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.

Delta Conference Set Oct. 30-31, 2014 in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

Posted on July 23, 2014 at 01:23 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus will hold its fall regional economic development conference in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas on Oct. 30-31, 2014.

We will have grassroots leaders from all eight states on job creation, economic recovery, and women and children’s special issues. The two nominees from both parties in the governor’s race, Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson, have already confirmed that they will speak, and we are inviting US Sen. Mark Pryor, US Rep. Tom Cotton, as well as the First District candidates in Rep. Rick Crawford and Heber Springs Mayor Jackie McPherson.

We are inviting the two candidates in the nationally watched US Senate race in Mississippi, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and former Congressman Travis Childers (D-MS). They may need to speak by live call-in since the event is just across the river from the state of Mississippi but not quite on Mississippi soil, but the call-ins have worked well in the past.

Helena is of course just across the river from Mississippi and easily accessible from Clarksdale, Cleveland, Greenville, Tunica and many other Mississippi locations, so we expect a strong turnout from Mississippi partners.

By late October, four and a half months will have passed since the June 12-13 Delta conference at the Clinton Library, so new issues will have arisen by then and we will also update issues that were covered at the earlier conference.

We hold two major regional conferences each year in the spring and fall, as well as daily communications by email, phone, website postings and smaller meetings.

Helena-West Helena is a historic Delta community is located in the center of region and involves less travel time and expense than alternative locations that were considered. We expect a strong turnout due to the convenient and inexpensive location.

Historic City of Helena-West Helena:

In Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain praised Helena as “one of the prettiest situations on the Mississippi.”

In the 1880s when he was writing that famous work, he reported that Helena was the second largest city in Arkansas and was “the commercial centre of a broad and prosperous region,” not only in the bustling cotton trade but also in oil mills, machine shops, wagon factories, and major investments in “manufacturing industires.” The community’s gross receipts of money, annually, from all sources, Twain wrote, are placed by the New Orleans Times-Democrat at four million dollars–a very high figure for a Southern town of that era.

Unfortunately, Helena-West Helena has encountered much more difficult times in her recent history, but there are signs of a comeback today from many new initiatives and we will hear from many of them in October.

Delta Heritage tourism is one of the sources of hope for a brighter future, and Helena-West Helena is certainly a leader on that front.

One example is the King Biscuit Blues Festival, which over three days in early October this year is expected to attract between 50,000 and 100,000 blues enthusiasts from all over the country and the world.

We seriously considered convening in the great city of New Orleans and will consider doing so in the future, but the greater travel time and expense of meeting there for the great majority of our partners led to the decision for the more centrally located city of Helena-West Helena.

Thanks a million to Helena-West Helenacommunity leaders–The meeting place is the historic and beautiful former synagogue now called Beth El Heritage Hall, which is administered by the Delta Cultural Center, whose director Katie Harrington will be working with us for this event.

We would like to thank Ms. Harrington and many other Phillips County leaders for their interest in and great help in many essential ways for this conference, including Mayor Arnell Willis, Ernest Cunningham, Cathy Cunningham, Delta Caucus senior adviser Kevin Smith, Phillips County Judge Don Gentry and many others.


Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 from the late afternoon about 4:30 p.m until approximately 7:45 p.m.

This is an important substantive session with important speakers and it is NOT a reception. There will be some light food, although most people have dinner at one of the local restaurants when the opening session ends at about 7:40 or so.

Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, from 8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Lunch will be served in the Beth El Heritage Hall meeting room.


You register by paying the registration fees and there is no registration form to eliminate unnecessary paperwork.

Registration is $100 for those who have not paid your annual membership dues, and $75 each for those who have paid their annual membership dues.

Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

For people who live in Helena-West Helena and have to work for much of the conference but can come to parts of the conference in the evening session on Thursday and the luncheon on Friday, we will pro-rate the registration fees to a smaller amount based on how long they will be there. We have many different operating expenses and the registration fees are an essential part of our budget.

For people who are traveling from some distance, they of course will be there for the whole two-day conference and will pay the full registration fees.


We had major problems at the June 12-13 Delta conference in Little Rock with people sending in their registration fees late; in fact, some people have still not paid their registrations for a conference they attended over a month ago.

This causes problems for us and is not fair to the great majority of people who do pay at a reasonable time.

The late registration fees are the only incentive we have to get people to send in the registration fees at some reasonable time.

Registration fees are a key part of our entire annual budget and we could not operate without them. We are a private sector organization and do not receive government funding but are strictly funded by private contributions in registrations and a few sponsorships.


Best Western Inn: Please call the hotel at (870) 572-2592 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group to get the lower group discount rate ranging from $78 to $85 depending on the size room you request for the nights of Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. Many people just stay the one night of Oct. 30.

The lower group rate ends on Thursday, Oct. 9, so please make your reservation by Oct. 9.

THE EDWARDIAN INN: This is an elegant bed and breakfast in Helena-West Helena, set in a stately home built by a wealthy Helena cotton trader in 1904. Please call the Edwardian Inn at (870) 338-9155 and say you are with the Delta Caucus to get the lower rate of $83 for Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. Many people will just stay the one night of Oct. 30. We have a bloc of 10 rooms.

You will need to reserve your rooms at the Edwardian Inn by Oct. 15. After that they will probably not be available at all, and if so it would not be for the lower group rate.


While we certainly want to get an update from the candidates in the vital races for US Senate, governor, and US House in the First District, we will have only five or six political speakers as opposed to the unprecedented large number of 12 major political leaders at the Clinton Library conference on June 12-13; this means we will have more time for grassroots leaders.

The time pressure is always heavy and we emphasize a series of short presentations.

We would like to thank the gubernatorial campaigns of Republican nominee Asa Hutchinson and Democratic nominee Mike Ross for confirming that they will speak on Oct. 31 at such an early date.

We will keep you posted on other key speakers as they confirm.

Job creation and retention, workforce development, transportation improvements to create jobs and repair our deteriorating infrastructure, broadband access expansion, Delta heritage tourism, USDA programs for nutrition, agriculture and rural development, and health care for underserved areas will be among the key issues.

Disturbing high poverty rates for women and children in the Delta: The reasons for devoting special attention to women and children’s issues are that poverty rates in our region are alarmingly high for women–especially single mothers heading households–and children, especially African American and Hispanic children. Nationwide, single mothers have poverty rates of approximately 30%, while African American children have poverty rates of about 40% and Hispanic children of about 30%.

These disturbingly high national figures are especially bad news for the Greater Delta Region, with our highly diverse population including many African Americans, a growing number of Hispanics, and the percentage of single mothers heading households is 34% higher than the national average. The regional poverty rate is about 55% higher than the national average.

Overall, since the War On Poverty began 50 years ago, poverty rates for the entire population have declined from the abysmally high 26% in the mid-1960s to about 15% today, with the range in poverty rates fluctuating in the range from 11% to 15% over the decades after the major initiatives like Medicare, Medicaid, expansion of SNAP and other major nutrition programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit began.

Poverty rates for senior citizens fell from an alarmingly high 36%–despite the important and essential benefits from Social Security–in 1959 to just 9% today, with greatly reduced medical bills due to Medicare and Medicaid accounting for a substantial amount of the improvement.

We will have distinguished speakers on women and children’s issues at the Oct. 30-31 Delta conference. We are of course concerned about poverty for all segments of the population, but the facts that women and children have such disproportionately high poverty rates leads us to devote special attention to their issues, including:

We will have distinguished speakers on women and children’s issues at the Oct. 30-31 Delta conference. We are of course concerned about poverty for all segments of the population, but the facts that women and children have such disproportionately high poverty rates leads us to devote special attention to their issues, including:

Key data on constructive economic impact of women in the workplace:

In her recent book, Hard Choices, Secretary Hillary Clinton cites some key national data on the economic impact that results from having women participate more in the economy: in the early 1970s, American women held 37% of all jobs in the USA, and by 2009 that figure had risen to 47%. The productivity gains as a result of that increase accounted for more than $3.5 trillion in Gross Domestic Product over four decades.

Secretary Clinton had an especially interesting assessment based on her experience as Secretary of State: “It was no coincidence that the places where women’s lives were most undervalued largely lined up with the parts of the world most plagued by instability, conflict, extremism, and poverty.”

We will invite leaders of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings initiative for women and girls in the Delta and across the globe to participate at the conference.

We encourage our partners to send us regional data on women and children’s subjects. Among the issues that are especially important for women and children are:

–WIC, school meals, and SNAP are all very important for women and children. WIC is underfunded, SNAP is under attack from critics who do not understand its tremendous importance. An alarmingly high percentage of people on SNAP are children–at least 40% and some estimates are more like 50%. Efforts to improve nutritional quality of school meals are under attack in some quarters.

–Health care issues for women and children–clearly the private option in Arkansas is helpful for low-income women and children. The majority of our partners support that. We would like to hear about other top priorities for women and children’s health.

–Early childhood development. In the Delta we have many children who start out way behind when they are five or six years old and they don’t catch up throughout their life times.

–Equal pay for equal work for women. We hear some of our leaders say that they are absolutely for equal pay, but want to just leave it up to employers to do the right thing without any legislation backing it up. Women still make about three fourths of what men do, on average. The approach of leaving it strictly to the decision of employers would mean that some employers will never change their policies.

–Minimum wage–many women work at minimum wages or jobs such as bartenders and waiters who depend on tips; a raise in the minimum wage is a very important issue in this context.

–Encouraging more women in positions of small business ownership–how can this be done?

–Encouraging more leadership positions for women in corporations, foundations and elected office. At the recent conference at the Clinton Library all 10 of the major candidates for governor and Congress were men.

–Women are much more vulnerable to assault. Martha Ellen Black, executive director of the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center in southeast Missouri, and other of our women leaders have a great deal of expertise in this area.

–Giving birth to healthier babies: a recent front-page article in the Washington Post cite an “extraordinary” improvement in lower income women giving birth to healthier babies; among the reasons for the improvement were SNAP (food stamps), WIC (Women, Infants and Children nutrition program), greater nutrition education, declining rates of smoking, environmental regulations that reduce pollution, and in some areas policies that give authorities less discretion in deciding when to prosecute men accused of domestic violence. (“Among Poor Women, a Big Gain: Babies Are Healthier,” by Zachary Goldfarb, Washington Post, A1, July 21, 2014)

–We’re concerned about all women, of course, and there are plenty of struggling white women in the region, but it’s also true that poverty for minority women is even worse. **What can we do to address the special issues regarding minority women? This is not just African Americans, because we have a growing number of Hispanics in the region, as well as Asian Americans and Native Americans in some areas.

–Education and workforce development are always crucial for all our folks. What are some special needs of women and children and what initiatives would we recommend–this of course is a huge subject and we need to come up with some specific and realistic recommendations.

We look forward to convening in the historic community of Helena-West Helena on Oct. 30-31, 2014.