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Delta Symposium XVI: Region and the Politics of Culture will be held April 7-10

March 8, 2010 -- Arkansas State University-Jonesboro will present Delta Symposium XVI: “Region and the Politics of Culture” Wednesday-Saturday, April 7-10. The 16th annual conference brings scholars, students, musicians, and artists from across the nation to theTerry "Harmonica" Bean plays guitar at last year's Blues Bash Afternoon concert. Photo courtesy of Dr. Jack Zibluk. Arkansas State University-Jonesboro campus to explore and experience the Delta’s history and culture.

The event is sponsored by ASU’s Department of English and Philosophy, with additional on-campus support, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Most
events will take place in the Mockingbird Room on the third floor of ASU’s Reng Student Services Center/Student Union, 101 N. Caraway Road, Jonesboro.

Delta Blues Symposium XVI is s
ponsored 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.

On Wednesday, April 7, at 12 noon, Delta Symposium XVI: Region and the Politics of Culture begins with a panel session, “Teaching Diversity at ASU,” in ASU’s Student Union Auditorium. University professors Dr. Mary Donaghy, Dr. Jon Lofton, Dr. Jeanine Weekes Schroer, Dr. Ruth Owens, Dr. Joe Key, and Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch will provide students, faculty, and guests with perspectives on teaching in response to the Delta region’s multifaceted diversity.

On Wednesday, April 7, at 2 p.m., a panel consisting of faculty from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith will focus on the Arkansas writer Charles Portis novel True Grit,by showing how it can be taught as a community text in composition classes. Dr. Glinda Hall, an ASU alumna, will lead this presentation and showcase innovative teaching techniques derived from her research on literature and writing circles.

On Wednesday, April 7, at 3:30 p.m.
, a panel will complete the day’s activities with “Voices of Protest in American Expressive Culture.” Graduate students in ASU’s English and Philosophy Department will directly address the theme by exploring how cultural expression is part of the political dynamics of protest. Barry Broussard, Jacob Hutchinson, Angelyn Metcalf, and Amber Strother will offer perspectives on a wide range of expressive culture, including reggae, rap, heavy metal, and the country music of Loretta Lynn.

Thursday, April 8
, begins with an 8 a.m. presentation in the Mockingbird Room, ASU Student Union. Elista and Moriah Istre will present Louisiana Cajun and Creole history and music. The Louisiana natives are doctoral students in ASU’s Heritage Studies PhD program, and they are researching Cajun and Creole culture. The Istres will explore differences and similarities between southern Louisiana’s diverse Franco-American communities, and their presentations will highlight ways of studying musical traditions, such as Zydeco, to learn about regional history and identity.

At 9:30 a.m., Thursday, April 8
, ASU doctoral students will present the panel, “What Survives?  What Doesn’t?  The Politics of Records in Delta History.” Lenore Shoults, Cindy Grisham, and Guy Lancaster will present papers on this history of the pearl and shell industry in Arkansas, the challenges of writing about local history in the Delta, and the painful legacy of ‘Sundown Towns’ within the state’s history.

At 11 a.m., Thursday, April 8
, the Delta Symposium will host its first keynote speaker in the Student Union Auditorium. The noted scholar and writer Dr. Trudier Harris, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., will present “The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African American Writers and the South,” based on her most recently published book of the same title. Professor Harris will sign copies of her new book following the presentation.

Thursday’s events continue with two concurrent sessions at 2 p.m.
Poets Angela Mitchell, Mike Spikes, and Rick Lott will read from their works in the Mockingbird Room, ASU Student Union, and video artists Dan Hildenbrandt and William Gillespie will screen two new documentaries on blues music in the St. Francis River Room, ASU Student Union. Hildenbrandt’s documentary, “Keeping the Blues Alive in Oxford, the Other Oxford,” presents the music of Silver Phil, and Gillespie’s documentary portrays the challenges of breaking a blues band onto the national music scene.

On Thursday at 4 p.m., “The Politics of the Post-Nature” panel will be held. Dixon Bynum, Cory Shaman, and John Glass will present papers on the Delta as a 21st -century space by relating the region’s political history to topics as diverse as southern plantation estates, New Orleans neighborhoods, and the Agrarian writers’ classic I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition.

Thursday’s activities conclude at 7:30 p.m.
with a reading by the acclaimed poet Ed Madden. He will read from his recent poetry at ASU’s Cooper Alumni Center, 2600 Alumni Blvd, in the lower lobby. Madden will sign copies of his books at a reception held in his honor following the reading.

Friday morning, April 9, begins with a paper session, “Arkansas and Cultural Regions,” at 8 a.m.
  Panelist Dr. Gary Buxton will speak on the shivaree tradition of the Ozarks. Jeff Lewellen will present “Blues Without Borders,” and Dr. Gordon Morgan, professor of sociology at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, will address “Image and Reality on Southern Plantations.” Dr. Morgan is the author of "The Blue Hole: A Southern Plantation, 1900-1946."

A photographic workshop will also be offered at 8 a.m. on Friday, April 9.
Dr. Jack Zibluk, associate professor of journalism at ASU, will offer a photographic workshop, “Documenting Delta history and culture.” This workshop is free and open to the public, but it requires pre-registration for participation. Registrants can sign up for the workshop by contacting Delta Symposium co-director, Dr. Gregory Hansen, at (870) 972-3043.

At 10 a.m., Friday, April 9, “Representations of Blues Music and the Politics of Culture” will be held in the Mockingbird Room. Blues scholars Alan Brown, Mark Camarigg, Theodore Fuller, and Adam Gussow will explore the music and cultural representation of blues musicians, including the legendary Robert Johnson, by offering presentations that explore blues at it is represented in film, scholarship, and live performances.

At 1 p.m., Friday, April 9
, the focus on Delta blues music continues. Veteran blues scholar Mitsutoshi Inaba will offer a presentation based upon research he completed for his new book, Willie Dixon: Preacher of the Blues. Jim Baird will highlight the late Jim Dickinson’s many contributions to the music of the Delta, and Maria Johnson will speak on ways that blues performances have served as forces for healing and empowerment within alternative communities.

At 3 p.m., Friday, April 9
, a panel session, “Region, Landscape, and History,” will be held concurrently with a media session featuring a video screening. In “Region, Landscape, and History,” Gregory Herman, Simon Hosken, Susan Elizabeth Probasco, and Adele Patton Jr. will focus on topics ranging from Chicot County’s rural architecture and West Memphis’s hospital to the memory culture that surrounds a rural café and the contributions of African-American educators to Arkansas’ communities. “Region, Landscape, and History” will be held in the Mockingbird Room, Student Union, while the Student Union’s Pine Tree Room will house Lenore Shoults’ screening of her video documentary, “Mother-of-Pearls: Arkansas’ Entwined History of Pearls and Shell.”

At 5:15 p.m., Friday, April 9, Roland Freeman presents the Delta Symposium’s second keynote address. Freeman will give a photo lecture on his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement – both as a photographer and as an activist. He will present “The Mule Train: A Journey of Hope Remembered” in the Mockingbird Room. His presentation portrays this early protest march that began in the Mississippi Delta in the town of Marks, Miss., in 1968. It began with mule-drawn wagons and concluded with participants arriving in the nation’s capital. Freeman will share his experiences visually through his photographs, and he will also share his stories and accounts of the event. Freeman, founder of the Group for Cultural Documentation (TGCD) in Washington, D.C., is a noted photographer and writer who gained his initiation into documentary photography through his apprenticeship and friendship with the groundbreaking African-American photographer Gordon Parks.

At 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 9, blues legend Bobby Rush will perform in Centennial Hall, ASU Student Union. This show is free and open to the public. The son of a Baptist minister who was also a blues musician, Rush was born in Louisiana and moved to Pine Bluff at the age of eight. At 13 his family moved to Chicago where Rush performed with such blues greats as Freddie King, Luther Johnson, Bobby King and Luther Allison.

On Saturday, April 10, the symposium concludes with an all-day musical festival, “Bluegrass Morning/Blues Bash Afternoon.” The outdoor event begins at 9:30 a.m. at Heritage Plaza, east of the ASU Student Union, with a pre-event jam session for bluegrass pickers. The Memphis area bluegrass bands Tennessee Boltsmokers and Two-Mule Plow open the show at show at 10:30 a.m. At 12:30 p.m., Delta blues acts Bill Abel and Cadillac’ John Nolden take the stage. Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes will follow them and perform a set of deep blues. The event will continue with an open-mike session that is supported by the Northeast Arkansas Delta Blues Society and KASU 91.9 FM. Musicians attending the event will be welcome to perform on-stage as solo acts or with back-up provided by symposium participants with support from musicians affiliated with Backbeat Music of Jonesboro. The ASU Student Union Auditorium will be available as a rain location.

For more information, contact Dr. Gregory Hansen (, Department of English and Philosophy, Symposium Committee, at (870) 972-3043.

Photo: This closeup of Terry 'Harmonica' Bean's hand
and guitar was taken at last year's Blues Bash by Dr. Jack Zibluk.

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