(Jackson) – Governor Haley Barbour appointed Natasha Trethewey as Mississippi’s Poet Laureate. She will be responsible for promoting the literary arts in Mississippi through readings of her work at meetings, seminars and conferences across the state.

Mississippi Humanities Council Executive Director Dr. Barbara Carpenter was among the panelists who recommended finalists for the Mississippi Poet Laureate. Gov. Barbour selected Trethewey in the final days before his term ended.

Trethewey currently holds the position of Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. A native of Gulfport with a master of fine arts degree from the University of Massachusetts, “She has received national and international acclaim for her poetry that is, often, a tribute to the state of Mississippi and, more specifically, the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said Gov. Barbour.

When notified of her selection, Trethewey stated, “It’s an honor to have been named Poet Laureate of my native state – the place that made me a writer – and I am delighted to serve the citizens of Mississippi by promoting our rich and ongoing cultural and literary traditions.”

Trethewey received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry, Native Guard, which honors African American soldiers who were stationed near Gulfport during the Civil War. Her other awards include the 1999 Cave Canem poetry prize, the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry and the 2001 and 2003 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prizes. The American Library Association listed her second collection of poetry, Bellocq’s Ophelia, as a 2003 Notable Book. In 2008, Trethewey was presented with a Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts by the Mississippi Arts Commission for Literary Excellence.

The recipient of several fellowships including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Trethewey recently served as the James Weldon Johnson Fellow in African American Studies at the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

In her poem titled “Liturgy”, from Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Trethewey writes: “This is a memory of the Coast: to each his own/recollections, her reclamations, their/restorations, the return of the Coast.” She concludes: “This is my nostos – my pilgrimage to the Coast, my memory, my reckoning – / native daughter: I am the Gulf Coast.”

The Mississippi Poet Laureate program honors outstanding Mississippi writers and promotes the state’s literary arts. The governor appoints the Poet Laureate for a four-year term. The previous Mississippi Poet Laureate was Winifred Hamrick Farrar from Meridian. The first laureate was appointed by Governor Ross Barnett in 1963.

The selection committee panel included representatives from state agencies, institutions recommended by Governor Haley Barbour, and a published writer.  The members of the panel chaired by the Mississippi Arts Commission, were Barbara Carpenter, Mississippi Humanities Council; Tracy Carr Seabold, Mississippi Library Commission; Katie Blount, MS Department of Archives & History; Steve Yates, University Press of Mississippi; Jean Chamberlain, Jackson State University; and John Peede, University of Virginia. The panel recommended the names of the three finalists from which the Governor made his selection.

Posted on January 18 2012

Lillie Lovette, a long-time volunteer for the Mississippi Humanities Council, has been selected to receive a 2012 Governor's Initiative for Volunteer Excellence (GIVE) Award. GIVE Awards celebrate ordinary people in Mississippi doing extraordinary things to improve lives and communities across the state. The GIVE Awards honor individuals and groups who positively impact the state of Mississippi through their significant volunteer efforts. These esteemed community leaders’ stories serve as inspiration for National Volunteer Week, April 15-22.

“Lillie’s tireless work as a volunteer for the Mississippi Humanities Council has ranged from scholar, consultant, grant writer and outside evaluator to coordinator of the Council’s traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit program,” said David Morgan, special projects director for the Mississippi Humanities Council. “Lillie’s duties include traveling to visit host sites across the state, making personal contacts to ensure all programs run smoothly and the exhibits reach each site safe and intact. She is also responsible for all of the paperwork required by the Smithsonian, including an extensive final report. She has worked with every Smithsonian exhibit that has come to Mississippi, serving on each tour as transportation coordinator, orientation workshop trainer and trainer for the docent workshops conducted at each site. Lillie’s contributions to the people and communities of the state of Mississippi are vast.”

The Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service (MCVS), in coordination with the Office of the Governor and First Lady Deborah Bryant, honorary chair of the MCVS Board of Commissioners, announced the 2012 GIVE honorees:

INDIVIDUAL RECIPIENTS: Elbert Hilliard (Madison) ~ The Marsha Meeks Kelly Award For Lifetime Achievement in Volunteer Service; Dr. Giovina Chinchar (Jackson) ~ Outstanding Humanitarian Service; Elizabeth Coleman (Jackson) ~ Outstanding Achievement by a Volunteer Management Professional; Preston Hays (Jackson) ~ Outstanding Achievement in Educational Innovation; Lillie Lovette (Edwards) ~ Outstanding Achievement in the Arts & Humanities; Rosie Nelson (Oxford) ~ Outstanding Service by a National Service Participant; Marshall Ramsey (Madison) ~ Outstanding Service by a Media Personality; Pauline Redmond (Columbus) ~ Outstanding Service in Disaster Relief; Detrater Roberts (Clinton) ~ Outstanding Achievement in Healthy Community Initiatives; Delmar P. Robinson (Biloxi) ~ Outstanding Achievement in Sustainable Community Solutions

ORGANIZATIONAL RECIPIENTS: Alexander’s Photography (Biloxi) ~ Outstanding Volunteer Service by a Business; Tippah County Good Samaritan Center (Ripley) ~ Outstanding Achievement by a Faith-Based Organization

These distinguished honorees will be recognized at an awards luncheon scheduled for April 16 at the Mississippi Museum of Art. “The 2012 GIVE Award recipients raise the bar in humanitarianism and servant leadership; not only for the state of Mississippi, but for the nation. We are humbled and honored to tell their stories of selfless service that are sure to inspire and encourage in these trying times,” said W. David Mallery, MCVS executive director.

MCVS will also recognize nine honorable mentions: Arline Baker (Meridian) ~ City of Meridian RSVP; Jerald Ball (Whitfield) ~ MS State Hospital; James W. Hill, Sr. (Monticello) ~ Habitat for Humanity; Teresa Hill (Terry) ~ Epilepsy Foundation of MS; Brenda and Ronnie Luther (Holly Springs) ~ Clydesdale Christmas Store; Richard Wayne Parker (Jackson) ~ LifeShare Foundation; Rotary District 6820 (Winona) ~ MS Children’s Museum; Sue Tolbert (Vicksburg) ~ Salvation Army Disaster Response; Mike Wheatley (Pascagoula) ~ Jackson County CASA.

Posted on March 29 2012

Dix Ballard Nord, a governor-appointed member of the Mississippi Humanities Council from June 2008 to October 2011, died April 17 in Gulfport.

Excerpted from the Clarion-Ledger. Dix Ballard Nord was born Oct. 11, 1950, in Natchez and passed away April 17, 2012, in Gulfport. She was a 1968 graduate of Natchez High School and received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Mississippi in 1972. On Oct. 2, 1976, she married Peter Allen Nord, her husband of 35 years, at St. Mary’s Basilica in Natchez. Her two children, Sophie and Watson, were the greatest joy of her life.

Nord was active in the Chi Omega Chapter at the University of Mississippi, serving as president. She remained involved with the sorority by serving on the Chi Omega Tau House Corporation for the past 15 years and being active in the local alumni chapter. She served as queen of the Natchez Pilgrimage in 1969, an honored tradition among the ladies in her family. She was also proud to serve on the Mississippi Humanities Council and was an active parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

As proprietors of The Chimneys Restaurant, Nord and her family contributed to the rebirth of the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina with the rebuilding of The Chimneys.

Nord touched countless lives with a subtle and gentle grace. She lived her life for her children, family, endless friends, treasured employees and the many patrons of The Chimneys. She enjoyed serving others by helping with community festivals and fundraisers and assisting with numerous volunteer projects. She was known by all as the most unselfish woman in the world and was blessed with a radiance that allowed her to volunteer with joy in her heart.

Nord was a nurturing, loving soul who never forgot a name, a face or a tender detail of someone’s life. She truly lived her life for others, never putting herself first, and graciously caring for everyone she knew.

She was creative, artistic and made any environment more lovely and special with her natural talent for bringing warmth and beauty to any place or any occasion. She was a prolific giver of compliments and was perpetually humble and unassuming. She loved unconditionally, gave of herself tirelessly and anonymously and lived her life with the heart of a servant and the demeanor of a lady.

She is survived by her husband, Peter Allen Nord; their two children, Sophie Rowan Nord and Peter Watson Nord, both of Gulfport; and her mother, Sallie Junkin Ballard of Natchez. Her survivors also include her siblings, Glen Ballard of Los Angeles, CA, Wensel Ballard Conroy (Michael) of Covington, LA, Donna Ballard Maselli (Joe) of New Orleans, LA, and John Ballard (Melinda) of Moberly, MO.; 10 nephews; and five nieces. She was preceded in death by her father, Basil Glen Ballard Sr.; her niece, Bannon Dix Ballard; her maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. John R. Junkin; and her paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. William Dudley Ballard.

A memorial and a Mass of Christian Burial were conducted in Natchez Saturday, April 21. A Memorial Mass will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, April 23, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Long Beach. In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions may be directed to the Dix Ballard Nord Foundation, P.O. Box 486, Gulfport, MS 39502. Tributes may be shared with the family at http://www.riemannfamily.com.

Posted on April 23 2012

A small oral history grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council to record local memories of the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 in the Mississippi delta has resulted in a traveling exhibition, creation of the Mississippi Civil Rights Trail and summer seminars for educators about the Mississippi Delta.

Delta State University’s Emmett Till Exhibit is currently featured on the National Endowment for the Humanities website.

The Mississippi Humanities Council gave a mini grant to Delta State University for an oral history project to record local people about the Till kidnapping and murder. The research that this grant began grew into an exhibition that has traveled around the country over the last five years. In 2011, during the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders, the Emmett Till project resulted in the dedication of the first of many historical markers of the Mississippi Civil Rights Trail, located in Money, MS, near where young Till was abducted. This summer Luther Brown will host the third NEH Landmarks Teacher Workshop about the Mississippi Delta in June and July at Delta State University.

Barbara Carpenter, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council, writes that Luther Brown and Henry Outlaw, the scholars who have pursued and developed these projects along with Emily Weaver, “‘really believe that it was the MHC grant that started the whole thing. Who knows where we would be today if MHC had not supported Henry’s original oral history project. [The Council’s] support planted the seed ...’”

Posted on May 03 2012

Wendell E. Berry, noted poet, essayist, novelist, farmer and conservationist, delivered the 41st Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, entitled It All Turns on Affection, from the Concert Hall of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts April 23, 2012. The annual lecture, sponsored by National Endowment for the Humanities, is the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.

“Wendell Berry is an American treasure whose prose and poetry have — with subtlety, intelligence, and conviction — helped open our eyes to the importance of respecting and living with nature,” said NEH Chairman Jim Leach. “Tilling the land of his Kentucky forebears, he is a 21st-century Henry David Thoreau.”

In his writing and activism, Berry has spent his career meditating on our relationship and responsibilities to the land and community. He is the author of more than forty books of poems, essays, short stories, and novels, many of which draw on the traditional rural values of Berry’s native Kentucky.

To access an online copy of Berry’s lecture and other related documents, go here. To watch a video recording of the lecture, go here.

Posted on May 03 2012

In 2009, Congress authorized the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, which includes 18 counties -- Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, LeFlore, Panola, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, Warren, Washington and Yazoo. The public is invited to attend a series of Community Forums to learn about the National Heritage Area and share ideas to help plan to preserve, celebrate and share the important stories and places of the Mississippi Delta.

Three Community Forums are planned:

Monday, May 14—6-9 p.m. Vicksburg National Military Park, auditorium 3201 Clay Street Vicksburg, MS The meeting in Vicksburg will be preceded by a presentation and special announcement by John Hildreth, vice president of Eastern Field Services for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Tuesday, May 15—10 a.m.-Noon Greenville Higher Education Center 2900A Highway 1 South Greenville, MS

Tuesday, May 15—5:30-7:30 p.m. Old Clarksdale Greyhound Bus Station, visitors center 1540 DeSoto Avenue Clarksdale, MS

Admission is free. Reservations are not required. Refreshments will be served.

For more information, call 662.846.4311 or visit http://www.blueshighway.org.

Posted on May 03 2012