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Delta Symposium XXV, with Roots Music Festival, is April 10-13


JONESBORO – “Dislocation and the Delta” is the theme for the 25th annual Delta Symposium, April 10‑13, at Arkansas State University.

Participants will explore how people have been displaced from their own communities as well as on ways that dislocated people have come to live in the region. Presenters will explore a range of topics that are relevant to historical dislocations and the implications of contemporary dislocations such as the decline in the region’s rural populations.

The theme will be presented so that the theme is explored from a range of disciplines, according to Dr. Gregory Hansen, symposium chair.  He explained, “Throughout the region’s history, people have experienced forced upheavals from their communities. The Delta’s culture is often connected to the idea of deeply rooted communities, but the history is also defined by a long legacy of displacement.”

The event brings scholars, students, musicians and artists from across the nation to the A-State campus to explore and experience the Delta’s history and culture.

The symposium is sponsored by A-State’s Department of English, Philosophy, and World Languages in collaboration with KASU FM 91.9 and the university’s Heritage Studies Ph.D. program.  Most sessions will take place in the Mockingbird Room on the third floor of the Reng Student Union (GPS: 101 North Caraway Road).

The Roots Music Festival, co-sponsored by KASU, 91.9 FM, will be at City Water and Light Park (GPS: 1123 S. Culberhouse St.). All events are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, April 10

The symposium will begin at noon on Wednesday, April 10, with student research presentations on various people and places in Arkansas folklore. This session will be followed by a presentation on an oral history project and another session on political and economic institutions that are connected to displacement in the Delta.

Keynote speaker Harry Thomason will speak on media and Southern stereotypes at 4 p.m.  Thomason is an award-winning filmmaker, television producer and director, and a native of Arkansas. Wednesday’s events conclude with a presentation of photographs and media creations in the Union Auditorium at 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 11

Sessions beginning at 8 a.m. will feature researchers and writers from across the nation.  Panelists will include historians, literary scholars, folklorists, filmmakers and photographers who will explore topics ranging from the preservation of historic sites to the history of the Arkansas Travelers’ basketball team.

Thursday afternoon will feature an afternoon and evening of poetry and creative writing. Sessions will include guest writers who will read their original poetry and short stories as well as a featured reading of work from Tributary, A-State’s student literary magazine.

Thursday’s events will culminate in a special presentation of music, creative writing and poetry held at the Bradbury Art Museum. This event will begin at 6 p.m. with an opportunity to view the exhibits and hear musicians who will form a song circle. Tom Williams will read from his creative writing, and Arkansas’ Poet Laureate Jo McDougall will share her poetry.

Friday, April 12

Friday’s events also begin at 8 a.m. with additional panels and media sessions. At 1 p.m., Professor Simon Bronner will be give his keynote presentation as part of the university’s Lecture-Concert Series. His talk will be a retrospect on his research with Mississippi Delta bluesman Eugene Powell.

Bronner has written or edited more than 40 books and has been honored with numerous accolades from his tenure as professor at Penn State-Harrisburg and faculty positions at Harvard University, Dickinson College and Leiden and Osaka University.

Friday’s activities conclude with a panel on ghost stories and regional legends, sessions that introduce audience members to regional writers, and an evening talent-festival that allows symposium participants to share their original songwriting, poetry and creative writing skills on stage at the Reng Student Union auditorium.

Saturday, April 13

Saturday's events will begin on campus at 9 a.m. with a special feature titled Delta Heritage Day. Documentary filmmakers Gary Jones and Jeanne Rollberg will screen their documentary on Chinese grocers who owned businesses in the Delta. At 10:45, video features from filmmaker Michael Wilson’s “Elaine” will be shown by members of the Elaine Legacy Center. Their presentation is designed to contribute to efforts for restorative justice in the Arkansas Delta.

On Saturday afternoon, the symposium will conclude with the "Arkansas Roots Music Festival," an outdoor event featuring roots music at Jonesboro's City Water and Light Park.  The KASU-sponsored event runs 1-5 p.m.  (UPDATE: Due to threat of inclement weather, the festival has been moved to Fowler Center, 201 Olympic Dr.)

Performers will showcase the state’s rock-a-billy heritage through a range of genres. The Ozark Highland Trio will kick of the festival with a performance of old-time string band music that provides a basis for music that evolved into rock-a-billy.

Kurt and Andrea Stephenson’s bluegrass band will take the stage next, and Mookie Cartwright will bring his blues music to the park at 3 p.m. The show will close out with the rock-a-billy band The Boss Tweeds, making their first appearance at the festival. Their high energy music will show how rock-a-billy has been shaped by country, folk and blues as well as demonstrating how the music remains vibrant in the contemporary music scene.

In case of rain, Saturday afternoon's events will be moved to the Fowler Center, 201 Olympic Dr. (Update: festival has been moved).

For further details, one may contact the Department of English, Philosophy and World Languages at (870) 972-3043 or visit the symposium website, AState.edu/delta-symposium.

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