Engaged Communication & Rediscovery in Mississippi
By Corey Crowder
An Epic Journey
Springtime brings renewal, and for the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund (MZMF), the coming of spring wrought new opportunities for community engagement through digital communication. The local electric power cooperative in Water Valley decided to up its game in regard to high speed internet service, and I upgraded my service just in time for several important webinars and workshops, which offered technical and financial resources to grow the organization. Though we have been fortunate enough to receive in upwards of $100,000 in 2022, we continue to seek new sources of funding. After all, we need to expand our WebAltas of African American Cultural Heritage Resources beyond Lowndes, Bolivar, and Carroll Counties. We also hope to build upon the success of our upcoming memorial dedications–the First being on June 3rd to 1920s recording artist Jim Jackson and the 2nd being on June 4 for St. James Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery–the final resting place of the legendary Mississippi John Hurt.
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First, I want to express my sincere thanks to the forty people who donated to our fundraising campaign for the juke joint of Alonzo Chatmon. As part of our grant from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, we had to raise $3,000 in matching funds, and we hit our goal due to the generous support of more than 40 people. This was the first online fundraiser that the MZMF has organized in quite a while. We raised the funds in less than two weeks, and we plan to visit Glen Allan in early June to work on the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Historians Milo Reed and Dr. Brian Mitchell as well as filmmaker Augusta Palmer will travel to Glen Allan on June 5th to begin their work on the project!
One of the downsides to fundraisers on Facebook is a lack of donor management. Since Facebook does not allow fundraisers to establish ongoing communication with donors, it prevents our organization from reaching out to previous supporters who might be interested in future projects. Thus, we have setup demonstrations with several donor managements firms and decided to purchase a subscription to their service. We also decided to purchase a subscription to Quickbooks to begin handling our financial data. We plan to acquire more grant funding in the future, and we hope this translates into a larger base of supporters.
Greenwood Tourism Broker
Recently, the MZMF also had the honor of meeting with Sylvester Hoover, a blues tourism broker who gives most generously of his time to conduct cultural heritage tours of Mississippi and surrounding states. He owns and operates two businesses in Greenwood’s Baptist Town neighborhood. His grocery store and museum sit side-by-side. I caught up with Sylvester and his wife, Mary, late one Sunday morning on the Square in Oxford where he was participating in a photoshoot with the June Bugs, a local blues band. As soon as we became acquainted, he designated me as an “honorary fifth Beatle” (sans wig) for a photo with him and a few other local blues music aficionados.
Sylvester and I visited a local coffee house that afternoon, and he regaled me with tales of his experiences as a tourist broker. Indeed, his passion for heritage tourism knows no bounds. Later that afternoon, he invited me to attend a Zoom screening of the documentary film Sharecropper, in which he recounted his experiences growing up as the youngest of a large family of sharecroppers in Leflore County, Mississippi. The film reminded me of historian Sade Turnipseed’s work at Mississippi Valley State University and now Jackson State University. Dr. Turnipseed hopes to erect a monument to sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta as a testament to the lived experiences of African Americans, who literally laid the foundations for this nation with hard labor. In fact, the monument is one part of her political platform for state representative of District 31. As she exclaims on her campaign cards, “Let’s work together for PROGRESS in the Delta!”
I admire the work, energy, and enthusiasm of both Mr. Hoover and Dr. Turnipseed, and I look forward to working with them on future MZMF projects.
I am really looking forward to what I think will be two transformative events for the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. I invite everyone to come out to Hernando Memorial Cemetery on June 3rd and participate in dedication of the memorial for “Kansas City” Jim Jackson, whose grave has remained unmarked since the early 1930s. The next day, June 4, we will drive down to where “the delta meets the hills” in Avalon (Carroll County), Mississippi to dedicate a granite historical marker near the grave of Mississippi John Hurt.
Hope to see you there!
If It Keeps on Raining
As those of you who live in or near Mississippi know, it’s been raining a lot here lately. Frequent and sometimes-heavy periods of rain remind me of the original 1929 recording of “When the Levee Breaks” by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. So, take a listen and enjoy!