Back when I was growing up in the small town of Shelby, the Mississippi Delta was unknown to the rest of the world. Only a small number of people around the globe knew or cared anything about our region. And, mostly those were a handful of rock musicians (who had grown up listening to our blues music) and a few civil rights scholars. Then, things began to change in the mid 80s when blues music grew in popularity. After that took place, people wanted to visit where this genre of music was born. Now, people from all over the world come to the Delta to soak up our culture and someone who recently visited was Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.
The story begins two weeks earlier when Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale received a call from a woman in Palo Alto, CA asking when the club was open. She also asked specific questions about the rooms above Ground Zero that are available for overnight rental and she requested information in regard to the various blues bands who are based in the Delta. Ground Zero wasn’t open the particular night the woman on the phone planned to visit. So, she rented the entire club so it could be open. A few days later, an advance team arrived to take a look at Groud Zero and Clarksdale. At that point, the staff at the club became curious as to whom was headed their way. But, it was obvious to them that all of the advance work was for a celebrity. That’s really nothing new to Ground Zero, they accommodate celebrities all of the time. However, an advance team showing up was something new.
Zuckerberg, who lives in Northern California, plans to visit every state in the U.S. in 2017. He started his journey in Alabama with his wife, along with twenty-five others from his security team, various assistants, some photographers from Facebook, and a few others. The entourage arrived in Clarksdale at 6:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, Feb. 21. Morgan Freeman, co-owner of Ground Zero Blues Club, had recently met Zuckerberg and during their conversation, Zuckerberg mentioned to Freeman he was soon going to pass through the Delta and he was considering stopping at Ground Zero. Freeman encouraged Zuckerberg to do that and not long after, Zuckerberg arrived in Clarksdale. By all accounts, Zuckerberg enjoyed his trip to the Mississippi Delta and told several he would return.
We all talk about building the Delta and moving the region forward. Bringing people here to visit us like Mark Zuckerberg and educating them about our region—our challenges and the many possibilities—should certainly be part of the strategy. Thank you, Morgan for always serving as one of the Delta’s great ambassadors. You do a lot for our region and we appreciate you more than you will ever know.