Student Aaliyah Davis offers a frank assessment of diversity in the Northwest Arkansas region.
I’ve visited Northwest Arkansas on numerous occasions, and when I reflect on my time there, I feel disappointed.
As a black teenager, I feel more should be offered to the black community. I visited Fayetteville, Bentonville, Rogers and felt left out due to the lack of diversity. I would like to experience a welcoming culture in Northwest Arkansas that seeks to invest in the establishment of black businesses, black cultural events and financial education to advance the black community.
While in Fayetteville, I stayed on the University of Arkansas campus. Although I am a rising senior in high school, I am not considering the U of A for higher education. The Student Union holds the Multicultural Center that I truly love. The staff is extremely supportive to students of color. However, the U of A at large does not make me feel that way. U of A attracts thousands of people to Fayetteville since it is the flagship college of the state. If diversity is a priority for the city, it should also be a priority for the school.
Diversity can’t be achieved with a small office on the third floor (of the Student Union) for black and minority students. More efforts should be made to help black students feel welcome. The tiny space dedicated to minority students is a representation of diversity efforts.
One former UA student, named Mark, dropped out of college due to depression issues. Although he says the U of A had nothing to do with his depression, the campus should feel some responsibility for it. Every student should be regularly checked on. Mark also said that he feels that “there is nothing for minority students to do but join Greek life.” This further proves my point that black and minority students should have an unlimited amount of space to handle personal issues, fellowship with other students of their ethic background and to just feel that they’re not alone.
Bentonville is very beautiful and bright but also is white. As I walked the streets of Bentonville, I rarely saw people of color. It instantly turned me off. Diversity in the city is not strong at all. I sat and talked with Kalene Griffith, President and CEO of “Visit Bentonville,” who named multiple sites to visit and explore, Crystal Bridges and the Walmart Museum. Crystal Bridges has many black artist paintings but not many black people are visiting these sites. Crystal Bridges should get out and cater to black audiences. It’s not that black people don’t want to experience culture. Sometimes, we don’t always have the necessary funds nor resources. Crystal Bridges is located in a secluded area and is not very accessible to black neighborhoods. The Museum should make the effort to go out and promote those artists by visiting different neighborhoods, predominantly black schools, and programs.
Furthermore, the Walmart Museum is the biggest attraction to Bentonville, along with Crystal Bridges. The lack of black attraction is why Bentonville’s 2019 black/ African American population was 2.9%. How can we strive in a city that is not for us? Bentonville’s nonexistent black programs and museums is the downfall of the city. If the city does not represent all races, it is not a thriving city.
The beauty of a city is diversity, whites working with blacks and successful businesses owned by all races. Bentonville needs to realize that we’re as equal, qualified, and strong as white business owners and white programs and last but certainly not least, white history.
To conclude this piece, I would say the same to Rogers and Springdale. To blacks and minorities, I encourage those who are able to invest their funds, go out and build your businesses there. If they won’t attract us, we’ll do it ourselves. As Dr. Mae Jemison stated, “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” We are people too and we deserve our respect.
I hope Northwest Arkansas considers my view and critique, and chooses to do something about it, expeditiously.