The Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus (MDGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders throughout the eight-state Delta region, which stretches from southern Illinois down to New Orleans, Louisiana.

Opening Up Farm Trade to Cuba Will Aid Delta's Economic Growth

Posted on December 18, 2014 at 03:38 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus supports opening up trade with Cuba to expand exports from the Delta to that country. Many of our partners have been directly involved in this issue for many years due to its important implications for economic development in the Delta region.

Before the embargo, farmers in Arkansas and some other Delta states used to export a large volume of products to Cuba; in particular, Arkansas rice farmers sold much of their crop to the island. We look forward to resuming that trade soon for the economic development of our region and the rest of the country.

Caucus Director Lee Powell traveled to Cuba in 1988 on a fact-finding trip for then Congressman Bill Alexander to discuss opening up trade with Cuba with high-level Cuban government officials, including Ricardo Alarcon, one of Fidel Castro’s most powerful aides.

Powell said “Many of our partners have been to Cuba and worked with officials from both countries since the 1980s until today to open up farm trade to Cuba. The embargo has done absolutely nothing to change Cuba’s authoritarian regime, and when a policy has not worked for 50 years it’s just common sense that it’s time for a change.”

Powell said “the embargo actually helped the Castro brothers and the authoritarian regime, because in their propaganda they could blame their economic failures on the embargo rather than the true cause, which was the disastrous communist agenda.”

Powell pointed out that President Raul Castro once again trotted out the old propaganda line that the embargo is a major cause of Cuba’s poverty, “when we all know that their economy was destroyed by communism. Take away the embargo and you take away that worn-out propaganda line, especially for the Cuban people themselves.”

The Delta Caucus would like to express our gratitude for Congressman Bill Alexander, who was the champion of opening up trade to Cuba over a quarter of a century ago and was severely attacked for doing so at that time. But this is an idea whose time has finally arrived and in retrospect Bill Alexander was right.

The Delta Caucus especially applauds the wise comments of Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), a long-time supporter of lifting the embargo who said “We’ve been kind of running the same play for decade after decade, and it hasn’t worked. I believe when you trade with people, trade goods and services, you also trade ideas, and that’s how you change the world.”

President Obama announced a series of policy changes at normalizing relations with Cuba, including easing trade, travel and financial restrictions. Pope Francis encouraged secret talks over the past 18 months and hosted a final meeting at the Vatican.

A full lifting of the embargo will require Congressional action.

Many Delta Caucus partners have traveled to Cuba and advocated for this change for three decades, including Harvey Joe Sanner, president of the American Agriculture Movement, Des Arc, Delta Caucus senior adviser Kevin Smith of Helena-West Helena, Caucus Director Lee Powell and others.

Kevin Smith, Delta Caucus senior advocate from Helena-West Helena visited Cuba in early December–literally a week ago, “Having just returned from Cuba, I learned that we can either fill the gap in trade ourselves, or the Chinese, Vietnamese and Russians and others will continue to do so even more. This will help our economy in the Delta.”

Smith said “In Cuba I saw evidence of relaxations on private ownership, some new real estate businesses being started, some allowance for religious expression, and with this leverage from ending the counterproductive isolation policy, we should expect even more progress.”

“This policy is long overdue, and expanding agriculture exports is vital for the Delta’s economy,” said Harvey Joe Sanner, president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas and a senior Delta Caucus adviser, who met with Fidel Castro in a trade mission to Cuba in 1987 arranged by then First District Congressman Bill Alexander.

Of course, the Delta Caucus and all Americans condemn the Cuban authoritarian policies, but the embargo/isolation policy has been tried for 50 years now, and it’s time for the change that President Obama’s administration as well as countless other practical economic development advocates have held for many years. “Once capitalism starts infiltrating Cuba, this will undermine the communist regime,” Powell said.

“We have been working on this issue for 30 years and are glad to see this historic breakthrough,” Powell said. “We encourage practical advocates for economic development from both parties in Congress to step up and pass legislation to end the embargo in 2015.”

Exports to Cuba from the Delta region actually did increase after Congress passed legislation in 2000 to allow food and medicine exports to Cuba. For example, Arkansas exports to Cuba in 2004 reached about $34 million. But then the administration of President George W. Bush placed restrictions requiring Cuban purchasers of American goods to pay cash and go through third party banks, and Arkansas exports crashed to $2.7 million in 2005 and by 2012 and 2013 they were exactly zero.

The White House announced on Dec. 17 that it would end the Bush-era financing restrictions and return to the system that allowed American agricultural goods to be sold to Cuba. Completely lifting the embargo requires Congressional action.

Arkansas is the largest producer of rice in the United States, producing 50% of our country’s crop. Rice grown in Arkansas, other Delta states and across the country is very high quality.

Powell said “When I was in Cuba, the rice I had was frankly of very poor quality and I could only stand to eat it because I was on a diplomatic mission and wanted to be polite to our Cuban hosts, who were quite cordial. They would love to move up to high-quality rice from the Delta.”

Cuba currently imports most of its rice from Vietnam and other Asian countries, with some additional imports from Brazil.

Lower transportation costs as well as higher quality will give American producers an advantage. It takes six to eight weeks to import Rice from Vietnam, whereas American companies can move the goods in a few days in smaller ships that can stop at a large number of ports.

The island nation has a population of about 13 million people. Cubans consume about $225 to $275 million worth of rice each year, according to information in an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (“In State, Growers See Trade Potential,” by Sarah D. Wire and Glen Chase, Dec. 18, 2014, page 1A).

Cuba is also a significant market for poultry and other products that are produced in abundance in the Greater Delta Region.

In addition to the Delta Grassroots Caucus, other organizations and leaders supporting trade to Cuba include (among many others):

-US Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)

–Gov. Mike Beebe (D-AR)

–Arkansas Farm Bureau

–American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas

–Tyson Foods, Inc.

–Arkansas Rice Federation and USA Rice Federation

–Riceland Foods, Inc.

–The Arkansas legislature has passed resolutions endorsing farm trade to Cuba

–The Agricultural Council of Arkansas

Delta Year-End Annual Dues Membership Drive--2 Weeks Left--Dec. 31, 2014

Posted on December 16, 2014 at 11:58 AM

We have two weeks remaining in our year-end membership drive for the year 2014, and would like to thank the many people who have contributed over the past several weeks. With a pool of donors stretching over eight states and the Washington, DC area, large numbers of modest contributions add up to a substantial amount.

We would request annual membership dues in the amounts of $25, $50 or $100, depending on the size of your organizations and of course your individual preferences.

We are deeply appreciative of the many donors who contributed in recent days and weeks. Our partners of course tend to be very generous during the Christmas and New Year’s season.

This is now a requirement for our members who wish to be fully supportive and active in the Delta Grassroots Caucus advocacy for the eight-state region’s community and economic development, and the only request is just $25 once each calendar year, although some have contributed larger amounts up to $100 or $200 or more.

We have until Dec. 31, 2014 to complete this drive. Our budget is based entirely on voluntary donations in the form of sponsorships, registration fees at major conferences and annual membership dues.

For medium-sized nonprofits, businesses, chambers of commerce, smaller banks, we would suggest $50 in dues, if possible.

For larger universities, colleges, foundations, corporations, other larger organizations, or those who want to contribute at a higher level, we would suggest $100.

For your convenience, if would like to send in annual membership dues, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

We are steadily increasing the number of annual membership dues we collect each year. We used to have a significant problem in that most people did not pay the dues, but we have been increasing our collections each year. We are sure this is just a result of some partners not focusing on the dues, perhaps thinking they are not important, or perhaps not knowing about the requirement of just $25 a year. If everybody contributes something it will be a significant plus.

Our fundraising strategy is similar in some ways to public television and radio stations, and they occasionally engage in membership drives and point out that they could not exist without these voluntary donations. The Delta Caucus is of course different from public broadcasting in many other respects, but as far as our fundraising we are quite similar.

Members receive regional email newsletters on regional issues, are invited to the two major conferences-one in the spring at the Clinton Library and another in the fall at revolving locations, and have the knowledge that they are giving to the broadest grassroots, private sector, basically volunteer regional advocacy organization in the Greater Delta. Many other organizations play vital roles in advocacy and in many other ways, and we praise the activities of the many meritorious institutions and individuals in the region making contributions to regional development in countless different ways.

Our advocacy work for community and economic development focuses on the region from southern Illinois and Missouri through western Kentucky and Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and down to New Orleans and then east to the Alabama Black Belt-a vast area of more than 10 million people.

We also have a network of partners based in the Washington, DC area, as well as some Southern organizations that include Georgia and other areas of the South but have most of their base in the Greater Delta Region.

Key issues for the remainder of 2014 and 2015 will include:

–job creation/economic recovery,

–education and workforce development,

–women and children’s issues and support for the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings initiative for full participation of women and girls,

–renewable energy,

–hunger and nutrition,

–health care for underserved areas including support for Arkansas’ innovative private option health care plan,

–transportation, housing, broadband expansion and other infrastructure,

–the USDA rural development, agriculture and nutrition programs,

–Delta heritage tourism (including the pending bill to allow the historic steamboat the Delta Queen to resume her travels on the Mississippi), and other vital regional issues.

We also want to have a candid dialogue about the state of race relations in our region and across the country in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Missouri crisis and similar incidents across the country. We will invite a thoughtful dialogue acknowledging the need for putting a spotlight on the very real issues of racial profiling, police misconduct and excessive use of violence in some cases, but tempered with the knowledge that many police officers are reasonable people who conduct themselves in a reasonable, professional manner. We know that Martin Luther King, Jr. stressed the imperative that all protests and demonstrations must be non-violent.

We welcome input from many different points of view, including the broader community and economic impact of diversity and improved race relations across the region.

Large potential pool of small contributors over the eight states: We have over 700 people in our data base who have had extensive involvement with the Delta Caucus at some point, and over 3,000 who have had some involvement. It would be a huge plus for our budget if everybody would contribute at least $25.

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This Christmas Season of 2014 Give to the Delta Cultural Center--A Great Cause

Posted on December 09, 2014 at 02:22 PM

This Christmas season we would like to ask our partners to make donations to good causes across the eight-state Delta region. As a recommendation for one exemplary cause in our region, a suggestion is to make a donation to the Delta Cultural Center that serves 27 east Arkansas counties through the social giving platform of www.Sharemeister.com.

The Delta Cultural Center’s headquarters is in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas and it serves 27 counties from Clay on the Missouri border to Chicot County on the Louisiana border.

Contributions to the Delta Cultural Center are tax-deductible.

The concept of the Sharemeister website is to attract large numbers of small to medium-sized contributions on the website at www.Sharemeister.com by innovative, entertaining ways of promoting charitable giving. The Delta Grassroots Caucus makes suggestions on a rotating basis of great causes in the Delta region to contribute to, and if large numbers of people could go on to the secure website and make even a small contribution, this will add up to a substantial amount.

If this message reminds you to give either to the Delta Cultural Center or another good cause of your choice in the Greater Delta Region, please do so during this Christmas season when people across America are always so generous. Large numbers of contributions of even $10 to $25-or more if you can-will help this worthy cause.

The Delta Cultural Center’s mission is to preserve, interpret and present the cultural heritage of this legendary 27-county region. From its blues music to the mighty river that runs through it, the Delta story unfolds through the work of the Center. Among its landmarks is the Delta Cultural Center museum in historic downtown Helena dedicated to the history of the Arkansas Delta (for more information see the website at www.deltaculturalcenter.com)

The museum interprets the history of the Delta through exhibits, educational programs, annual events and guided tours.

The Delta Cultural Center is comprised of two museum locations-the Depot and the Visitors Center. The Depot features the exhibit “A Heritage of Determination” which details the history of the Delta from its earliest inhabitants, into early settlement, through great Mississippi River floods. On the upper floor of the Depot, “Civil War in the Delta” gives visitors insight into Union occupation and the Battle of Helena.

The Visitors Center, located one block north of the Depot, features “Delta Sounds” music exhibit, a live radio studio, changing exhibit space and the Museum Store. The Delta Cultural Center is a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Helena-West Helena is the location every fall for the famous King Biscuit Blues Festival, which attracts tens upon tens of thousands of people to hear renowned musicians perform in the heartland of the Delta blues.

On a rotating basis every several months the Delta Caucus selects a good cause to encourage charitable donations to, and this fall we chose the Delta Cultural Center, which is based in Helena-West Helena but does many constructive activities all across eastern Arkansas. We encourage our partners to go on the website of Sharemeister, a new firm that finds innovative, entertaining ways to generate donations to good causes at www.Sharemeister.com and make a donation on their social giving platform.

The Delta Cultural Center Challenge will continue on through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. On the Sharemeister website, this challenge is divided into the West Delta Team, which includes such institutions as Arkansas State University, Grambling, the LSU Tigers, Arkansas Razorbacks, Missouri Tigers, UAPB, UA-Monticello, Mid-South Community College, Phillips Community College of he University of Arkansas and other great institutions.

Lee Powell, Caucus director, challenged the West Delta Team to beat the East Delta team in making contributions to the Delta Cultural Center on the website, emphasizing that in comparison to the great institutions just cited in the West, all the East can muster are Ole Miss, Mississippi State, University of Memphis, Murray State University in Kentucky, Southern Illinois University, the Alabama Crimson Tide and other schools that very few people have ever heard of (smile). Powell predicts a landslide victory in this competition for the West Delta Team.

If you would like to participate in the Delta Cultural Center Challenge, go to the website at www.Sharemeister.com, then go to the Delta Cultural Center Challenge page and contribute for either the West Delta Team or the East Delta Team.

The Delta Cultural Center was one of the key hosts-along with the Helena-West Helena Advertising & Promotion Commission, Mayor Arnell Willis, Phillips County Judge Don Gentry, and many other Phillips County leaders for the Oct. 30-31 Delta Grassroots Caucus regional conference held in Helena-West Helena at the beautiful, historic former synagogue, Beth El Heritage Hall, which is administered by the Delta Cultural Center.

Sharemeister is a national company, but its CEO, Marlon Henderson, is from Jonesboro, Arkansas so they naturally have a strong interest in the Delta region.

Contact Your Senators to Urge Immediate Passage of the Delta Queen Bill

Posted on December 04, 2014 at 03:31 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus urges all our partners not just in the eight-state Greater Delta Region but across the country to contact their US Senators and urge passage of S. 2924, a pending bill that would allow the historic steamboat, the Delta Queen, to resume her travels on the Mississippi and its tributaries.

This is a national and not just a regional issue: The famous riverboat is a national historic treasure, has an exemplary safety record, and generates tourist dollars while educating people about the great legacy of steamboating across America’s inland waterways.

Time is running out-this week and next week represent the only time left to pass the bill by unanimous consent. There are currently efforts underway in the post-election session of the Senate to ask for unanimous consent to pass the Delta Queen bill.

The bill must either pass by unanimous consent this week or next or immediately at the beginning of the new session in January. This bill should be noncontroversial and ought to pass easily through the Senate as it did in the House a year and a half ago.

There are many supporters of the bill from both parties including Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman (AR), Vitter and Landrieu (LA), Wicker and Cochran (MS), Claire McCaskill (MO)), Brown and Portman of Ohio and many others.

As Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) put it succinctly at the recent Delta conference this fall in Helena-West Helena, AR-one of the ports where the Delta Queen stopped for many decades–“There is no reason not to pass this bill.” It does not require one penny of additional appropriations.

BRIEF TALKING POINTS FOR MAKING CALLS OR EMAILS TO SENATORS:

State your name and that you are a constituent of the Senator and urge unanimous consent passage of S. 2924 to permit the historic steamboat, the Delta Queen, to resume its historic travels along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and their tributaries.

1) The Delta Queen is a national historic icon that is supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is the last of the steamboats closely patterned after the Mark Twain-style era of riverboats. This promotes educational tourism about the history, culture and natural beauty of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

2) The boat has an exemplary safety record, having a steel hull, elaborate sprinkler systems and other safety precautions, was operated safely for 80 years on America’s waterways, and amended Senate language adds even additional layers of safety precautions to what was already one of the safest boats on America’s inland waterways.

3) The boat has a small but still real economic benefit in creating about 200 jobs directly if she starts traveling again, plus generating tourist dollars in the many communities where she stops. There is plenty of room for a number of steamboats traveling these huge regions, and before the recession there were several more steamboats traveling the inland waterways than there are today With the economy coming back we can support several riverboats.

LIST OF PHONE NUMBERS OF SENATORS IS AT THE END OF THIS MESSAGE.

FACT SHEET:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), currently chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (he is retiring this year) and the ranking Republican Senator on the committee, Sen. Jon Thune (R-SD) agreed in August to allow the bill out of committee and many Senators support the unanimous consent request-but it only takes one opponent to block this type of initiative. If this effort fails in the lame-duck session it must be acted upon without delay when the new Congress meets in January, 2015, but they have been delaying this for a year and a half.

The delay in passing this clearly meritorious bill is a classic example of Washington, DC gridlock. The vast majority of Members of Congress from both parties in both Houses agree on the merits of the bill, yet a few opponents and influential lobbyists are obstructing its passage.

Contact your Senators: There are many US Senators from both parties who support S.2924, such as Mark Pryor and John Boozman (AR), Mary Landrieu and Vitter (LA), Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran (MS), Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman of Ohio, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and many others. But we need more action and more supporters in other states, and we need to urge them that time is running out and this must not be lost in the shuffle.

Unfortunately, since 2009 the Delta Queen has been docked in Chattanooga. A group of highly knowledgeable steamboat experts and small business leaders, led by Cornel Martin of New Orleans, recently signed a contract to buy the boat as soon as the bill passes. The new management is a great plus, but the boat can’t travel a foot unless the bill passes.

Senate delay in acting: The House passed the bill by a wide margin over a year ago, but it has been sitting in the Senate ever since. The longer the boat sits idle, the more difficult and expensive it will be to perform the deferred maintenance necessary to put her back in full operating mode. Like any machinery, sitting idle is bad for the boat. In fact, if Congress does not act this fall or at the latest early in the new session, it’s probably too late. At some point investors may conclude that the cost of getting her ready to travel again after being inactive for so long may not be worthwhile.

The Delta Queen has an exemplary safety record–it was operated safely for 80 years. The boat has a steel hull, more than 50 tons of wood in the upper sections have been removed and replaced with steel and other non-combustible materials, and it has a an elaborate system of safety precautions.

The bill was amended in the Senate to add even more layers of safety precautions. Finally, the boat is required to pass rigorous safety inspections by the US Coast Guard-and it did pass those inspections for 40 years when it was traveling. There never was any safety hazard on the boat and there will not be in the future because the Coast Guard closely monitors it.

The only significant known opposition to the bill comes from a rival steamboat company that erroneously believes that the Delta Queen will cut into the profits of its boats if it is allowed to resume traveling on the Mississippi and Ohio and their tributaries. This is patently false, because for many years these rivers supported a number of steamboats, and with the economy coming back now the Mississippi and Ohio River valley regional economies can clearly support an additional steamboat-especially one with its unique legacy.

The lobbyist hired by the competing steamboat company also has attempted to disseminate erroneous information alleging that the famous steamboat is a terrible fire hazard, but this ludicrous allegation flies in the face of the facts that the boat was operated safely for 80 years before it was docked as a floating hotel, its many safety precautions, and the fact that the Coast Guard is required to give regular inspections of the boat.

These unfounded allegations about safety were debated in detail on the US House of Representatives floor in August, 2013, found to be lacking in truth, and the bill passed by a wide margin.

Despite the exemplary safety record of the Delta Queen, supporters of the bill agreed in the spirit of compromise to amended Senate language in S. 2924 that has added even further layers of safety precautions in which the management will make structural alterations of 10% to areas not constructed of fire-retardant materials, adding that these changes should be consistent with the “historic integrity” of the vessel.

The amendment was not necessary, but on the other hand it does no harm. There never was a fire hazard, but this additional amendment demolishes any rational concerns on the safety front.

Economic impact: Putting the vessel back into operation will create approximately 200 new jobs in addition to generating tourist dollars at stops on the Mississippi from New Orleans to Natchez to Helena to Memphis to St. Louis and beyond, and on the Ohio from western Kentucky to Ohio and West Virginia, an and many other communities where the boat stops.

Common sense of the necessary exemption from the Safety of Life at Sea Act: The Delta Queen is a riverboat that is never more than a few minutes from land. The exemption needed is from the Safety of Life at Sea Act, which was intended to cover ocean-going cruise ships that have a totally different set of safety concerns. It was one of the safest boats on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers over the many decades she was safely operated in her previous travels, and that is why Congress approved the exemption for 40 years before the boat moved to Chattanooga as a floating hotel in 2009.

The bill is endorsed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Seafarers International Union, the American Maritime Officers, and many other distinguished organizations, and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The Delta Queen is the only remaining example of the traditional steamboats that once traversed the heartland of America, helped weave our nation together in the process, and inspired the work of creative giants like Mark Twain, Jerome Kern and Louis Armstrong. To stand idly by and watch the Delta Queen deteriorate would be to forget our culture, the pioneers who came before us, and future generations who deserve the chance to travel on this national historic icon.

For your convenience, here is a list of phone numbers of key Senate offices to call. Please call the ones where you are a constituent, or in Ranking Member Sen. Thune’s case and others emphasize that this is a NATIONAL issue and you are a concerned citizen urging action to preserve an American historic treasure.

Please remember to tell them to pass the unanimous consent, and do not let them just vaguely say they support it but are not doing anything to follow up.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) (202) 224-2541 (The boat will stop in Paducah, Kentucky if the bill passes)

Sen. Thad Cochran, MS (202) 224-5054

Sen. John Boozman, AR (202) 224-4843

Sen. Mark Pryor, AR (202) 2242353

Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) (202) 224-6253

Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA) (202) 224-5824

Sen. David Vitter (LA) (202) 224-4623

Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO) (202) 224-6154

Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) (202) 224-2315

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) (202) 224-3353

This Thanksgiving Season Give to Delta Cultural Center--a Great Cause

Posted on November 24, 2014 at 04:28 PM

This Thanksgiving season we would like to ask our partners to make donations to good causes across the eight-state Delta region. As a recommendation for one exemplary cause in our region, a suggestion is to make a donation to the Delta Cultural Center that serves 27 east Arkansas counties through the social giving platform of www.Sharemeister.com.

The Delta Cultural Center’s headquarters is in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas and it serves 27 counties from Clay on the Missouri border to Chicot County on the Louisiana border.

Contributions to the Delta Cultural Center are tax-deductible.

The concept of the Sharemeister website is to attract large numbers of small to medium-sized contributions on the website at www.Sharemeister.com by innovative, entertaining ways of promoting charitable giving. The Delta Grassroots Caucus makes suggestions on a rotating basis of great causes in the Delta region to contribute to, and if large numbers of people could go on to the secure website and make even a small contribution, this will add up to a substantial amount.

If this message reminds you to give either to the Delta Cultural Center or another good cause of your choice in the Greater Delta Region, please do so during this Thanksgiving season when people across America are always so generous. Large numbers of contributions of even $10 to $25-or more if you can-will help this worthy cause.

The Delta Cultural Center’s mission is to preserve, interpret and present the cultural heritage of this legendary 27-county region. From its blues music to the mighty river that runs through it, the Delta story unfolds through the work of the Center. Among its landmarks is the Delta Cultural Center museum in historic downtown Helena dedicated to the history of the Arkansas Delta (for more information see the website at www.deltaculturalcenter.com) The museum interprets the history of the Delta through exhibits, educational programs, annual events and guided tours.

The Delta Cultural Center is comprised of two museum locations-the Depot and the Visitors Center. The Depot features the exhibit “A Heritage of Determination” which details the history of the Delta from its earliest inhabitants, into early settlement, through great Mississippi River floods. On the upper floor of the Depot, “Civil War in the Delta” gives visitors insight into Union occupation and the Battle of Helena.

The Visitors Center, located one block north of the Depot, features “Delta Sounds” music exhibit, a live radio studio, changing exhibit space and the Museum Store. The Delta Cultural Center is a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Helena-West Helena is the location every fall for the famous King Biscuit Blues Festival, which attracts tens upon tens of thousands of people to hear renowned musicians perform in the heartland of the Delta blues.

On a rotating basis every several months the Delta Caucus selects a good cause to encourage charitable donations to, and this fall we chose the Delta Cultural Center, which is based in Helena-West Helena but does many constructive activities all across eastern Arkansas. We encourage our partners to go on the website of Sharemeister, a new firm that finds innovative, entertaining ways to generate donations to good causes at www.Sharemeister.com and make a donation on their social giving platform.

The Delta Cultural Center Challenge will continue on through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. On the Sharemeister website, this challenge is divided into the West Delta Team, which includes such institutions as Arkansas State University, Grambling, the LSU Tigers, Arkansas Razorbacks, Missouri Tigers, UAPB, UA-Monticello, Mid-South Community College, Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas and other great institutions.

Lee Powell, Caucus director, challenged the West Delta Team to beat the East Delta team in making contributions to the Delta Cultural Center on the website, emphasizing that in comparison to the great institutions just cited in the West, all the East can muster are Ole Miss, Mississippi State, University of Memphis, Murray State University in Kentucky, Southern Illinois University, the Alabama Crimson Tide and other schools that very few people have ever heard of (smile). Powell predicts a landslide victory in this competition for the West Delta Team.

If you would like to participate in the Delta Cultural Center Challenge, go to the website at www.Sharemeister.com, then go to the Delta Cultural Center Challenge page and contribute for either the West Delta Team or the East Delta Team.

The Delta Cultural Center was one of the key hosts-along with the Helena-West Helena Advertising & Promotion Commission, Mayor Arnell Willis, Phillips County Judge Don Gentry, and many other Phillips County leaders for the Oct. 30-31 Delta Grassroots Caucus regional conference held in Helena-West Helena at the beautiful, historic former synagogue, Beth El Heritage Hall, which is administered by the Delta Cultural Center.

Sharemeister is a national company, but its CEO, Marlon Henderson, is from Jonesboro, Arkansas so they naturally have a strong interest in the Delta region.