Today we're proud to announce a new monthly series in partnership with the Southern Documentary Project, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. We'll be sharing some of our favorite films from SouthDocs that speak to the variety of cultural experience and identity in Mississippi today.
SouthDocs filmmaker Rex Jones introduces the series:
Mississippi Stories emerged from the belief of the Southern Documentary Project that Mississippians should tell their own stories. SouthDocs Director Andy Harper and I envisioned the series as a collection of first-person "visual oral histories" that capture the essence of the subjects in their own words. These short films document a moment in time for rural communities in which cultural practices are changing, and perhaps disappearing. Mississippi Folklife Online provides fertile ground for the cultivation of this collection of short portrait films.
Our first featured film is Rex Jones' A TIME TO ALL THINGS about three rural African-American churches in the Mississippi Delta struggling to survive the tide of the region's demographic shifts. Lockalonia, Johnson Chapel, and Samuel Chapel M.B. churches in the Greenwood area remain steadfast in the wake of an aging population and youthful outmigration.
Rex writes, "I have a particular interest in this subject since I own the oldest church in Newton County, Mississippi. Having grown up attending segregated church services, like most people, I had also always been curious about the African-American worship experience. The people of these congregations welcomed me warmly, and I was so moved by their services at times that I forgot why I was there in the first place."