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Mt. Zion Blues Grave Markers

Deacon Booker T. Young and
MZMF director DeWayne Moore
in front of the present day Mt.
Zion MB Church on the same site

Presented by  Blues Compassion Project     Paul Cody

Interview Below by Paul Cody, Wily Bo Walker, Composer John Dorhauer & Retired Naval Base and Submarine Commander The Captain,

Sponsored by Moon Over Indigo Album by Bluesman Wily Bo Walker

Sponsored by We Tear Down Our Coliseums Album by Heisenberg Uncertainty Players

Please consider helping mark Belton Sutherland's grave

We all Thank The Wordman Bobby Watts for these Lyrics he just wrote to help!

No  Headstone to Remember Me

inspired by the life and music of bluesman Belton Sutherland

 

Got no place to call my own
An unmarked grave my eternal home
My farewell bouquet a spray of unkempt weeds
And no headstone to remember me 
 
 'I Got Trouble' told the story of where I'd been 
and what I'd seen in my hardscrabble life
Yet it couldn't tell you all the stuff held in - 
the hopes and dreams that never saw light
 
But on those hot and sweltry Delta summer nights
you could pull up a porch chair. shut your eyes, listen close
You'd hear us sing the blues, so real, so right
from hearts that had loved and lost more than most
And now I've....
 
Got no place to call my own
An unmarked grave my eternal home
My farewell bouquet a spray of unkempt weeds
And no headstone to remember me 
 
bjw april 2017

 

WILL YOUR BLUES COMPASSION, help DeWayne Moore fund the Bentonia Blues Headstone Initiative to honor Belton Sutherland, of Camden Mississippi, a fierce and iconoclastic artist whose enthralling performance demands not only respect but honor. Help us commemorate the life and music of a true Madison County Legend.

-"When I discovered that Patton was the root of it all," recalled John Fogerty, of Creedence Clearwater Revival. "I came here to Holly Ridge last year. It was then I first put a Patton tape in my boom box and when I heard his voice, it sounded like Moses. I decided then I wanted to be a part of bringing recognition to this spot." It was through MZMF founder Skip Henderson that he learned about how Patton, like Johnson, had been buried without a headstone. "I wondered why a man so great didn't have something to mark his life on earth," Fogerty said. "His influence has gone all over the world, but his name hasn't."

Paul;   DeWayne, how many Grave Markers has the Mount Zion Fund placed to date?

DeWayne;  I believe 15 markers, but we also maintain several abandoned cemeteries which contain our markers. So its not a situation where one can throw a marker up and say Mission Accomplished. Each memorial, historical marker, or headstone comes with a commitment to the artists' descendants and the surrounding community--not to mention blues pilgrims--who depend on these sites being open and accesible.

The Captain;   DeWayne, what stirred the passion behind your efforts? Is it a love for Blues, the desire to see its historical journey memorialized or perhaps, to preserve the history and memories of the artists in your county?

DeWayne;  The music is very important, to be sure, but the exaltation of the blues into some sort of civil religion can be problematic and even lead down some dark paths. But the music is certainly a powerful force that drives our work, and each musician’s music serves as the soundtrack. The Mt. Zion Memorial Fund serves as a legal conduit to provide financial and technical support to black church communities and cemeteries facing threats from big agriculture, big business, or a hostile and often unsympathetic society. We save rural cemeteries by any means necessary--whether its erecting memorials to musicians, engaging legal remedies, or filling the vast silences about African Americans in important historical landscapes. In America, today, folks in the private sector have made it basic operating procedure to intimidate and litigate issues involving members of underprivileged communities. We have seen—along with the rise of scientific management and efficiency models—the devaluation of humanity out of mere convenience. One might even say that similar to the crossroads myth, many folks have sold their souls for a positive quarterly statement, or a Christmas bonus. I have seen entire cemeteries disappear from the face the earth, tombstones removed—all for another quarter acre of cotton or soybeans. So yes, since I have been with the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund, I have developed a much better understanding of the blues—both as an ethos and a cultural tradition that grew from African American experiences and the hardening of racial segregation that began in the 1890s. It has been a passion and a pleasure to do so. For me personally, however, it's about saving the soul of Mississippi.

Wily Bo Walker;  DeWayne; do you feel that the music industry itself could be more pro-active in adding it’s weight behind your initiative and help by supporting you in your fight against the onslaught of the threats you mention that you face? Or does it in fact help?

DeWayne;  Mr. Walker, in the very beginning our work was funded primarily by record companies and indebted popular musicians. John Fogerty of CCR and Bonnie Raitt both personally funded several markers. Columbia Records funded the initial cenotaph for Robert Johnson, and Capricorn Records funded the marker for Elmore James (see all the stories behind the markers at ). We did receive a great deal of support from music industry professionals over the years, but over time our organization experienced a nadir period. From about 2001-2012, the MZMF did not erect any new markers, which is by far the most popular aspect of the organization. It is the primary vehicle through which almost all funds for the other endeavors is attained—this includes maintenance of the markers in perpetuity. Over the years, we have had to repair markers and even replace damaged ones, such as the marker for Sam Chatmon, of the Mississippi Sheiks (). His original marker was funded through the generosity of Bonnie Raitt and John Fogerty, and the the Indianola Blues Society and the Mississippi Blues Commission—along with local people and indebted musicians—funded the replacement as well as a memorial bench. Thus, we have been very lucky in the past, but since the resurgence of our organization largely to maintain existing markers and abandoned cemeteries, we have suffered from a lack of publicity, a long absent presence on social media, and the emergence of copycat groups who adopted only the most superficial elements of our mission and lack the experience as historical professionals to provide the same level of quality research. Our fundraising since I took over in 2014 officially has been mainly at the grassroots level---the blues enthusiasts and pilgrims from elsewhere who visit these sites. A lot of tourists do not like to think about the endangered state of many rural burial grounds while on their vacations, which is understandable, and we need to do a better job of reaching out to the very people who cherish these sites and almost consider them a site of holy pilgrimage. This aspect of a civil religion can, in this sense, touch the heartstrings of individuals, and serve as an excellent fundraising tool. Our problem is exposure. We need to do better at letting the public know about our past projects, continuing commitment to those markers, and our new endeavors, which are by the most exciting and attractive to potential sponsors.

The folks who refuse to help promote our organization have no problem promoting their own sites and pages with our markers, however. Lots of folks and social media promotional groups regularly use our markers to promote tourism in the state, but they have no concern for helping the very organization responsible for their existence and ensuring these sites are remain clean and accessible to the public.

John Dorhauer;  What do you think is the most important aspect of ( The Father Of The Blues ) Mr. WC. Handy's music for today's musicians to learn about?

DeWayne;  Even though Handy did not use his music as a vehicle for overt social change, he held an acute disdain for racial discrimination. Having been ridiculed during his travels through the South, Handy began running a “bootleg business” distributing black periodicals, such as the Indianapolis Freeman, Chicago Defender, and Voice of the Negro newspapers, in southern locales that considered it a grievous offense, which demonstrated his willingness to risk his own life to encourage African Americans to take part in the Great Migration, educate themselves about trauma of dejure segregation and the insidious nature of defacto segregation, and take an active role in the resistance to inequality.

Paul;  DeWayne, what is the Mission of the Mount Zion Memorial Fund?

DeWayne; While I pretty much explained our mission in an earlier question, I would like to emphasize that the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund goes much farther than honoring the blues. We do not limit our scope to only blues musicians. We repair the markers of non-musicians and care for all the graves surrounding our markers if needed. We have also served as historical consultants on legal issues related to cemetery access and desecration. If anyone has a problem accessing the graves of their ancestors or protecting an older cemetery, we want to help. We need to know about to be able to help. While I scan the news for potential problems with cemeteries and approach the caretakers all the time, I can’t know about it all. So we encourage folks to send us information on potential problems and point those in need of help our way. Our mission, plainly, is to protect endangered cemeteries by any means necessary. I am a historian by profession, who will receive his PhD in December. I can help. I have helped. And I will continue to do everything in my power to extend our scope well outside of the blues…

Paul;  What are you most proud of having accomplished since you took over in 2014

De Wayne; Well, In early 2016, I had been charged with the monumental task of digging up every bit of historical information ever published and previously unavailable on Memphis musician Frank Stokes, locating his unmarked grave in the very large and abandoned Hollywood Cemetery, commissioning a fitting grave marker to adorn his final resting place on behalf of two popular individuals who wished at the time (and still do until further notice) to remain anonymous, and organizing its dedication services at the end of June. I was fortunate enough to get Memphis author Robert Gordon, legendary photographer Dick Waterman, and Stokes' grandson Nathaniel Kent to speak at the dedication--which made the sweltering heat of the day bearable and the unveiling of the monument much more "fitting." The personal stories of his grandson and Mr. Waterman made it more special indeed, but the surprise appearance of Stokes' 96 year-old daughter, Helen Kent, made it almost perfect. Stokes’ other grandson, Sergeant Major Carlton W. Kent, of the Unites States Marine Corps, pulled up in his vehicle and told me: “I have someone who wants to speak with you.” In the passenger seat of his vehicle sat the elderly daughter of Frank Stokes, and I readily leaned over with my ear to the side, and she quietly relayed, “Thank you for remembering my father and giving him the respect he deserves. We did not always know and I thought a lot of folks forgot about him…then Nathan told me about this.” I then turned my head to look at her and a smile came across her face as she gently tapped my hand approvingly, giving me the cue to begin the ceremony. I looked back at the Sergeant Major, who, having completed his mission, now wore a big smile and extended his hand. We shook hands. I thanked him. And we went forward with the ceremony. Being able to do that for her will stay with me all my life…

Paul;  Besides Tweeting this Interview to all their Followers and Sharing with Friends on   Facebook, how can people Donate and Support the Belton Sutherland and other MZMF efforts?

DeWayne; Our website—http://www.mtzionmemorialfund.org —has a donate page and a paypal option to make it easy for donors. For those who enjoy the GoFundMe platform, we have two current campaigns right now for our Headstone Blues Initiatives; one for Belton Sutherland, http://www.gofundme.com/headstonebluesinitiative … - and another for Bo Carter, of the Mississippi Sheiks, http://www.gofundme.com/chatmongraves  We also need likes on our Facebook page, and we need folks to invite their friends to like our page at http://www.facebook.com/blackandbluescemeteries/ … We also need followers for our Instagram account, which features unique historical content you will not find anywhere else - https://www.instagram.com/mtzionmemorialfund/ …

P.S. Paul,  I asked the people who offered to Share this Interview with all their Followers and Friends,  WHY DO YOU LOVE THE BLUES? here are their answers and Link

"I found the Blues in my 20's... I find Blues is a very honest genre of music. You don't have to be anything but yourself... express all.." Donna Jo @DonnaJoMusic

" What's not to love??!!!  Blues and soul are closely akin to Country music.. and I'm from Nashville. I dabble in all genres when I can!  Bryce Hitchcock

"I love the blues because you can take it in so many directions, affording endless possibilities for creative expression." Compposer   John Dorhauer

 
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