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Anthology holds publication celebration led by College of Liberal Arts professor, director

Dr. Susan Roach, who holds the Mildred Saunders Adams Endowed Professorship in English and serves as director of the School of Literature and Language at Louisiana Tech University, has curated the kickoff event Oct. 1 in Monroe for the statewide Louisiana Folklife Month declared by the Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne to recognize the rich diversity of Louisiana’s folk traditions.

Part of the Downtown Gallery Crawl, the celebration of the online publication of “Delta Pieces: Northeast Louisiana Folklife” will run from 5-9 p.m. at The Palace, 220 Desiard Street in downtown Monroe. Delta music, storytelling and an exhibition of folklife photographs from the collection of the Masur Museum of Art will be featured at the event.

“Delta Pieces: Northeast Louisiana Folklife” is a virtual anthology that includes 68 interactive essays illustrated with photographs and recordings, with 19 of the essays authored by Roach, who also served as editor with Maida Owens.

“Our celebration of our recently published anthology will feature some of the Delta Pieces stars who will provide informative entertainment throughout the evening,” Roach said. “Special presentations and recognition of the contributors and folk artists are planned for 7 p.m.”

The program includes Kenny Bill Stinson, a native of northeast Louisiana and a full-time musician, singer, and songwriter, performing rockabilly and blues; the Convention Specials Quartet, from Monroe, led by Albert Jackson, with Johnny White, Lee Jenkins, and Anthony Lee singing old-style gospel quartet; and Annie Staten, of Monroe, a traditional storyteller and community scholar, telling stories about river baptism and her experiences with the Delta Folklife Field School.

The exhibition of 28 black and white documentary photographs taken during Delta Folklife Project, Louisiana Delta Folklife Traditions, was curated by Roach in 1996 for a special folklife exhibit at the Masur Museum of Art. The exhibition features photographs by Ellen Blue, Marcy Frantom, Sylvia Frantom, Peter Jones, Stefan Keydel, Mike Luster, Maida Owens, Stephanie Pierrotti and Susan Roach. Subjects range from occupational photographs of the Ole Dutch Bakery in Lake Providence and river fishing to religious events such as river baptism, Easter Rock, and the Convention Specials Quartet.

“Delta Pieces” is the compilation of research conducted over 20 years by a team of researchers and community scholars coordinated by Susan Roach at Louisiana Tech and Maida Owens with the Louisiana Folklife Program in Baton Rouge. Hundreds of tradition bearers are featured in the essays with photographs, audio and video. Together these essays offer a view of 12 northeast Louisiana parishes running south down the Mississippi River from the Arkansas state line though Concordia Parish. The essays include regional ethnographic descriptions and history, ethnic groups, and various folklore genres centered on working, homemaking, worshiping, making music, playing, and telling stories in the Delta.

Special pieces focus on “Delta Folks”—biographical profiles of Delta tradition bearers, such as Judge Alwine Ragland, the first female judge in the state; Ike Hamilton, auctioneer; Oren Russell, riverboat captain; Penola Caesar, gospel singer; Hilton Lytle, instrument builder; Laymon Godwin, pedal steel master; and M. J. Varino, Italian sausage maker.

The website was partially funded by a grant from the National Park Service through the Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative grant to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development/Division of the Arts.

Written by Judith Roberts – jroberts@latech.edu