A Letter to Northwest Arkansas
BY AALIYAH DAVIS, AR SOUL SUMMER TRAVEL WRITER
I’ve visited your region on numerous occasions and when I reflect on my time in Northwest Arkansas, I can’t help but feel disappointed. As a Black teenager, I feel more should be offered to the black community if you’re looking to diversify this area. I’ve visited Fayetteville, Bentonville and Rogers, and each time I’ve felt left out due to the lack of diversity. I would like to experience a welcoming culture in Northwest Arkansas that seeks to invest more 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, being that it is the flagship college of the state, and 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 3rd floor for black and minority students. More efforts should be made to help black students feel welcomed and the tiny space dedicated to minority students is a representation of diversity efforts.
A former student of the U of A I recently spoke with dropped out of college due to depression issues, and although he says he feels U of A had little to do with that, the campus environment could have been a very small contributing factor. This student felt that “There is nothing for minority students to do but join Greek life.” This circles back to my point that black and other minority students should have a bigger 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, while very beautiful and bright, was also overwhelmingly white to me. As I walked the streets of Bentonville, I rarely saw people of color. I sat and talked with Kalene Griffith, President/ CEO of “Visit Bentonville,” and she named multiple sites to visit and explore, two of which I did: Crystal Bridges and the Walmart Museum.
As far as I can tell, the biggest attractions in Bentonville are the Walton/Walmart Museum, Crystal Bridges, and the Museum of Native American History. The lack of black attractions may be why there is only a 0.88% population of African Americans as of 2017 in Bentonville. How can we thrive in a city that is not for us?
Before I end this letter, I would like to point out that all of this could be said for Rogers and parts of Springdale as well. To black people and other minorities, I encourage those who are able to invest their funds to go out and build your businesses there.
If they’re struggling to attract more of “us,” we should roll up our sleeves and do some things ourselves. I hope Northwest Arkansas considers my view and critiques and chooses to do something about it, expeditiously.