The Mt. Zion Memorial Fund
for Blues, Music, and Justice
Several months afterwards, with the help of Dick Waterman and attorney Robert Arentson, a memorial was placed on the gravesite of Mississippi Fred McDowell at the Hammond Hill Baptist Church Cemetery in Como, Mississippi, on August 6th, 1993. The ceremony was presided over by Dick Waterman and the memorial with McDowell’s portrait upon it was paid for by Bonnie Raitt, a one time student, and friend of McDowell’s. In this case, the memorial stone was a replacement for a damaged and inaccurate marker (McDowell’s name misspelled) and the original stone was subsequently donated by McDowell’s family to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
In 2021, the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund officially changed its name to the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund for Blues, Music, and Justice, and it expanded its horizons to sponsor the RL Boyce Picnic in Como, MS. The MZMF will also sponsor the 2022 RL Boyce Picnic in September. To support its new endeavor, the MZMF received grant support from Visit Mississippi and the Hills Heritage National Heritage Area. The leadership of New York-based music enthusiast and promoter Amy Verdon has been crucial to the success of this effort.
In 2021, the MZMF also submitted several grant proposals to Monument Lab, the American Historical Association, and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. In the spring of 2022, we received funding from the American Historical Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities for a historic preservation, digital humanities, and reparative justice initiative that aims to redress the legacy of slavery and segregation in Mississippi and support the preservation of cultural heritage, resources, and landscapes through inclusive research methods, ethical memorialization projects, and participatory public history practices. In partnership with descendant communities, we plan to prevent the erasure and destruction of cultural resources–homes, churches, cemeteries, organization halls, schools, photographs, documents, audiovisual media, physical artifacts, and oral histories–related to African American Blues Communities. The new website is the first step of this project, and the launch of the webAtlas will be the next step.