“Arkansas” means different things to different people. As a transplant to my new home state, I’ve heard it all.
Some immediately think of Central High and the Little Rock Nine legacy or swoon about open access to nature and the Ozark Mountains, if they’re optimistically inclined.
Some go straight to racism and infamous sundown towns beyond the “safe” zone of the Central region.
Others get stuck in the Northwest corner of Walmart country and the state’s flagship university.
And there are still too many others, especially those outside our borders, who draw a blank on the Natural State.
Not that it matters what others think, but when you come from the marketing world as I do, you know narratives and perception run deep — they color our worldview.
I remember seeing one of those marked-up maps on Facebook a few years ago that while humorous and innocuous to the person who shared it, was extremely hurtful to me who knew some of the history and more of the lives who’ve thrived in those places.
I knew this was a map marked up by a white person.
It’s not like it just dawned on me that different cultures of people respond to media in a myriad of ways (I’m a media professor, I know what’s up), but I did wonder how people of color — and let’s not forget our young POCs! — in Arkansas regarded their own home state.
And if this is how folx inside the state regarded certain regions, how are these harmful narratives impacting those who know the true heart, soul, history and culture of these communities?
Just how many are being buried in mainstream media and subsequently ridiculed and then forgotten in pop culture?
There’s more to Arkansas than racism, bike trails and massages in Hot Springs and we here at Arkansas Soul intend to explore all of those untold stories.
As a statewide, nonprofit news organization, we are dedicated to sharing stories created by and for BIPOC Arkansans. From news to health to history, as well as arts and culture, we want to lift up the voices in our state that are not often amplified or silenced altogether.
I know the year 2021 doesn’t magically change anything for the better, but I do know one thing: It’s our year to build and share a new map.
Oh and here, I fixed that for you: