Sade Turnipseed, founder and director of House of KHAFRE Inc., is assisting in the duplication and remembrance of the lives of former cotton pickers and other agricultural practices in the Delta.
"There is a lot of shame and anger around cotton and sharecropping. Most former sharecroppers and tentative farmers do not like to discuss the work that they put into it because most of it was very painful and just very hard work. They also felt that they were cheated out of their dignity," said Turnipseed.
KHAFRE Inc. is a not-for-profit organization and its purpose is to provide educational, lifestyle and cultural programs, build monuments and memorials to honor, celebrate, and recognize the rich complex history of the Mississippi Delta and to positively impact the quality of life of those living in the Delta, especially the disproportionately poor African American community.
"We want to protect the legacy of former cotton pickers and sharecroppers and we must do whatever we can do to tell their story. We are the beneficiaries of all the labor and sweat that was put into this country," said Turnipseed.
The entire project costs $26 million. The monument portion of the project is to be constructed by world-renowned sculptor, Ed Dwight
Dwight has done over 120 sculptures and is considered to be one of the most prolific and insightful sculptors in America.
"Ed Dwight is a phenomenal artist and monument designer. He was the lead designer for the Martin Luther King Jr. monument and has also sculpted over 18,000 gallery level sculptures," said Turnipseed.
According to Turnipseed, a groundbreaking ceremony for the monument was held about a year ago, but the organization soon realized that the location for the monument posed as a potential problem.
"The location was too far out. We're going to have another ground breaking ceremony for the new home of the monument next year. It will be placed near highway 61 in the town of Mound Bayou, for visibility purposes," she said.
"We expect to have it all complete within five years. Washington, Sunflower, and Choctaw County have all donated land. We are seeking to purchase 20 acres of land in Bolivar County; this is the land that will be purchased for the national park site," added Turnipseed.
The land will also be used for various interpretive sights throughout the Delta.
"On five acres of land at each site, we're building interpretive centers inside of shotgun houses. Each little shotgun house will be a mini museum that speaks to the relevance and significance to the cotton kingdom. For example, shotgun houses in Sunflower County will embody information about ginning practices. We're still acquiring houses, two have been donated but we need 20." she said.
As stated by Turnipseed, Dwight feels that the Cotton Pickers monument is going to be one of his most significant pieces of art that he has ever sculpted.
In order to aid in the financial aspect of the project, Turnipseed is hosting the 2nd Annual "Cotton Pickers" Ball on the campus of Mississippi Valley State University.
"All of us are indebted to this country. Cotton was the number one industry in this country for over 200 years. It is the reason why Wall Street exists today, it is the reason why the British Empire became so strong, and it is the reason why the Civil War was fought. Hopefully this monument will shine a really bright light on American history," said Turnipseed.