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Rev. Jesse C. Turner, executive director of Pine Bluff Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, Inc., and senior pastor at the Historic Elm Grove Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, will become the first Arkansas recipient of the 400 Years of African American History Commission “Distinguished Service Award.”
 
Rev. Turner expressed his gratitude in being selected for this award.
 
“To have the work I do in Pine Bluff recognized and honored by those of such high integrity and esteem mean so much to me,” says Rev. Turner.  “I have fought long and hard to gain fair treatment, voting rights,  (I have been) discriminated against and filed lawsuits to end discrimination in Pine Bluff on behalf of African Americans, but this has not been easy.”
 
Rev. Turner continued and revealed the fact that he is still experiencing discrimination. 
 
“Today, I feel the same chilly winds of discrimination blow on me again, not by Caucasians because I’m a black man but by African Americans for being a black Republican,” Rev. Turner said.  “In spite of it all, I’ve learned to forgive so I may heal. It is this kind of healing which is needed in our nation today where all blacks, whites, Democrats and Republicans can work together for the common good of the United States of America and its people.”
 
Rev. Turner compared receiving this award to the perseverance that pushed Africans towards the progress they so deeply desired 400 years ago.
 
“Receiving this award from the commission reminds me of the spirit of endurance and resilience which drove Africans 400 years ago to keep moving forward until they quenched their thirst for freedom,” he said.  “As a nation, we should follow this same spirit and call for a change in the climate of division in our country. I am extremely proud to have my record and accomplishments placed in the United States National Archives in Washington, DC. This honor is simply overwhelming and truly a blessing from God, which will live in perpetuity,” Rev. Turner said.
 
A ceremony to announce the honorees will take place on the Day of Healing scheduled for August 25, 2019 at Continental Park, Fort Monroe National Monument.                                 

The Delta Rhythm & Bayous Alliance and Pine Bluff Advertising and Promotion Commission held an unveiling of the “Freedom & Blues Exhibition” and launch of the Explore Pine Bluff Visitor Information Center on Thursday, June 27th.  The event took place from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at 615 S. Main Street (UAPB Business Support Incubator) in Pine Bluff, AR.

Coordinated by the Delta Rhythm & Bayous Alliance (DRBA), the Freedom & Blues Exhibition highlights the interconnectedness of the African American freedom struggle and the prodigious blues legacy from Pine Bluff, AR to Greenville, MS. Through visual art, photographs, musical instruments and other memorabilia, the Freedom & Blues Exhibition weaves a nuanced story of human achievement, resilience, and challenge about its residents and artists living on the Delta Rhythm & Bayous Highway (U.S. 65 and 82).

The Explore Pine Bluff Visitor Information Center provides information and support for the many cultural and recreational outlets in the area. Whether guests are visiting Pine Bluff for the first time, have recently relocated to Pine Bluff, or are established residents, the friendly staff at Explore Pine Bluff stands ready to provide information on Pine Bluff’s attractions, tours, accommodations, dining, events and more.

Both the Explore Pine Bluff Visitor Information Center and the Freedom & Blues Exhibition are open Monday-Friday, 8 AM – 5 PM. For more information, call 870.534.2121.