The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Western Kentucky Column about the Delta Grassroots Caucus

Posted on February 17, 2008 at 01:18 PM

This is a column about the Delta Grassroots Caucus published in the Murray Ledger & Times newspaper in western Kentucky by Constance Alexander, who has been a weekly columnist at the Murray (Ky) Ledger &Times for nineteen years. Her work has been recognized for excellence by the Kentucky Press Assocation, the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, the Benton Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2000, she was tapped for a New Media Fellowship at the Newspaper Assocation of America. A freelancer, she is an award-winning poet, playwright and fiction writer.

We were glad to have a good contingent from western Kentucky at the recent annual conference in Arkansas, including Becky Watts, deputy to MSU President Randy Dunn, Patrick Powell, Director of the Western Region Innovation and Commercialization Center at MSU, and others. We had representatives from all eight states of the region plus a number of partners from the Washington, DC area at the Jan. 30-31, 2008 conference. Thanks–Lee Powell, MDGC

“Still a long way to go”

By Constance Alexander

Upon discovering I was from Murray, the first person I met at the annual conference of the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus beamed with enthusiasm. “I’ve gone to schools all over,” she declared, “and I have to tell you that the most student-centered, friendly campus I’ve ever been to is Murray State.”

The woman, Martha Black, earned a graduate degree in Special Education at MSU in the mid-1980’s and she is still singing its praises. Others at the gathering in Little Rock, Arkansas, also chimed in with comments about our town and the university, mentioning the recent basketball game broadcast on ESPN.

“Racers, right?” asked one young man, a graduate student at University of Arkansas/Clinton School of Public Service. “What a great game!”

The scope of the January 30-31 conference stretched beyond Murray to include Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, parts of Alabama, west Tennessee, western Kentucky, southeast Missouri and southern Illinois. The focus was economic development, and the jam-packed agenda addressed issues and challenges facing the Delta region today and in the future.

Speakers and panelists included corporate executives and Washington, D.C., operatives, as well as elected officials, university administrators, community organizers and program officers from a range of non-profits. The common ground they share is the stark reality that the Mississippi Delta region has a poverty rate fifty-five per cent higher than the rest of the nation, a plight as dire and entrenched as that of Appalachia.

As various presentations and discussions addressed issues related to poverty, informal consensus for action planning emerged:

–Continuing to work together and maintaining a we-can-do-it attitude provides a solid foundation for improvements and innovations in the Delta. A bi-partisan coalition of support, and funding of $30 million for the Delta Regional Authority, is also crucial.

–Being proactive is essential, particularly in areas like health care and infrastructure. Housing needs and transportation also demand initiative, with sub-prime loans and the current economic downturn presenting problems of immediate concern.

–Thinking outside the proverbial box and taking holistic approaches is advised as the region and the communities within it continue to develop and implement economic development strategies.

–Developing and promoting education as a process of lifelong learning, from pre-Kindergarten to post retirement.

–Taking charge of change through innovation, creativity and technology. Moreover, the importance of broadband cannot be ignored, as entrepreneurship relies on access.

–Making strides in energy independence, including alternative fuels, and sustainable and renewable fuels.

Panelists from Murray who offered insights into our region’s approaches to these issues included Becky Watts, deputy to MSU President Randy Dunn, and Patrick Powell, Director of the Western Region Innovation and Commercialization Center at MSU. Ms. Watts talked about the university’s role in developing a well-educated and well-trained workforce, and Mr. Powell moderated a panel on job creation and economic competitiveness in an increasingly complex, worldwide economy.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe also addressed the group and lauded the work being done on behalf of the Delta Region. In addition, representatives of some presidential hopefuls spoke on behalf of candidates: Gov. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama. Former president Bill Clinton welcomed the group to the Clinton Library via speakerphone and also mentioned various Delta initiatives that have yielded positive results.

In spite of bad weather and reports of impending snow and freezing rain, many of the 150 or so participants stayed to the end of the conference, energized by their commitment to ensure a positive future for the Delta region. “We’re halfway home but we still have a long way to go,” one of them remarked.

For more information about the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus, log on to Information about MSU’s Regional Business and Innovation Center is available at

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Story created Feb 06, 2008 - 12:13:30 EST.