Mississippi Delta African-American Women’s History, Culture Focu - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Mississippi Delta African-American Women’s History, Culture Focus of April 21 Program

Photo credit: USM Photo credit: USM
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

The following is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi will host Alysia Steele to discuss her recent book, “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom” at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 21. Hosted by the School of Mass Communication and Journalism, Center for Black Studies and Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, the open event will be held in Gonzales Auditorium in the Liberal Arts Building on the Hattiesburg campus.

Steele, a Pulitzer-prize winning photojournalism professor at the University of Mississippi, will share the journey of writing her book, which is a collection of oral histories and photographs of African-American church mothers from the Mississippi Delta.

“I've never been to The University of Southern Mississippi campus, so this is a great opportunity for me to see the campus and engage with residents, students and faculty,” Steele said. “I've heard good things about the journalism and mass communications school, as well as the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. What an honor it is to present my beloved Delta Jewels book to this community. I always enjoy presenting the work with Rolando and the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area."

The Steele lecture is presented in partnership with the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) and the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.

“We are thrilled to have Alysia Steele come and interact with students in Mass Communication and Journalism and the larger Hattiesburg community,” said Dr. Dave Davies, director of the School of Mass Communication and Journalism. “Her work will show our students, specifically, the different possibilities a background in journalism can offer.”

There is an ongoing demand for the Delta Jewels oral history programs, and based on the positive feedback from past programs, it is evident that this program is of value to communities in and outside the Delta region, said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the MDNHA and the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.

“The Center for Black Studies has been committed to providing a forum for dialogue about the black experience, particularly the experiences of those in our community and region,” Dr. Cheryl Jenkins, associate director of the Center of Black Studies and associate professor of mass communication and journalism, said. “Professor Steele's work pays homage to black Christianity in the Mississippi Delta, so the Center's involvement in her visit makes perfect sense in regards to our mission.”

Dr. Sherita Johnson, director of Center for Black Studies echoes Dr. Jenkins’ sentiments. “We look forward to bringing Alicia Steele to Southern Miss because her research in collecting oral histories corresponds with the mission of the Center for Black Studies, particularly as it makes viable connections between academic institutions and local communities.”

Steele’s work is an example of how each of the supporting partners of the event can work in tandem to preserve histories of communities that are not ignored.

“Steele’s work has captured dozens of voices whose collective stories offer a window through which to glimpse some of the bravest and kindest women in Mississippi history,” Dr. Kevin Greene, co-director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage and assistant professor in history and interdisciplinary studies, said.

The partnership between MDNHA, the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and Steele has engaged more than 700 Delta residents and visitors through community gatherings in Clarksdale, Charleston, Indianola, Yazoo City, Ruleville, and Mound Bayou, as well as Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena.

“The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is pleased to bring the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership to the USM community featuring Alysia Burton Steele,” said Dr. Herts. “Working with USM's School of Mass Communications and Journalism provides a wonderful opportunity to promote Mississippi Delta cultural heritage awareness in this part of the state. In addition, USM's Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage is mentioned as a partner in the Heritage Area's Management Plan. This Delta Jewels program is mutually beneficial to our institutions and our communities. We look forward to being at USM."

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, which 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. For more information about The Delta Center, visit www.deltacenterdsu.com.

There will be copies of Steele’s book for purchase at the event. For more information, contact the Southern Miss College of Arts and Letters at 601.266.4315.

Copyright 2016 WDAM. All rights reserved.

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