Mississippi: Celebrating Storytellers

“CELEBRATING STORYTELLERS” is a collection of short films and photo documentaries, produced by Blue Magnolia Films & (EP/funded/orginated in partnership with) Corner to Corner Productions, commemorating 100 community voices for the Mississippi Bicentennial, linking the historic memory of people and places to the future of revitalization for small towns. During 2017, ten “hub” cities will host community workshops, as part of a statewide storytelling initiative, the first of its kind, sparking a rolling conversation about what is means to be Mississippian at this juncture in history, and how small towns can model the way forward, through sharing their success stories, and helping to cast a positive vision for the future. All stories and storytellers are nominated by the communities. Resulting images will be circulated around the state, integrated into community revitalization projects, downtown interactive galleries, community screenings and events, as well as a coffee table book, honoring the multiciplicy of voices around the state. Partners include: Mississippi Main Street, Mississippi Arts Commission, Mississippi Humanities Council Mississippi Heritage Trust, The Mississippi Film Office, Mississippi Office Of Creative Economy, Mississippi Bicentennial Commission and anchor institutions across the state; Locations: Clarksdale (March); Ocean Springs (April); Greenville (May); Oxford (June); Tupelo (July); Philadelphia (August); Natchez & Woodville (September); Laurel (October); Vicksburg (November); Jackson – Bicentennial (December) * towns subject to change

Art Place

A group of artists turn a 20,000-square-foot building into a “hub” for creative industry.

Delta Flavor

Artisan ice cream maker, Hugh Balthrop of Sweet Magnolia Ice Cream Co., invents small-batch recipes like Delta Pecan, Muscadine Gelato and Sweet Tea Sorbet, linking small farmers with major markets, and mentoring youth into first time apprenticeships.

WINNER! Audience Award, Crossroads Film Festival (2016)


Holly Springs conservationists awaken magic, history and a sense of “place” during the Strawberry Plains Audubon Hummingbird Festival, only to uncover the startling roots of ecological resilience in the heart of community.


A small town craft brewery hits it big in what is formerly a dry county. YALO showcases the persistent rise of creative entrepreneurs in Water Valley, and the importance of small businesses to vitalize Main Street.

WINNER! Audience Award, Oxford Film festival (2016)


An Oxford-Tupelo company specializing in bespoke, custom-raw-denim, helps to revive the garment industry in northeast Mississippi, tapping local talent, and promising growth and job creation for Mississippi.


A family brings to life a coffee truck with the goal of “happifying” their community. Their motto? “Don’t sip sad coffee.”

85% Broken

One artist’s interpretation of place through sound and a found accordion.


Mary Anderson Pickard, eldest daughter of artist and naturalist, Walter Inglis Anderson, (September 29, 1903 – November 30, 1965), retraces her journey to Oldfields, her childhood home, where her family lived in the 1940’s, in hopes of saving the property.

Faith, Food, and Family

Hema Denham, tells the story of beloved Ocean Springs restauranteur, Jocelyn Mayfield, in the business of Cajun seafood for over 60 years. “I’m 85 years old, and it’s getting harder. But I still love it. I think I cook every day,” said Mayfield.

Finding Johanna

Melanie Allen realizes the significance of the conservation property at Twelve Oaks, home to a Gulf Coast artist-in-residency program, tracing patterns of leaves and trails, that lead her to a woman, once a  slave, who bought the land, named Johanna Smith Blount. “Most people visiting Twelve Oaks look upward into the heritage live oak limbs, that nearly form a rain tight cathedral ceiling…but I usually look down. I look for patterns, trails, imprints. I look for traces of Johanna.”


Ocean Springs architect, Henry Furr, tells the story of what it means to be and optimist from Mississippi, leaving and returning, with hopes of making it better, and cherishing the optimism he hopes his children will continue, building back from Katrina, those “steps to nowhere”, believing in what cannot yet be seen.

Biscuit Springs

Greenhouse on Porter welcomes those of any background, providing opportunities for connection with warm buttery Southern biscuits, tea and creative expression, between those who would never meet otherwise.

In the Sanctuary of the Oak

Ocean Springs author/journalist, Johnnie Bernhard’s photo story tells about the passage of time, as symbolized by the strength and endurance of a live oak, and the rediscovery of what is meaningful in one’s own back yard.

The Weed House

Historian, Ray Ballande, tracks the transformation and dismantling of the house on Iberville, the oldest known structure in Ocean Springs, not far from the original Marble Springs, the healing waters responsible for the founding of the City.

(Then) Now

Diane Stephenson’s expression of asynchronous meaning, fragile moments, observed keenly, her home, her cats, conundrums laid bare, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the loot, the loss and redemptive qualities of the storm.

Home is Where the Guitar Hangs

14-year-old Sarah Levingston, guitarist and vocalist, pays homage to Ronnie Drew’s Bluestown Music, a one-of-a-kind, vintage guitar store, that has changed many lives in the Clarksdale community.

Care Beyond Class

18-year-old Nick Jones, spotlights the efforts of Mrs. Josephine Rhymes, to mentor students into health professions, through a nurse workforce program that puts young people on the path to livelihoods while still in high school.


18-year-old, Alison Fullilove, a student at Lee Academy, pays tribute to her classmate, Chase Bailey, who lost his life to cancer. Alison worked closely with Tyler Yarbrough, a student at Clarksdale High School, whose cousin was lost to gun violence, to parallel their stories of loss, and use the power of grief to heal racial divides in the community. (See “Yards After Contact”). As Tracey Bailey, Chase’s mom says, “It shouldn’t take an illness in somebody’s life, to bring a community together. We should love each other every single day.”

Yards After Contact

18-year-old, Tyler Yarbrough memorializes his cousin and classmate, Dayeveon Hill, a star athlete at Clarksdale High, who was lost to gun violence in February 2017. Tyler and Dayeveon’s mother, Lekitha Hill, are using this video to launch the The Daye 5 Foundation, a scholarship program for youth to attend college, turning their grief towards bringing a positive message to Clarksdale. “Dayeveon Hill was a jubilant teen who brought the community together with a remarkable tool: a football. His sudden death is a marker of much needed change in the community, and The Daye Five Foundation, created in his name, wishes to fulfill that change,” says Yarbrough.[Short] Yards After Contact tells the story of Dayeveon Hill, a star athlete who was lost to gun violence in February 2017, as told through the lens of his mother, Lekitha Hill. The story is produced by 18-year-old, Tyler Yarbrough, Hill’s cousin and classmate at Clarksdale High School.

I See Change

18-year-old, Yasmine Malone, speaks to her passion for the new downtown Meraki Cooperative and artisan market, offering job training, life skills and creative opportunity to Clarksdale youth. “Meraki by Griot Arts embodies the aspects of citizenship that will become the foundation for a more positive Clarksdale,” she says.