Diarist to a President and Blues-based performer to headline Del - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Diarist to a President and Blues-based performer to headline Delta Symposium XXIV

Janis Kearney is the former diarist of President Bill Clinton. (Source: Arkansas State University) Janis Kearney is the former diarist of President Bill Clinton. (Source: Arkansas State University)
Blues-based performance poet Arthur Flowers will speak at Arkansas State. (Source: Arkansas State University) Blues-based performance poet Arthur Flowers will speak at Arkansas State. (Source: Arkansas State University)
Dr. Gregory Hansen previewed presentors for Delta Symposium XXIV. (Source: KAIT-TV) Dr. Gregory Hansen previewed presentors for Delta Symposium XXIV. (Source: KAIT-TV)
JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -

Janis F. Kearney, former writer-in-residence at Arkansas State, returns to the university as the keynote speaker for the Department of English, Philosophy and World Languages.

She was hired to be the first Presidential diarist in U.S. history.

"It was her job to keep notes on the President's daily activities for the written record and so she knows the Clintons very well," Dr. Gregory Hansen, professor of English and Folklore at Arkansas State University, said. "Her papers are in the archives and appear in all kinds of official publications. She's carried on her own work with that kind of writing and has contributed to the national dialogue."

Now, Kearney has a new project she is focusing on and will discuss Thursday, April 12 at 1:15 p.m. in the Mockingbird room of the Carl R. Reng Student Union.

"It involves the Maya Angelou project," Dr. Hansen said. "There's some really fascinating parts of her amazing talent and just incredible diversity with what she was able to do. We're trying to do a project in Arkansas to celebrate her legacy. Janis is one of the ones working to spearhead that along."

The Delta Symposium XXIV begins Wednesday, April 11 with a welcome and proclamation from the city of Jonesboro Mayor's Office and Arkansas State University Chancellor Kelly Damphousse. The symposium continues through Saturday, April 14.

"As part of the symposium, we bring in keynote speakers," Dr. Hansen said. "We also try to have students and people in the community to interact with literacy artists."

Blues-based performance poet Arthur Flowers will give a featured performance, “Hoodoo Lords of the Delta: Practice, Pedagogy, and Prophecy,” on April 13.  His presentation starts at 11 a.m. Flowers, a native of Memphis, is an associate professor of English and creative writing in the master of fine arts program at Syracuse University in New York, where he conducts fiction workshops and teaches courses in global storytelling, fable and magical realism, African American literature, and the literary blues.

"He's a major writer. He's from the Delta originally," Dr. Hansen said. "From Memphis, spent a lot of time coming up through that area. He's written a lot of creative writing on that and he's going to do. He's going to do a performance poetry based on his newest book that looks at the old folk tales based on Brer Rabbit and all that. He ties it in towards music and drama and all that."

Flowers is a founding member and director of New Renaissance Writers Guild in New York City, the multinational Pan African Literary Forum, and The Griot Shop in Memphis and has served as executive director of the Harlem Writers Guild.  His accolades include a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Fiction and a New York State Council of the Arts Literary Fellowship.

"He's a wonderful engaging performer and a big part of that event on Friday. He'll be involved in a chance to meet people throughout the event," Dr. Hansen said. "One thing that we want to mention is that the event is free and open to the public. I think it's a really important event for merging town and gown," Dr. Hansen explained. "It's an open conference and people can just show up. It's not something that requires pre-registration or all of that. We want to encourage anyone that it's free and to come on in and talk with the musicians, artists, and writers."

The English Department at Arkansas State has partnered with the radio station, KASU, which produces the Arkansas Roots Music Festival on Sat., April 14.

"It's fun to put that together because we spotlight some of the local musicians, but we also bring in musicians that are performing music in the style of the Delta and we've got some things that are just unique to little families," Dr. Hansen said. "The Rising Star Fife and Drum band is just exceptional. It's one of the few that is doing that anywhere on earth and its based right in the Delta." 

To learn more about Delta Symposium XXIV, go to the event's website

Copyright 2018 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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