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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 campus, 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
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 Kansas City bluesman
Lem Sheppard. He will perform at the Fine Arts Center Recital Hall, 114
South Caraway Road, at 7:30 p.m.
primarily for his vocal ability and performances of blues, Sheppard has
also received high acclaim for his scholarship
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 Ra—Existential
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 Time.”
Richard Burns of ASU will serve as
moderator. Panelists include John Minton, Indiana University-Purdue,
Fort Wayne, David Evans, University of Memphis,and 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
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
Alan Brown, University of West Alabama,
"Hubert Sumlin: Ambassador of the Delta
and Melinda Eckley,
Memphis College of Art, "The Root
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
of facsimile show bill courtesy of Dr. Greg Hansen.
Photos of Lem Sheppard and John Minton, courtesy of Dr. Rick Burns.