MDNHA, Delta Center share “Heart & Soul” of Mississippi Delta in D.C.

Senator Thad Cochran (second from right) recently enjoyed a visit with representatives from The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University. The meeting included a performance by Delta State graduate Keith Johnson (second from left), the great nephew of Muddy Waters. The Delta Center is the management entity for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA). Also pictured (left to right) are Shelia Winters, DCCL program associate for projects; Dr. Rolando Herts, DCCL director and MDNHA executive director; Rhonda Price, executive director of Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area; and Lee Aylward, DCCL program associate for education and community outreach.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University recently attended the Alliance of National Heritage Areas’ annual meeting on behalf of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. The meeting took place during Valentine’s Day week in Washington, D.C.

During the Alliance’s “Heart & Soul” congressional breakfast at the Rayburn House Office Building, the MDNHA and Delta State were honored for receiving National Park Service Centennial Awards for creating the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership. This cultural heritage interpretation project has engaged over 1,000 residents and visitors in honoring the lives of unsung African American church mothers featured in Alysia Burton Steele’s book “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom.”

Delta State was the only higher education institution and MDNHA is the only National Heritage Area in the country that received NPS Centennial Awards this year.

In recognition of the MDNHA’s rich cultural heritage, the Alliance of National Heritage Areas invited Keith Johnson, “Prince of the Delta Blues,” to be the featured performer at the “Heart & Soul” breakfast. A graduate of the Delta Music Institute at Delta State, Johnson is currently a graduate assistant in The Delta Center pursuing a Master of Business Administration at Delta State. He also is the great nephew of Delta Blues legend, Muddy Waters.

After the breakfast, the Delta delegation met with Mississippi legislators Senator Thad Cochran, Congressman Bennie Thompson and Senator Roger Wicker. They shared copies of the MDNHA’s 2014-2016 progress report and forthcoming economic impact study. During the visit with Cochran, they were joined by Rhonda Price, executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area.

“I am very pleased that our team was able to thank Cochran, Thompson and Wicker in person for their continued support of National Heritage Areas,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center and executive director of the MDNHA. “The Mississippi Delta, Hills and Gulf Coast National Heritage Areas are acknowledged by so many of our colleagues and supporters for doing great work in the communities we proudly serve.”


Johnson was especially excited to visit Cochran’s office where he was invited to perform his song “Come to Mississippi.”

“The song explores the culture of the Mississippi Delta. It expresses the feeling of blues musicians that are from Mississippi and includes references to hit songs they have written,” said Johnson. “I wrote this song so that I could connect with the Delta’s heritage, which includes blues music and more. I am honored that Senator Cochran invited me to perform it for him.”

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 MDNHA and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit

The MDNHA is a cultural heritage partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. Led by Herts, it includes

18 counties that contain land located in the alluvial floodplain of the Mississippi Delta: Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Panola, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, Warren, Washington and Yazoo. The MDNHA 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

Valley to Present 2nd Annual B.B. King Day

Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) will play host to some of the South’s largest names in Blues during its B.B. King Day celebration on September 1.

The event is open to the public, and will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the W.A. Butts Social Science Building on the Itta Bena campus. 

The event will wrap up with evening performances at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Miss. beginning at 7 p.m.

MVSU has the only recording studio in the nation bearing the name of the late musician B.B. King.

B.B. King Day will feature stimulating forum discussions, performances and showcases. 

“During the discussions, panelist will expound upon the influence of Blues on the history of Jazz,” said Dr. Alphonso Sanders, chair of the Department of Fine Arts and director of the B.B. King Recording Studio.  “If you mention jazz to most people, they automatically think of Kenny G.”

There will also be a discussion about the struggle of ownership for African American music. “The panelist are African American voices who will speak on African American Music History,” added Sanders. 

“These are prominent musicians who spent their lives doing this.” Charlton Johnson, former member of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s band, will play Lucille.

Otis Clay’s gospel hit, “When the Gates Swing Open,” will be performed by Tia Carroll, Rochelle Coba, Teeny Tucker and Vickie Baker.

There will also be a special tribute to Melvin Jackson and a showcase by Denise Lasalle.

Other guests will include George Shaw, Morris Hubbard, John Birdsong, Bo Berry, London Branch, Burgess Gardner, Sherrill Holley, Joe Jennings, Dr. James Johnson, Dick Griffin, Jimmi Mayes, Willie Silas, Ray Neal, Jesse Robinson and Reggie Richards.

The entire event will be broadcast live by the Kevin and Sue McCarthy’s Travel Planners Radio Show.

B.B. King Day is hosted by MVSU’s B.B. King Recording Studio in partnership with the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.

For more information about B.B. King Day at MVSU, contact Dr. Alphonso Sanders at