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Delta Blues Symposium XV: Celebrating a Century of Delta Culture is set for April 2-4

March 5, 2009 -- "Celebrating A Century of Delta Culture" is the theme for this year’s Delta Blues Symposium, the 15th annual conference that brings scholars, students, performers, and artists from all over the nation to the Arkansas State University-Jonesboro cFacsimile show bill for Delta Blues Symposium XV: Celebrating a Century of Delta Culture.ampus, in order to examine the Delta, consider its problems, and celebrate its culture.

Sponsored by the Department of English and Philosophy and with additional on-campus support, as well as support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the event will take place Thursday-Saturday, April 2-4. Unless otherwise noted, all events will take place in the Mockingbird Room on the third floor of ASU’
s Reng Student Services Center/Student Union, 101 North Caraway Road, Jonesboro.

The symposium will commence at 12:30 p.m. when ASU’s Centennial Celebration Commission will convene a panel, "Bringing ASU's Heritage to Life.” The commission members are Nancy Hendricks, Ruth Hawkins, and Brady Banta.

At 2 p.m., Gregory Hansen, professor of English and Folklore at ASU, will moderate a panel, "Zora Neal Hurston in Retrospect." Gloria Gibson, dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences at ASU, will serve as discussant. Panelists are
Joseph Collier, "Porch Imagery in the Works of Z. N. Hurston"; Adam D. Fraize, "Voodoo and the Journey Home"; and Brandon Looney, "Pigmeat and Barbecue: Foodways and Gender Relations in the Writing of Z. N. Hurston."

At 3:30 p.m., noted blues scholar and author Doug Seroff will present the symposium’s keynote address, “Arkansas Blues: 100 Years Ago Today.” His talk will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

Thursday’s symposium concludes with a concert by Ka
nsas City bluesman Lem Sheppard. He will perform at the Fine Arts Center Recital Hall, 114 South Caraway Road, at 7:30 p.m. Known primarily for his vocal ability and performances of blues, Sheppard has also received high acclaim for his schLem Sheppardolarship in American and African American folk music. He holds a master’s degree in music theory and composition. Sheppard was recently inducted into the Oklahoma Blues Hall of fame. Following his Thursday night performance, Sheppard will visit an area school to discuss the blues with local students.

Friday morning, April 3, begins with a paper session at 10 am. The title of the session is "Interdisciplinary Approaches to Delta Culture.”  Carol O’Connor, associate dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences at ASU, will moderate. Panelists are Theodore Fuller (Shelby County Schools), "Delta Blues as a Cross Curriculum Small Seminar Lesson"; Amber Hendricks (Mississippi Valley State University), "’Bush Don’t Like Black People ’Using Rap Music to Facilitate the Critical Pedagogy"; Colin Beineke (Arkansas State University, "Living Canvas: The Modern Custom Tattoo Shop"; and Maria Johnson (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale), "’We’re Gonna Lift Each Other Up’: The Transformative Collaborations of Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Kelley Hunt."

From 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., participants will break for lunch.

Friday afternoon’s schedule of events begins at 1 p.m., with a paper session in the Mockingbird Room, “Poetry and the Blues.” Michael Spikes will moderate this session, featuring C. D. Albin, Missouri State University, and Alison Pelegrin, Southeast Louisiana University. Both Albin and Pelegrin will read poetry. This session/poetry reading concludes at 1:45 p.m. A 15-minute break will follow this panel.

The next session begins at 2 p.m. and runs until 3:15 p.m. Cherisse Jones-Branch of ASU will moderate "Blues and Cultural Politics." Panelists are Andrew Scheiber, University of St. Thomas,
"Elvis Died For Our Sins"; John Kimsey, DePaul University, "’Don’t Let Nobody Tell You Them Dogs Won’t Bite’: Booker White, Mose Allison, and the Changing Image of Parchman Farm"; and Amber Hendricks, Mississippi Valley State University, "The ‘Bad’ Soul of Sun RaExistential Politics in ‘Space is the Place’ and ‘Cry of Jazz.’" A 15-minute break will follow this panel.

At 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m., a featured panel of noted blues scholars and experts will present  Blues in Ti
me. Richard Burns of ASU will serve as moderator. Panelists include John Minton, Indiana University-Purdue, Fort Wayne, David Evans, University of Memphis,John Mintonand Judy Peiser, director, Center for Southern Folklore. All of the panelists will be available after the presentation to meet with members of the audience. Later that evening, these scholars and other invited authors will be available for a book-signing and reception held at Fowler Center at 7:30 p.m.

Friday’s events will conclude with readings by the symposium’s featured creative writers: poet Dale Smith, of the University of Texas, and novelist-memoirist Janis Kearney, of Writing Our World Press. The readings will take place in the Grand Hall, Fowler Center, at 7:30 p.m.
Janis Kearney will be introduced by Glen Jones, senior  associate vice chancellor, Academic Affairs and Research, ASU-Jonesboro, and Dale Smith will be introduced by Dan Howard, vice chancellor, Academic Affairs and Research, ASU-Jonesboro.

Sessions resume at 9 a.m on Saturday morning, April 4. In the Mockingbird Room, writer David Starwalt will present an original dramatic work, “Brotherhood of Blue” in a readers' theatre performance.

At 10:30 a.m., there will be a panel focusing on “A Century of the Blues” in the Mockingbird Room. Mike Luster, director of ASU’s Arkansas Folklife program, will moderate. Panelists are Jim Baird, University of North Texas,
"Who Invented the Blues?"; Alan Brown, University of West Alabama, "Hubert Sumlin: Ambassador of the Delta Blues"; and Melinda Eckley, Memphis College of Art, "The Root System."

Saturday afternoon will conclude with a new event, Blues Bash Saturday, an outdoor blues festival featuring Valerie June, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, and the Bluesberry Jam Band, and concluding with an open-mike session. Mike Luster, director of ASU’s Arkansas Folklife program, will serve as Master of Ceremonies.

This event is co-sponsored by Arkansas State University’s public radio station, KASU 91.9 FM, and will be held outdoors at the ASU Student Union Heritage Plaza, with a rain alternative, the ASU Student Union Auditorium. Lunch and refreshments will be available for purchase.

Delta Blues Symposium XV is sponsored by the Department of English and Philosophy at ASU. For further information, contact the Department of English and Philosophy at (870) 972-3043 or visit the Web site All symposium events are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Rick Burns, Department of English and Philosophy, Symposium Committee, at (870) 972-3043, or e-mail him at



Photo of facsimile show bill courtesy of Dr. Greg Hansen.
Photos of Lem Sheppard and John Minton, courtesy of Dr. Rick Burns.

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