Community Engagement

The Institute works with diverse communities of color and whites to fulfill its mission of making racial and ethnic justice a reality in Arkansas. The Institute’s program and project development will focus on the concerns of these communities that overlap as well as concerns of communities of color that may be specific to that community.

Elaine, Arkansas and the Painful History of the Race Riots of 1919

The Institute has been working with members from the community of Elaine and Helena-West Helena to address lingering issues of racial unrest in the area. At a “Healing the Land” ceremony, a committee made up of community members outline a plan to further progress in hopes of reconciliation between residents of all races and ethnicities.

Rev. Desi Sims said people could come together to talk about ways in which Elaine and its neighboring communities could do their part in moving families forward in full acknowledgement that history forgotten is history likely to repeat itself. In addition to organizing a unity conference, Sims plans to create a neighborhood watch and have all plans implemented within the next calendar year.

Read more about efforts for reconciliation in Elaine

Outreach to the Latino/a Community in Arkansas

In July 2011, Crissy Monterrey, a partner in the law firm of Monterrey & Tellez and a graduate of the UALR Bowen School of Law, worked with the Institute’s director to organize a meeting with some Latino/a leaders in Arkansas.  The express purpose of the meeting was to brief the Institute staff on the concerns of this community and to begin the process of inclusion of Latino/as in the work of the Institute.

As a result of this meeting, the group decided that given the governor’s concern with racial profiling of black and brown people — primarily men — it would  develop a project to educate the black and brown communities about how to respond to police and immigration officials when approached by them.

Crissy Monterrey, and Adjoa Aiyetoro, with the assistance of Clinton School of Public Service student, Kathryn Cawvey, have developed a pocket-sized checklist, using information from the Mexican Consulate and the ACLU of Arkansas, of what to do if stopped by the police or immigration officers.

Forum on Cherokee Freedman and Cherokee Nation

In September 2011, UALR Bowen School of Law student, Erica Fitzhugh reached out to the director suggesting that the Institute sponsor a forum on the conflict between the Cherokee Freedmen, Cherokees who are the product of relationships between African/African Americans, and Cherokees who claim no such mixture.  A forum on Cherokee Freedmen v. Cherokee Nation was organized and an enrolled member of the Cherokees and a Cherokee Freedman will be part of the panel discussion.  In developing the forum, the director reached out to Jerra Quiton, President, Trail of Tears Association, and Lois Bethers, American Indian Center of Arkansas and will continue to integrate their concerns into the work of the Institute.

Outreach to Surrounding Communities

The Institute also serves as a resource for communities in Arkansas that want to address and resolve racial and ethnic divisions.  It will respond to requests from multi-racial groups in the community for assistance.  It will not do the work of reconciliation; rather it will provide guidance and support to the community in its work to heal the racial divides.

Camden Arkansas Project
Dean Angela Brenton is the director of the Institute’s Camden project.  A multi-racial group of men approached the Chancellor after learning of the Institute’s creation and requested assistance in addressing the racial divide they witnessed in Camden.  One of the members of this group is the mayor of Camden.

The Institute developed a proposal for this group that included the development of a diverse steering committee. The diversity includes race, ethnicity, gender, economic class and age.  The requesting group accepted this proposal and is in the process of developing the steering committee.