Dr. Angela Brenton, dean of UALR’s College of Professional Studies, in opening the conference stated that “Over the years, UALR has experienced resistance from many in the community who felt we were stirring up trouble.”
She praised Chancellor Joel E. Anderson’s commitment to bring light to a topic that has fractured Little Rock and Pulaski County’s history.
“Joel’s response has been consistent – ‘You know, it has been my experience that anything worth doing involves some risk. We faced people who said the racial attitudes survey was a bad idea, and it was better to let sleeping dogs lie. If we’re going to pursue an agenda, let’s pursue it with wisdom, but also with courage, honesty and integrity’,” Brenton said.
Anderson, who delivered the conference’s keynote, updated attendees on the progress of establishing UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity for the people of Little Rock, central Arkansas, and the state of Arkansas. Space for the institute has been identified on campus and the process of interviewing candidates for the position of the director is underway.
The new institute will be the culmination of eight years of internal conversations, programming, research, and outreach on the subject of race. The proposed institute will serve as the resource for multi-disciplinary, research-driven data — including historical, sociological, educational, and economic analyses — in order to combat structural racism and support racial and ethnic justice.
Local leaders – Marion Humphrey, retired Pulaski Co. Circuit Court judge; Vivian Flowers, director of recruitment for diversity at UAMS; and Maricella Garcia, director of Catholic Charities Immigration Services in Little Rock – reacted to findings of this year’s survey, presented by Siobhan Bartley of the Institute for Economic Advancement.
“I am very pleased that Hispanics are now part of the survey,” said Michel Leidermann, editor of El Latino and an annual attendee of the conference. “The census numbers show this is growing population, even more than the census numbers show.”
Questions asked in this year’s survey probed what each group thought about values they share with Hispanics. Nearly one-third of respondents – 29 percent – said U.S.-born Hispanics and those who had immigrated to the U.S. shared ‘a lot’ of their values.
“These Hispanic results are fairly similar to those gathered from a Pew national survey in which 25 percent of Hispanics said they felt immigrants and U.S.-born Hispanics shared, ‘a lot’ of their values in common, along with 39 percent saying ‘some,’ and 30 percent saying ‘only a little,’” Bartley said.
During the open microphone discussion portion, participants expressed worry that upward mobility of ethnic minorities may negatively affect inner city neighborhoods. Humphrey, who lives in a center city neighborhood in Little Rock, said convenience to the center city and avoiding long commutes will help downtown neighborhoods remain vibrant.
In response to the final question from an audience member about what can be done bolster declining neighborhoods, Brenton noted two ongoing projects UALR is helping to spearhead – the University District Development Corp. and the Promise Neighborhood effort.
“UALR’s commitment to the University District and the new Promise Neighborhood program is to work in a holistic way with neighborhood development, education, access to health care, and economic opportunity,” she said.