Monday, June 27, 2022

Grab a Brown Bag and Experience Jewels of the Delta

 

Alysia Steele, Journalism Professional in Residence at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, will present her latest project, Jewels of the Delta, as part of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture’s Brown Bag Lecture series on Wednesday November 13.

"Mrs. Dilliard, 101, who refused to have her children work in the cotton fields, she wanted them to go to school. The overseer told her she couldn't have her black babies not working in the field or the other blacks would try it, so he gave her an ultimatum: move off the land and find somewhere else to live and work or have her children work in the field. So, she moved." Photo and caption by Alysia Steele
“Mrs. Dilliard, 101, who refused to have her children work in the cotton fields, she wanted them to go to school. The overseer told her she couldn’t have her black babies not working in the field or the other blacks would try it, so he gave her an ultimatum: move off the land and find somewhere else to live and work or have her children work in the field. So, she moved.” Photo and caption by Alysia Steele

Steele has completed interviews with dozens of Mississippi Delta church mothers, and plans to interview many more for her Jewels of the Delta book project.

“Oh my, they have such rich stories – sad, hilarious, deep and profound,” Steele said. “A wealth of history we that should listen to. Women who grew up as sharecroppers’ daughters, who wanted to leave the cotton fields and show their children a different way of life. Education was everything to them and they made sure their children received the best education they could provide. We should honor these women.”

"The telephone company wouldn’t put Missus by black folks’ names. Put your first name down there and that’s it in that book. So I went down there and told them, “Well now, you put the Missus for the white folks names and I’m a Missus too, I’m married too. They didn’t do nothing but change it. I don’t know if I was the first, but anyway, I had it done. When the next one (book) came out, it had my name like it was supposed to be written. If you can write those white folks names down as Missus, you can write mine Missus. It was just my name at the time. It didn’t really bother me, but I just after all, I’m married too. What’s the difference? That’s what I wanted to know. I’m just real vocal about things and I’ve never been, never stood back."  Photo by Alysia Steele
“The telephone company wouldn’t put Missus by black folks’ names. Put your first name down there and that’s it in that book. So I went down there and told them, “Well now, you put the Missus for the white folks names and I’m a Missus too, I’m married too. They didn’t do nothing but change it. I don’t know if I was the first, but anyway, I had it done. When the next one (book) came out, it had my name like it was supposed to be written. If you can write those white folks names down as Missus, you can write mine Missus. It was just my name at the time. It didn’t really bother me, but I just after all, I’m married too. What’s the difference? That’s what I wanted to know. I’m just real vocal about things and I’ve never been, never stood back.” Photo by Alysia Steele

Steele has spent every minute of her spare time making trips to the Delta in order to record interviews with the women.

“It’s so important to capture oral histories from our elders while they’re still alive. We can learn from them and it’s time to put these words to print. My grandmother passed away before I had the skills to document her, so I decided to honor her by featuring 50 Mississippi Delta church mothers from various towns and tell their stories. What I’m finding out is that these beautiful women are surprised someone wants to listen to their stories, as they’re sharing history that even their children and grandchildren didn’t know.”

"Love. You talk about love? Mine was deep down. I reckon because I loved his style. I loved his style and he was wild about mine. When we get together and get to talkin, I thought he was just really beautiful, just cute. I just really loved the man. He wasn’t real tall and he wasn’t no fat neither, cause I never liked a big ole man. He dressed real neat and he talked real kind. Well, I wouldn’t say how my style was to him, but I knew I was cute. I knew I was because everybody would tell to me, ‘you is one, pretty young lady.’ And when he told me - I knew I was. And when he told me about it, oh, that made me feel really, really good. He had a stylish walk, I ain’t kiddin. That was the cutest walk and I loved that walk. That’s right. And he was kind, nice and kind. With that walk, he was mo better looking than that walk." Photo by Alysia Steele
“Love. You talk about love? Mine was deep down. I reckon because I loved his style. I loved his style and he was wild about mine. When we get together and get to talkin, I thought he was just really beautiful, just cute. I just really loved the man. He wasn’t real tall and he wasn’t no fat neither, cause I never liked a big ole man. He dressed real neat and he talked real kind. Well, I wouldn’t say how my style was to him, but I knew I was cute. I knew I was because everybody would tell to me, ‘you is one, pretty young lady.’ And when he told me – I knew I was. And when he told me about it, oh, that made me feel really, really good. He had a stylish walk, I ain’t kiddin. That was the cutest walk and I loved that walk. That’s right. And he was kind, nice and kind. With that walk, he was mo better looking than that walk.” Photo by Alysia Steele

Steele will present photographs, samples of oral histories and a short video during her presentation. The Brown Bag Luncheon series takes place each Wednesday at noon in the Barnard Observatory Lecture Hall during the regular academic year. She is also raising money to help continue her project with a Kickstarter campaign, and you can read more by visiting this link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1438260393/jewels-of-the-delta

–Emily Gatlin, Editor-in-Chief, HottyToddy.com

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