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6th Annual Cotton Kingdom/Sweat Equity Symposium and Cotton Pickers’ Ball

Field Hollers and Freedom Songs
… how the oppressed express the horrors of their oppression using the oppressor’s language…
Jamaica Kincaid
October 24, 2017Khafre, Inc in partnership with Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU), da’ House of Khafre invite everyone to join us November 9-10, 2017,for the 6th Annual Cotton Kingdom/Sweat Equity Symposium and Cotton Pickers’ Ball. The Symposium is America’s premier interdisciplinary conference on the Cotton Kingdom, sharecropping, tenant farming and the significance of cotton to the successes of both American and European economies; and, this year is no exception. The theme: Field Hollers and Freedom Songs reveals historical truths about the horrors of the oppressed, African Americans and their ability to cope in spite of their living and working conditions. The two days of discussion and celebration reflects the historic preservation efforts underway at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU). The Symposium begins with a special brownbag “Art-Talk” with Mississippi native and blues historian Mr. Ben Payton and MVSU Communications professor Ms Barbara Baymon, on Thursday, November 9th at noon. The Symposium will be held Friday, November 10th, from 9:00am-3:00pm. Both events will be held at MVSU in the Social Sciences Auditorium, located at 14000 Hwy 82 W, Itta Bena, Mississippi. MVSU professor/acting Chair of the Business Department Dr Curressia Brown will host and facilitate the event.
The Mississippi Delta, and the South overall is a cotton pickin’ culture. What is more interesting is the fact that the uniqueness of this region is what many people love best about the American culture and at it is all sourced in cotton. “The voices of African Americans who labored in the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta have lay silent for too long.  The Sweat Equity/Cotton Symposium provides a forum for their stories, contributions, and legacies to be shared and learned,” stated Dr Constance Bland, VP Academic Affairs at MVSU.
From the shared stories experienced firsthand by Grand-mama’nem are the quieted yet still painful memories of planting, chopping and picking cotton. The main purpose of Field Hollers and Freedom Songs is to demonstrate how through interpreted narratives historians and truth seekers may assess social remedies through cultural investments already made, and thereby have authentic resources to achieve the requisite knowledge for sustainable change within our communities and throughout the world.
This year’s presenters include:
·       AVOTCJA, Oakland, CA Poet Laureate Avotcja has accepted the invitation to come to the Mississippi Delta, for the first time to present her highly acclaimed repertoire of poetry to a Mississippi audience.
·       Stories from da Dirt, directed by Kansas City-based former professor of African American Studies Dr. Nancy J. Dawson, includes, music, dance and historical lectures about the enslavement and other aspects of the historic African American experience.  This program sheds new light on African American resistance through a combination of drama, music, drumming, quilting and dance ALL combined.  This multi-dimensional approach to Africana expressive culture is an under researched, undocumented scholarly area.  However, it is significant because it provides cultural awareness, healing, transformation and hope – which are essential to the success of disenfranchised communities. The Stories from da Dirt, performance will include: Erma Wilburn, a farmer and Albany, GA Freedom Singer; an African Drumming presentation as an Ancestral Voice; a lecture and demonstration by Dr. Tanya Y. Price of Cincinnati; and, Lisa Maydwell who will present the rough cut of a slave drama rendered on short film entitled, “Cooper’s Plantation.”
·       Dr John Weiss, directs MVSU” Sweat Equity Singers presentation of a South African traditional song Ukuthula (We find peace). The song is arranged by Andre’ van der Merwe. Valley “Sweat Equity” Singers will sing in the original Zulu language, Morgan Johnson, soloist.
·       Ms. Carla Keaton, owner of Keaton Fine Art: A Global Encounter in Phoenix AZ, will present a series of 12 triptych’s pieces from her collection that reflect stories of 4 individuals interviewed from Mississippi. She too a descendant of Mississippi cotton pickers stated, “I am a product of my grandmother and her circumstances.“
·       Dr. John Zheng, MVSU Chair of English Department will facilitate a photographic panel on the Delta Blues presented by MVSU students.
·       Ms. Agnolia B. Gay is a Little Rock, AK-based parent, educator, student advocate, speech and drama coach, director, poet and writer represents the Theatre Central Region in Little Rock, Arkansas and an “actress,” who teaches a unique arts integration in the classroom and transfers it to the community.
·       Dr. Delridge La Veon Hunter, Ph. D, MSCMH, CRC will present an amazing and scholarly post-lunch retort entitled, “Ring Shout: A Detail of a Ritual Dance-Song Dynamic The alienated soul-spirit, 1830’s: The beginning of music as we know it today.” Dr Hunter will share his insights on the necessity to express the alienation, estrangement, depression, self-hatred and wanting to kill somebody … kept hope alive. The estranged workers (sharecroppers, et al) were ready for this relief of tension to occur. These pent up feelings of anger were the driving force behind the symbols of expression through the use of works, with many meanings, which made singing come alive. Freedom songs permitted the unlettered to compose, arrange and perform.
·       Dorothy Hoskins a Hollandale, Mississippi-based Folk Artist will present: Clay figurines, straw shotgun houses, dolls and other examples of very-fine Mississippi Delta art.
·       Mrs. Helen Sims, from Belzoni, MS will present a tribute to “the Spirit of Mama Lula.”
·       Ms. Claudia Stack, filmmaker will share an excerpt from her newly released film entitled, SHARECROP. This short film (excerpt) focuses on Sylvester Hoover’s experiences growing up as part of a sharecropping family near Greenwood, MS.   The film also features oral histories from nine other sharecroppers from throughout the American South and those who produced a variety of agricultural marketable crops.  
·       Ms Betty Crawford from Marks, MS will debut and display a phenomenal blues quilt.  The title of the quilt is  “Why So Blue.” The quotes on the quilt will answer the question of the title.  The majority of the stories are about sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta and from them having the blues from hard labor out in the hot cotton fields.  This quilt is the result of 4 years of labor putting the quilt together. They were “priceless bittersweet moments sitting and listening to men and women as they shared their stories,” reports Crawford.
·       Dr. C. Sade Turnipseed, Assistant Professor of History, at MVSU shall explore the narrative of “Field Hollers and Freedom Songs” and its impact on contemporary cultural expressions.
All of the presentations include theatrical excerpts, story-telling quilts and historical artifacts that are inclusive of slave chains, field hollers and freedom songs. The body of research presented in this year’s Symposium “Field Hollers and Freedom Songs” is dedicated to the ancestors and elders, who once lived, worked and played in their log cabins (shotgun houses) surrounded by cotton fields, and somehow imagined a brighter day; not for themselves, but for their progeny. This effort not only THANKS THEM for their work but also promises to give them the dignity of proper research, sincere analysis, and truthful documentation that reflects a measure of love and respect they so rightfully deserve.
Last year’s Symposium achieved a record-breaking audience of over 500 people. Bringing together: eight universities, five school districts, two Delta municipalities, an undeterminable amount of local churches, and American citizens from twelve cities throughout the country to attend the 2016 Symposium. “Theoverall goal of the Symposium is to unapologetically present the stories of the Delta residents/sharecroppers, et al, in an academic environment as evidence of empowerment for the Cotton Picker narrative. It is critical that we include traditionally excluded points of views and demonstrate inclusiveness as an ideal method of obtaining a collective wisdom for the benefit of us all,” stated Curressia Brown.
On Friday November 10, the 6th Annual Cotton Pickers Ball and Ancestral Celebration shall include a pouring of libation and will take place at da’ House of Khafre,located at 300 Main Street, in the heart of Indianola. The celebration begins at 7pm. Immediately following the Ancestral Celebration the event will culminate into a good-old-fashion “Cotton Pickers Ball.” This is a “black-tie” affair (though overalls and period piece costumes and other “cotton pickin’ attire” are strongly encouraged and expected). Blues and Gospel music will be performed. An elaborate selection of gourmet appetizers and “field food” will be provided by Betty’s Place of Indianola and served up in authentic flair. Inverness-based event designer, Linda Rule, once again will provide decorations. All aspects of this two-day event are done in support of the Cotton Pickers of America Monument and Sharecroppers Interpretive Center project.
Mississippi Valley State University, as a Carnegie Classified Master’s University provides comprehensive undergraduate and graduate programs in education, the arts and sciences, and professional studies.
KHAFRE, Inc. is a not for profit 501(c)(3) organization engaged in community outreach, and operatesing as a repository and distributor of information on the beauty and talent of and within the Mississippi Delta. To realize its’ critically important and intentionally bold vision, KHAFRE, Inc. will build monuments and memorials, offer educational programs, health and history workshops. Khafre, Inc also provides resources to the formal and informal educators in the Delta.
The partnership formed between MVSU and Khafre, Inc validates the notion that a tribute and monument to sharecroppers and cotton pickers are not just significant, but long over due. Honoring the legacy of  “grandmamma-nem” in a university setting gives artistic and academic license to the pursuit of gaining more scholarship and international acceptance, of the contributions and sweat equity made by the people who picked cotton throughout the American South,” said Professor C.Sade Turnipseed, Executive Director of Khafre, Inc. 
Corporate sponsors and public endorsements are very much welcomed … Let us continue to make history together!
It is time!
For more information, please contact
Dr. C. Sade Turnipseed, Symposium/Reception
Ms. Linda Rule, Cotton Pickers Ball