Building Community Through the Arts in the Heart of the Delta
From GRIOT ARTS PRESS RELEASE
by Julian Gallo
The documentary “Griot Grit: Cultivating Community Through the Arts” tells the story of the special partnership between a group of dedicated teachers and students who spread hope in the Mississippi Delta by cultivating the arts and a sense of community in an after-school program called Griot Arts. Inspired by the Griots of West Africa, they impart love and respect for the music and culture of Clarksdale, while nurturing a sense of responsibility for carrying on tradition and forging new ways of strengthening civic bonds. Together they embody Griot grit.
“Mississippi is this complex braid of people, race, religion, land, love, hate, smells, sounds,
art, culture, fish tales and sordid truths and out of that can come so many incredible stories of
hope, resilience and strength – “Griot Grit” is one of them,” said filmmaker Erickson “EB” Blakney.
“The film is a tribute to some great work that’s being done in the Delta,” said writer and director
Dr. Lee Quinby. She added, “The idea for the program came from a wonderful woman named Cali Larson Noland, who fresh with a degree from the University of Mississippi, wanted to give back to the
community that raised her.”
“I hope that Griot will continue to be a light to dark places in Clarksdale and the Delta. There is
so much negativity, but I have seen so much beauty over the last 8 years. I pray it continues to be
a bridge for disparate sectors of our small town,” said Noland of the organization she founded.
Noland said she learned the importance of acting on a dream by launching a nonprofit youth
development organization. “Don’t be afraid to be a dreamer. God gives us ideas and inspiration and he wants us to trust him as we walk in faith day by day.”
University of Mississippi journalism and multimedia instructor Ji Hoon Heo served as director of
cinematography and editor on the film.
And for anyone looking for a smart cup of coffee, Sunflower Avenue is the place to be because
Griot’s job-training component is the Meraki coffee roaster and café! These young folks make a
serious cup of java!
Griot will be hosting a screening to debut the documentary at Meraki Roasting Company on
March 21st at 5:30 pm. “Griot Grit” will then premiere Friday, March 22 at 9.30 p.m. CST on
Mississippi Public Broadcasting television. The documentary airs again on MPB TV March 24 at
2 p.m and March 26 at 10 p.m.
“Griot Grit” is the latest work from the True Delta Project, founded by Quinby and Erickson Blakney. The inception of the Project is a 37 minute documentary film entitled “True Delta” (2012), a Lucky Find Production directed by Dr. Quinby and Daniel Cowen which focuses on aging blues musicians, educators, business leaders, and Delta Blues Museum members who are working to “keep the blues alive.” “Howl-N-Madd” (2014) is the second documentary for the True Delta Project. MPB aired two other tribute documentaries focusing on community programs in the Delta. “From the Crossroads to the White House” and “Enriching Destiny” are available for viewing at PBS.Org. The soundtrack of “Enriching Destiny” features artist and award-winning Delta Blues musician James “Super Chikan” Johnson.
The documentary “Griot Grit” shows how the arts have a special energy that creates a
sense of community in the Delta by way of collaboration. Watch the film Friday, March 22 at 9.30 p.m. on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television. The film will then be available for viewing online at www.mpbonline.org.
About the Filmmakers
Lee Quinby, founder of Lucky Find Productions, and co-founder with Erickson Blakney of the True
Delta Project, is an award-winning filmmaker and American Studies scholar. She has
written and edited seven books on issues surrounding apocalyptic belief and sexuality
and gender in American culture. She received her Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1984, taught at
Hobart and William Smith Colleges for 23 years, held the Gannett Chair on the Millennium at the
Rochester Institute of Technology, the inaugural Zicklin Chair at Brooklyn Colleges and for six
years was Distinguished Lecturer at Macaulay Honors College, CUNY until her retirement from teaching in 2014.
Ji Hoon Heo teaches journalism innovation, web development and social media at the University of
Mississippi. He is also a graduate of the school where he earned a Master of Arts degree in journalism. Ji is an FAA certified drone pilot and regularly utilizes new technology, such as drones, virtual reality, and data journalism in his courses. A member of National Press Photographers Association, Ji has published work in TED, the Huffington Post, and on MPB.
Erickson “EB” Blakney is an award-winning writer and reporter having worked for WOR Radio,
Bloomberg and CBS News. A Hobart College graduate, EB and Lee Quinby joined forces in 2010 to
launch the True Delta Project, which produces award-winning documentaries about the
Mississippi Delta. He currently works for the Pinkerton Foundation and CBS News in New York City.
For the last twelve years, he has been a board member of the DreamYard Project, a social justice
and arts education program in the Bronx. EB plays a similar role on the board of The Clarksdale Animal Rescue Effort and Shelter (C.A.R.E.S), a no-kill rescue, adoption and
educational organization in the Mississippi Delta.
CONTACT: LEE QUINBY LEEQUINBY@AOL.COM +1 646.602.6062