There is no place like the Mississippi Delta.
I decided to return home to invest in my community after traveling to other parts of the country for my career as a respiratory therapist. My goal is to support small businesses while also providing opportunities for artists and musicians so they don’t have to leave home to fulfill their dreams.
As a Black entrepreneur and the owner of Clarksdale’s Delta Blues Alley Café and founder of the Birthplace of American Music Festival (BAM Fest), I want to encourage you to patronize local businesses and uplift our culture. Dollars spent at Black-owned and small businesses instill our communities with pride and strengthen our families.
I may be biased because our signature music is the blues, but listening to it is pure joy. Blues music is our heritage, our heartbeat. It is also a tourism attraction and an economic generator for the Delta. I encourage Mississippians to learn more about our cultural backgrounds and support members of our community who keep the history alive.
The Delta Blues Alley Cafe provides local talent a place to perform and the community a venue for entertainment. Since opening a decade ago, we have expanded the kitchen to offer food and beverages for customers. We appreciate the community’s support and look forward to fostering new and established artists for years to come as we continue to help strengthen the Delta’s economy.
The Birth of BAM Fest
BAM Fest started three years ago as an event for helping small businesses during long summer days while giving locals something fun to do while attracting tourists to the Delta. The event coincides with Juneteenth to recognize the Black community and its influence on blues and jazz music. It is an inclusive celebration of Afro-centric vibes for everyone. This year, BAM Fest doubled in size with more than 10 venues and 40 entertainers.
To truly appreciate the Delta blues, one must understand its history. Music served as an escape and form of expression for early Black communities. The ability of music to act as a binding factor provides the culture with a strong sense of connectivity. Today, we want to use music to unify people and promote Mississippi’s unique culture.
The success of the BAM Fest has encouraged Delta leaders to support the Crossroads Blues, Brews, and BBQ Festival founded earlier this year. The festival showcases a delicious BBQ competition and local musicians for a family-friendly event. These events lay a foundation for future generations to invest in our community, cultivating opportunities for Mississippians across the state.
The Future of the Mississippi Delta
While we are excited about the future of the Delta, we can’t ignore how hard the pandemic hit the entertainment sector. Musicians and business owners struggle to stay afloat, especially as we’ve had to temper hopeful expectations for the fall due to the COVID surge. Our community is committed to offering safe ways to support the Delta’s small businesses and artists, but we rely on your participation to make this happen.
One way we’ve been able to ensure the safety of our community is by offering new ways to support our business through social media. To keep our community updated about what we’re up to, we started using Facebook’s events tool to share details and gauge participation in our events. We also set up Facebook events to remind the community about upcoming live blues and jazz music in the Delta.
Here’s a suggestion: When you visit a local business or event, double down on your investment by sharing your positive experiences on social media. Capture the moment. It’s not self-promoting for you; it’s free advertising for us! When you dine at a local restaurant, tag the location in your Facebook or Instagram posts. With social media, everyone has an influential tool in the palm of their hands, so use your influence for good.
Kids may be the ones back in the classroom, but we invite adults to take a field trip to our music clubs for an educational experience like no other. As a result, you’ll be doing your part to learn about our region’s roots and ensure that everything we have planted keeps growing for years to come.
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to [email protected]. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.