Cultures of the American Gulf Coast:  Work and Play in Story and Song from Louisiana to Florida



On Thursday, May 15, 12:30 – 1:30 pm, Sandra Parks, M.A., Independent Scholar, spoke on “The Life and Work of Floridian Folklorist Stetson Kennedy,” to an audience of approximately thirty-five students and faculty.  Her presentation largely consisted of stories of growing up in St. Augustine, Florida during the early to mid-twentieth century in which Jim Crow laws were in place.  She explained that her late husband was inspired to risk his life to change such thinking specifically by his infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan as described in his book The Klan Unmasked (University of Alabama Press, 2011).

On Thursday, May 15, 12:30 – 1:30 pm, Sandra Parks, M.A., Independent Scholar and prolific author of numerous Critical Thinking books (The Critical Thinking Company) spoke on “Critical Thinking About Assumptions:  Their Eyes Were Watching God,” in which she provided a model lesson demonstrating uncovering unstated assumptions which explored racial stereotypes in the Gulf South at mid-twentieth century. The audience was composed of  professors, administrators, and an attentive  thirty students, many of whom had read portions of this book as part of their Multicultural Literature Cultures of the American Gulf Coast course.  Ms. Parks began her talk by describing the attitudes about beauty that predominated in early twentieth century Florida especially, but not only, in relation to skin color.

On Thursday, May 15, 1:45-3:45 pm, Sandra Parks, M.A., Independent Scholar, spoke with  Professor Zhang Dongmei  (Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology) informally on the life and work of Florida authors Zora Neale Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Stetson Kennedy in Dr. Beverly Butcher’s Multicultural Literature Cultures of the American Gulf Coast:  Work and Play in Story and Song from Louisiana to Florida class. Three sections of this course had read chapters from Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (HarperPerennial, 1999) and the first chapter of Kennedy’sThe Klan Unmasked (University of Alabama Press, 2011). They will be reading chapters in Rawling’sThe Yearling (Scribner, 2002) during the final weeks of class.


Thursday evening, May 15, 7:00 – 8:15 pm, The Campbell Brothers, based in Rochester, New York, but with strong Florida connections, where their family has a history of performing expressed their sacred steel guitar music in Concert on the first floor of the NYIT-NUPT Overseas Education Building before an audience or 150 students, faculty, administrators as well as the publicErhu player Cao Jiawang, a graduate student at the Guangzhou Xinghai Conservatory of Music joined these artists for several pieces.  NYIT-NUPT students especially were enthralled by this music which inspired many to participate not only with their voices but also with the waving of hands and jumping to the music.National Public Radio American Routes radio show creator and host Nick Spitzer, Ph.D., and Josh Kohn organized and narrated the highly successful program with Chuck Campbell (pedal steel guitar), Phil Campbell (electric guitar, bass), Darick Campbell (lap steel guitar), Carlton Campbell (drums), Daric Bennet (bass) and gifted  Tiffany Godette (vocals).  Many of the students proclaimed the event to be “fabulous” while professors used such words as “uplifting” to describe the spirit of the music as well as the quality of the interaction between the band and the audience members.


On Friday, May 16, 12:30 – 1:30 pm; 2:45 - 4:15 pm The Campbell Brothers had an Informal Meeting with fifty students, faculty, and administrators in the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPT during which time the musicians and American Routes host Nick Spitzer explained  the function of the music they play within the tradition of their church. The audience learned that the music is traditionally not only a means of spiritual expression but also complements the words of the preacher and enhances his message. They were also informed as to how the sacred steel guitar tradition evolved from the Hawaiian steel guitar. At least several of the students in the audience had read articles about the sacred steel guitar tradition in general and the Campbell Brothers family in particular. Guangzhou Xinghai Conservatory of Music  graduate student Cao Jiawang accompanied the musicians and vocalist intermittently. All of the artists remained in the Center for the afternoon where they conducted a Workshop for Dr. Deran Browne’s Directing class during which they explored the appropriate use of music in filmmaking.

On Friday, May 16, 4:30-6:30 pm the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPT presented a film colloquium during which Robert Stone’s documentary film Sacred Steel (2001) was screened. The experience was an enlightening and fascinating one as the film is largely about the Campbell Brothers and the history of their musical tradition and who also composed the audience of approximately thirty. The question and answer session began with Tulane University Professor of Anthropology Nick Spitzer, Ph.D., asking the Campbell Brothers how their situation had changed since the late 1990s when most of the film was shot. They indicated they are no longer House of God church members.

NYIT Artist-in-Residence documentary filmmaker Joanna Arong screened her award winning film Yugang Yishan (The Old Fool Who Moved the Mountains) (2007) mainly concerned with the music scene in Beijing juxtaposed with that of the outlying rural areas. American Routes Nick Spitzer, The Campbell Brothers, visiting Guangdong Xinghai Conservatory of Music Cao Jiawang, students and faculty were moved by the struggles of the musicians portrayed in the film.



April 10, 12:30 - 1:30 pm: Nick Spitzer, Ph.D., NPR’s American Routes creator and host, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, introduces French Louisiana through Cajun music.

April 10,  6:30 - 7:30 pm: Jesse Lége, Joel Savoy, and The Cajun Country Revival perform.

April 11, 12:30 - 1:30 pm: Informal meeting of assigned students with Jesse Lége, Joel Savoy, and The Cajun Country Revival; Louisiana folklorist and filmmaker Conni Castille.


April 11,  4:30 - 6:00 pm: Filmmaker Conni Castille presents I Always Do My Collars First (2006) and her Cajun/Creole cowboy film T-Galop: A Louisiana Horse Story (2012) ;

          6:30 - 8:00 pm: American Routes host Nick Spitzer presents his film Zydeco (1986) about African-French Louisiana musical traditions and identity (1-207)

Cultural Center Introduces Louisiana Cajun Music, Culture to Chinese Students



American Routes Official Website


March 20-21, Thursday and Friday

Cultures of the American Gulf Coast: Work and Play in Story and Song from Lousiana to Florida

March 20th, Thursday, 6:30 - 8:00 pm

"Woody Sez", a play about the life of the musician Woody Guthrie

March 21st, Friday, 12:30 - 1:30 pm

Assigned Students met informally with actors of "Woody Sez"


March 21st, Friday, 6:30 - 7:30pm

An informal concert and lecture on the life of Woody Gutherie


Sing with Your Lives

A Review of “Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie”

 by Ryana Yin, Center for Humanities and Culture Assistant

On 20th March, 2014, I stood at the NUPT Administration Building Auditoriumwaiting for our musician guests. I knew they had arrived even before I saw anything when I heard their lively and beautiful tunes flowing into my ears. They are a group of people who sing with their lives, and they are DAVID M. LUTKEN, DARCIE DEAVILLE, HELEN JEAN RUSSELL and ANDY TEIRSTEIN (1). As the performers warmed up, I was totally amazed by their proficiency in instrument playing, as well as by their talent in improvising. Upon completion of their warm up, the audience was given a lively audio-visual feast.

The show is named “Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie(2), which combines different pieces of music created by Woody Guthrie -- the noted twentieth century singer, songwriter, and folk musician -- along with the story of his  life journey.

The audience learns that after a big fire burned down Woody’s home when he was just a little boy, his family moved to a smaller place. A song with a rising and fallingtune mainly sung by Helen expressed the sorrow of Woody’s mother. Woody lost his sister, Clara, in another fire, and Woody believed that both fires were caused by his mother. Later, he learned that his mother had Huntington's Disease, a terrible sickness that can cause uncontrollable rage and mental illness. In this song, we learned that day after day, his mother was drowning in her own tears. A description given by little Woody focused on his mother’s eyes; even though she opened her eyes, there was no glitter in them. The melody expressed the mother’s sadness, and Woody’s words reflected what sorrow looked like in a little boy’s eyes.

On 14th April, 1935, there was a dust storm falling on Woody’s hometown in Oklahoma. Throughout the night, dust covered everything. When the sky dawned, the people witnessed the horrible situation of their homes, and they decided to leave --never to return. The tune rose in intensity to represent the gravity of the dust stormwhich, of course, caused fear among the villagers. Later on, the melody turned into calm mixed with despair, which showed the feeling of the people.

In a subsequent act, we learn about a train heading toward California in 1937. I still remember the wonderful melody of the song “This Train.” The line “This train carries no liars” suggests that this group of people was honest and lovely. That California was deemed to be promising and filled with hope by the westward travelers was communicated by a high tune with a fast rhythm. Again, with the coordination of both the melody and the lyrics, the audience was able to picture wonderful scenery using their imaginations.





March 6th, Thursday

Fulbright Scholar Presentations



Fulbright Scholar and Cabrillo College Professor David Allen Sullivan (Ph.D., University of California, Irvine) gave two presentations at the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPT on March 6, 2014 to audiences consisting of approximately two hundred students, faculty, and administrators.