(Black PR Wire) – MOUND BAYOU, MS -- For the African-American community, summertime signals the excitement for family gatherings and reunions where the sharing of rich history and passing down of traditions take center stage. During Founder’s Day weekend in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, a special family reunion will be held among more than three dozen Black matriarchs – or, Delta Jewels – who have lived through many of the inequality, injustice, tragedy and triumphs of African-American history which are still prevalent today.
From experiences on civil rights, police brutality, love and marriage to thoughts of suicide, life on cotton plantations and drawing closer to their faith, their stories and portraits are captured in Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom (Center Street/Hachette Book Group) by Pulitzer Prize-wining photojournalist Alysia Burton Steele. And, for the very first time – against the beautiful backdrop of Mound Bayou – more than half of these 54 community elders will gather together to continue the conversation and share their memories and stories of overcoming everything that life dished at them.
“These ordinary women lived extraordinary lives under the harshest conditions of the Jim Crow era and during the courageous changes of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Steele. “I’m grateful to Reverend Andrew L. Hawkins and local ministers for connecting me to these precious matriarchs who are still vibrant, beautiful, loving examples of living history, and the faces of faith and courage during very difficult times.”
The first-time ever Delta Jewels Community Gathering will be held on Saturday, July 11 at 2 p.m. at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church. The event is free and open to the public, and will include presentations, video stories and highlights from many of the Delta Jewels, including: Mrs. Tennie S. Self who shared her new Cadillac-buying experience and the right to have “Mrs.” by her name in the telephone book; Mrs. Lillie B. Jackson, whose husband prepared Emmett Till’s body for his funeral; Mrs. Myrlie Evers, widow of Civil Rights leader, Medgar Evers; and Mrs. Lillis M. Roberts who expressed pride in her NAACP activity and being the first Black citizen in Coffeeville, MS to register to vote.
The Delta Center and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Center organizations have been strong supporters of Steele and the Delta Jewels events and meetings. “Sponsoring this event is integral to The Delta Center’s mission of promoting greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, Director of The Delta Center, “This historic gathering also will feature life stories that connect with several of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area’s cultural heritage themes, including the Civil Rights Movement, race relations, literature, arts and religion.”
In addition to the Delta Jewels, other special guests include various celebrities and influencers with ties to the Mississippi region. Special guest speakers include Keith Beauchamp, Emmy-nominated filmmaker (The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till) and Fred Zollo, movie producer (Mississippi Burning, Ghost of Mississippi). Filming will also be done by a Bishop T.D. Jakes film crew. Steele will be featured in one of a three-part video series “Destiny Visions,” by Bishop T. D. Jakes that will complement his upcoming book Destiny.
“I know that connecting to the Delta Jewels is a huge part of my destiny,” Steele continued. “Talking with them helped me reconnect to my own Gram’s loving counsel that she poured into me daily… because there is no better source of wisdom than our grandmothers.”
For more information, visit www.alysiaburton.com, Twitter: @itsalsteele
or the Delta Jewels Wisdom page on Facebook.
View compelling Civil rights audio from the Jewels: