President’s Message

Mable Starks

Mable Starks

Mississippi Action for Community Education, Inc. (MACE) is a non-profit, rural development organization created by community leaders in 1967 to stimulate physical, social, and economic development in the rural Mississippi Delta.

MACE’s roots are in the Civil Rights Movement. MACE’s founding board members included such stalwarts of the movement as Unita Blackwell, Fannie Lou Hamer, Amzie Moore and Annie Devine. These were all giants of the movement, living legends at that time.

Some people know about MACE only through the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival (MDBHF); however, we would like to take the opportunity to note that the festival is just a fraction of what MACE contributes to the economy of this region. MACE operates a Families First Resource Center which works with Head Start centers, public schools and social service providers to deliver educational information on abstinence, fatherhood and effective parenting. MACE operates an SBA Women’s Business Center providing support to would-be entrepreneurs. We have a homeownership counseling program working to help people avoid foreclosure. We have a tobacco prevention program working with teenagers throughout the area to prevent tobacco addiction and related health problems. We have developed over 350 units of affordable housing in a region that desperately needs it. We also operate a YouthBuild program which is helping at-risk youth work towards their GEDs and develop job and life skills to increase their odds of being productive members of society. MACE also is continuing its work from past years of providing training to elected officials and leadership development training to young emerging leaders.

As we begin to prepare for the 37th Annual Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival, it is a good time to reflect on its history. Very early in its history, MACE learned that beyond the problems of race and poverty, there exists in southern, rural communities the broader, structural problem of underdevelopment; that for genuine community development to occur, the prerequisite human and organizational capacities must first be developed. MACE started an Eco-tourism project in 1978 called The Delta Arts Project. The concept was to trigger economic development through tourism by marketing the region’s cultural arts assets. MACE began to develop cultural programming to promote the history and preservation of the music known as the Mississippi Delta Blues. MACE recognized the need to increase knowledge of the contributions of rural African Americans of the Mississippi Delta to this important cultural phenomenon. MACE has significantly increased knowledge of and pride in the blues as a distinctive form of Mississippi’s arts and culture.

This project started the Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival which is now the oldest existing Blues festival in the world. When the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival began in 1978, it was the only major festival of its kind in the south. The MDBHF was more of a community gathering than a concert. While the festival has grown in size and has taken on more of a professional demeanor, it is still a community-based event. Participants in the festival have included most of the country’s most famous blues performers and emerging talents. This Festival is in its 37th year of production and contributes over $1 million annually to the area’s economy. While the festival has declined in the number of attendees over the years, the flame of community spirit that began this event is still alive. With increased support from the community and by working harder and smarter to market the festival we believe that this event can get back to the greater level of economic and community engagement that we saw in the past. We are looking forward to ensuring that the festival’s best years are yet to come! We hope to see you all at the 37th Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival on September 16, 2017!

Mable Starks
President & CEO