Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rev. Dennis' Day at the Capitol

Y'all have heard me talk about Margaret's Grocery more than once by now. While my first visit to this techni-color folk architectural dreamspace was only a little over two years ago, I've been passionate about seeing it saved from the elements of time and decay ever since.

Historic preservation is uncharted territory for the Mississippi Arts Commission. We once had a line item from the state legislature to offer a grant called the "Building Fund for the Arts." This grant helped arts organizations revitalize historic spaces for use as auditoriums, arts co-ops, theatres, etc. My cousin Zeb and his wife Haley had one hell of a wedding shin-dig at the E.E. Bass School Auditorium in Greenville, Miss., one of the many brick and mortar projects the Building Fund for the Arts helped fund. But, alas, the days of government subsidizing the preservation of historic spaces is long gone, and my efforts to help save Margaret's Grocery have been slow and relatively unfunded.

And, yes, although Miss Margaret is gone now and Rev. Dennis spends his days preaching the gospel to his colleagues at the convalescent home in Vicksburg, I'd be remiss to say that there isn't any energy swelling around the movement to save Margaret's Grocery. Two individuals in particular have worked hard to start a 501c3 non-profit and to see that Preacher is in good hands. My hat goes off to photographer Suzi Altman and attorney/filmmaker Robbie Fisher for their help in keeping the momentum high. If it wasn't for Suzi and Robbie, and some good governmental karma, we would have never gotten the recognition we did on March 22 from Gov. Haley Barbour and the Mississippi House of Representatives and State Senate.

As part of the MAC's annual advocacy initiative, Day at the Capitol, Rev. Dennis and Margaret's Grocery was recognized by Gov. Barbour with a proclamation naming March 20-26 "Rev. Herman D. Dennis and Margaret's Grocery Appreciation and Awareness Week." (See this story on the blog Deep Fried Kudzu.) A joint Senate-House resolution was also put in place, and Senator Briggs Hopson and Representative George Flaggs made speeches, kind remarks, and promises to help save Margaret's Grocery.

It was a great day for folk arts in Mississippi. I think Rev. Dennis was pretty pleased as well.

(All photos by James Patterson)

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