typically are decided on within two weeks. If you want to learn more our racial equity work please review a list of previously funded projects here or email tlampkin@mhc.state.ms.us.

Students practice their interview skills to prep for filming their documentaries.
If you like our Ideas on Tap koozies, you can get your very own. Find us at any of our upcoming Ideas on Tap programs, make a donation of $5 or more to the MHC, and receive a complimentary Ideas on Tap koozie.
Ideas on Tap Travels the State

In the next month, the Mississippi Humanities Council will host four Ideas on Taps in four different locations around the state. Each of the programs, which will take place in Cleveland, Hattiesburg, Jackson, and Starkville, will focus on different issues relevant in those communities.

The Ideas on Tap lineup begins October 23 in Cleveland with a program examining the state flag. Panelists include State Representatives Dana Criswell and Abe Hudson, along with Dr. Chuck Westmoreland of Delta State University and MHC Executive Director Dr. Stuart Rockoff, who will serve as moderator. The following evening, October 24, Ideas on Tap will return to Jackson with a program titled "What Do Our Monuments Mean?" The program, which is co-sponsored by the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, will examine monuments from historical and philosophical perspectives and will incorporate some new discussion techniques. If you've come to our Jackson Ideas on Taps before, this will be a new approach to our format, so you don't want to miss it.

November 7, Ideas on Tap will be in Hattiesburg with a program about community development in the Hub City, and on November 9, it will be in Starkville for a program on youth engagement in public office. Stay tuned for more details on both of these programs, and check our Facebook page for event updates.
Dr. Allison Chestnut received the Humanities Teacher Award this year at William Carey University. Her lecture was entitled "A Spinster's Guide to Social Subversion and Other Stories."
Arts & Humanities Month
Humanities Lectures Scheduled Around the State

Humanities Teacher Award lectures continue throughout the state in October. One outstanding humanities educator at each of the state's institutions for higher learning is selected each year for this award, which includes a cash award and special recognition at the Mississippi Humanities Council's annual awards gala in February. These lectures offer Mississippians a unique experience to hear scholarly presentations on a wide range of humanities subjects. Upcoming lectures include:

Oct. 23 Dr. Stewart Bennett, Blue Mountain College, The Struggle for the Life of the Republic: A Civil War Narrative of Charles Dana Miller, 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Oct. 24 - Ms. Gwen May, Southwest Mississippi Community College, Adapting to Changes in Education

Oct. 24 - Dr. Elizabeth Williford, Belhaven University, To Judge or Not To Judge: Explanations, Attributions, and Bananas

Oct. 24 - Mr. Eric Shawn Whittington, Itawamba Community College, Personal Reflection on Working with at Risk Students

Oct. 25 - Dr. Hilda Booker Williams, Rust College, Ida B. Wells: Answering the Call to Servce

Oct. 30 - Ms. Kimberly Morgan-Myles, Tougaloo College, Beauty and the Beast: The Aesthetics of Self-Actualizations and Faith: Operating Within a Society of Compromise, Inclusion and Polarization in Theatre, Film and Television

Oct. 30 - Mr. Christopher Schager, Northeast Mississippi Community College, Improv: So Much More Than Games
Nominations Invited for Humanities Awards

The Mississippi Humanities Council invites nominations for its 2018 Public Humanities Achievement Awards, which honor outstanding contributions in the arena of public humanities.
Nominations will be accepted for Humanities Scholar Award, Humanities Partner Award, Humanities Educator Award, and Preserver of Mississippi Culture.

The Council began giving Achievement Awards in 1993 to recognize persons and organizations who have supported the Council's work through public programs across the state or who have made a significant contribution to the public humanities in Mississippi. All Mississippians are invited to make nominations for these awards.

All winners will be recognized at the annual Public Humanities Awards event to be held Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson.

Nomination forms are available online. For more information call 601-432-6752.
MHC Awards $86,430 in Grants Across Mississippi

The Mississippi Humanities Council awarded $86,430 in grants to sixteen organizations across the state at its October 13 board meeting. A summary of the funded projects follows.
 
Oxford Film Festival
Oxford Film Festival Screening and Discussion on Restorative Justice
$5,000.00
Partnership with the William Winter Institute to observe Black History Month with a screening of a film about the Restorative Justice movement, which works to combat racial discrimination in schools by addressing trauma that often leads to misbehavior and delinquency.
 
Jackson State University
Angie Thomas: The Hate U Give and Young Adult Social Action
$5,000.00
Angie Thomas, author of young adult novel The Hate U Give will headline a community forum at Jackson State University discussing social justice issues. Thomas will also lead a workshop with JSU creative writing students on the steps for successful publication.
 
Jackson State University
A Place for All People
$3,630.00
An exhibit from National Museum of African American History and Culture, highlighting key artifacts in the Museum's collection that tell the story of the African American experience will be mounted at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, with a gallery talk by Dr. Deborah Mack, associate director of the NMAAHC, where it will remain for two weeks before moving to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and then returning to the Margaret Walker Center at JSU. It will then be made available for any public library, museum, cultural institution, college campus and prison in the state of Mississippi.
 
Mississippi Museum of Art, Inc.
Keynote for "Bringing Forward the Past: Art, Identity, and the American South" Symposium
$4,500.00
Interdisciplinary symposium exploring issues related to identity, race, indigeneity and memory.
 
Delta State University
Delta State University's Winning the Race Conference 2018
$7,500.00
Fifth annual conference to promote dialogue about race and race relations, an initiative of the University's president, Dr. William LaForge. The 2018 conference will focus on educational outcomes for children. MHC funds would support a "High School Leadership Forum" as part of the conference, examining issues of race and education with youths. This component addresses the recent integration of the local school district's historically segregated high schools.
 
Delta Hands for Hope
MLK Youth Weekend
$5,000.00
MLK gathering for Delta middle- and high-schoolers to examine issues of race, service and friendship. Youths will be recruited through area churches. Activities will include dialogues, workshops, readings and journaling around the subjects of race, race relations, civil rights and Mississippi history.
 
Mississippi Today
Beautiful Agitators
$4,500.00
Performance of a play, "Beautiful Agitators," followed by a community discussion around themes addressed in the play, including voting rights, police violence and civil rights education. Date and location for this event are not specified.
 
Mississippi Rising Coalition
Dialogue on Race in Mississippi
$6,000.00
Dialogue series in all three Coast counties, examining racism in our culture. Two six-week series (two hours of discussion per week) will take place in Jackson, Harrison and Hancock counties, led by trained race dialogue facilitators
 
New Hope Baptist Church
"Back in the Day" Black History Celebration
$5,000.00
Annual ecumenical Black History Celebration. The 2018 celebration features Greenwood native, Dr. Tonea Stewart, actress and dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Alabama State University. Stewart will talk about the importance, as a black actress, of choosing her roles carefully to provide positive representations of African American characters on film and on stage.
 
Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc.
Behind the Big House program and tour (2018)
$7,300.00
Annual educational tour of former slave dwellings, and related programs, offered in conjunction with annual pilgrimage of historic homes in Holly Springs.
 
University of Southern Mississippi
Ben Jonson, Our Contemporary
$3,950.00
Public performance of Renaissance dramatist Ben Jonson's (a contemporary of William Shakespeare) comedy "Volpone," as a means of emphasizing the enduring relevance of Johnson's work and demonstrating the educational value of "original practices" performance.
 
Artists for Community Transformation
Mississippi Yearning: Beyond "Finding Cleveland" Documentary
$4,500.00
Expansion of the documentary, Finding Cleveland, about a Chinese American man who learns the history of Chinese immigrants living in the Mississippi Delta between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries while tracing his forbearers' lives there. The film is currently 14 minutes; MHC funding would support expanding the film to 40 minutes.
 
University of Mississippi
The Twenty-Fifth Oxford Conference for the Book
$7,050.00
Annual literary conference based on the University of Mississippi campus. The 2018 conference will explore a range of topics, from the desegregation of public libraries, the role of long-form journalism in our current news environment and award-winning poetry to the Latino experience in the American South.
 
Washington County Library System
Literary Arts in the Delta Festival
$7,500.00
Inaugural literary arts festival in March 2018 celebrating achievements by local artists including screenwriters, playwrights, songwriters, book illustrators, poets, publishers, novelists, magazine and newspaper editors and more.
 
Copiah-Lincoln Community College Foundation
Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration 2018: "Southern Gothic"
$5,900.00
Annual literary and cinema festival. The 2018 festival will focus on "Southern Gothic" elements in scholarly literature, popular fiction, biography and history.
 
Springboard to Opportunities
Hearing the Past, Shaping Our Future
$4,100.00
Student oral history project interviewing veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. Youths will also research the Civil Rights Movement, write biographies about their interview subjects and prepare presentations for a public event at Smith Robertson Museum in Jackson in May 2018.

For information about Mississippi Humanities Council grants programs, please visit our website.
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