Shaping UP

My summer plans are starting to take shape. I’d decided not to make any big travel plans because I’d like to find new employment, hopefully in a new location.What or where  exactly, I don’t know. I do know that I’m due for a change. I want to spend several weeks packing but the packing will have to be stuffed between a few weeks of travel.

I need to get to LA to see my oldest son and I may just take AMTRAK to do so. I made that trip a few years ago and it was great. I’l be presenting with Doret, Susan and Amy at the National Diversity in Library Conference in Princeton, NJ. Our session “Claiming the Center: Online Community, Activism, and Advocacy”will be on  using the internet to build community, advocate for literacy and promote diversity.

I’ll also be heading to the Mississippi Delta for an NEH Landmark in American History and Culture Workshop titled “The Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, Culture and History in the Mississippie Delta.” You may think I”m a bit crazy to head to the Delta in June, but this awesome description captured me and I am really looking forward to this learning opportunity!

The Delta has played an enormous and much undervalued role in the American story.  It has given the world much in terms of music, literature, journalism, political action, foodways, and even sports heroes.  It is the ancestral home of many Americans who today live in metropolitan areas like Detroit or Chicago or Oakland.  It has played an important role in changing America’s attitude towards human and civil rights.  At the same time, many Americans do not really know where the Mississippi Delta is, and places far from the Delta now claim its rightful title to being the  “birthplace of the Blues.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities has made it possible for you to explore the Mississippi Delta.  You will learn the stories that have given this place such a unique flavor, a mystique unlike any other place in America.  You will learn about Charley Patton, the Father of the Delta Blues, and Robert Johnson, who may or may not have sold his soul to the devil in return for guitar virtuosity.  You will learn about Senator James O. Eastland, powerful advocate for segregation, and Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, sharecropper and equally powerful advocate for integration, who lived five miles from each other in totally different and separate worlds that were entirely co-dependent on one another.  You will learn the tragic story of fourteen year old Emmett Till, and how his lynching sparked the civil rights movement.  You will learn the stories of Mound Bayou, founded by former slaves as an all-black enclave, and called by President Teddy Roosevelt “The Jewel of the Delta.”  You will learn how the Mississippi River created the Delta and how the great flood of 1927 destroyed it.  You will learn about how waves of Russian Jews, French and Germans, Lebanese, Italians and Chinese immigrated to the Delta.  You will learn about the clearing of the wilderness, the arrival of railroads, cotton, plantations, sharecropping, small towns, the Blues and Gospel, and the Great Migration to the North, East and West.

Most importantly, you will learn about sense of place as you study the place itself as a text.

Tons of reading, writing and hopefully interviewing this summer. If you think educators’ summers are about vacationing, think again! In the 21st century we have to do all we can to prepare to provide our students with the best possible opportunities for learning.

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